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Natalie Bilger pins Juliet’s gown for the Misawa Theater Guild’s production of “Romeo and Juliet.” The play opens at 7 p.m. Friday in the Mokuteki Community Center Ballroom.
Natalie Bilger pins Juliet’s gown for the Misawa Theater Guild’s production of “Romeo and Juliet.” The play opens at 7 p.m. Friday in the Mokuteki Community Center Ballroom. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — With less than a week before the curtain opens on the Misawa Theater Guild’s production of “Romeo and Juliet,” Natalie Bilger has a lot of stitches to sew.

Not only is Bilger, 25, directing the Shakespeare play, she’s also the show’s seamstress, in charge of designing and sewing more than 20 Renaissance-era costumes.

“It’s not a chore,” she said, sitting at a dining room table covered in bright fabrics with a sewing machine at arm’s length. “It’s something now I really love and enjoy.”

A love for the Renaissance period makes the work seem that much easier.

“That’s a time when men were chivalrous and when all women were ‘damsels in distress,’ ” she said. “Everyone was beautiful. It kind of takes you away from reality for a while.”

The play opens Friday with additional show nights beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Mokuteki Community Center Ballroom. Admission is free.

Bilger, the guild’s president, decided a Shakesperian love story would be fitting for right after Valentine’s Day.

“Shakespeare hasn’t been done on this base for a long time,” she said, “and I kept hearing people complain there wasn’t really anything to do around Valentine’s Day.”

There’s no age requirement on admission, but the play does deal with the theme of death. Actors will be speaking early modern English, a form of the language most adults don’t even understand, Bilger said.

“A lot of people get the story by just what’s going on — the visual aspect of it,” she said. “We have a very bare set” so people will focus on the actors and the storyline.

Senior Airman Nathaniel Parry stars as Romeo, while Victoria Benson, a student at Edgren High School, plays Juliet.

Juliet’s costume, a green and yellow floor-length gown with a matching bodice, is almost finished, taking Bilger about a day and a half to complete. Bilger, a stay-at-home mom and wife of Staff Sgt. Joseph Bilger, said she’s a stickler for details, basing her costumes off of Renaissance patterns she orders from the Internet and altering them to fit the period.

Bilger said she learned to sew at 16 when she “accidentally” was put into a clothing design class in high school. She’s not sure seamstresses are a dying breed, she said, but a lot of people tell her, “I wish I knew how to sew.”

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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