Phamaly's Elizabeth Bernhardt on destroying the things we love most

Elizabeth Bernhardt Phamaly Romeo and Juliet Photo by Michael Ensminger

Phamaly Theatre Company’s Jacob Elledge and Elizabeth Bernhardt. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

Denver actors with disabilities explore the passion, poetry and tragedy of Romeo and Juliet as only Phamaly can.

Elizabeth Bernhardt is playing Juliet in Phamaly Theatre Company’s Romeo and Juliet. Phamaly exists to create performance opportunities for actors with disabilities. This is a workshop production with minimal staging. All performances are open-captioned. 

  • Elizabeth Bernhardt Phamaly Romeo and Juliet Photo by Michael EnsmingerHometown: Pearland, Texas
  • Home now: Denver
  • Training: B.A. in English and MA. in English Literature from Abilene Christian University
  • What’s your handle? @lizbernhardt
    on Twitter and Instagram
  • Website:
  • Twitter-sized bio: Library assistant who loves too many things: Books, games, movies, plays. They’re newly back to theater and will never stop learning. (They/them are preferred pronouns.)
  • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? By day, I’m a library assistant at Aurora Public Libraries, and I love the creativity of it: I get to sing songs with kids, teach Excel to adults, fix e-readers and fingerpaint, and hear so many different life stories. I’ve tried other dreams, too – teaching English, game development and writing – but the common thread in all of them is stories: How we shape them and how they shape us.
  • One role you were completely miscast for: A friend asked me to voice one of his characters in an animated short. He only gave me my lines to read — so I didn’t realize it was about eternal judgment and damnation. And this was just when I had stopped believing in God. I really should have asked more questions before reading. I didn’t have nearly enough fear of hell-fire in my reading — but he was very kind about it.
  • Romeo Bucket-list role: The Mexican poet and social activist Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. It will never, ever happen, and it should never happen, because I am whiter than untoasted bread. But I want Sor Juana to get the Hamilton treatment, because doesn’t this clever, visionary, sarcastic queer nun deserve that?
  • What’s playing on your Spotify? I just saw Coco and it ripped my heart out in the best possible way, so I’ve been listening to the movie soundtrack.
  • What’s one thing most people don’t know about you? My eyes are opposites! I have one near-sighted eye and one far-sighted eye.
  • One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: In Oxford, I saw a performance of The Taming of the Shrew by the Globe Theatre on Tour with an all-female cast. I think I stopped breathing when Petruchio walked onstage, and I didn’t start again until the final bow. The beauty of Shakespeare is in the interpretation, especially in the problem plays. This performance took a play about gender roles, implicitly queered it by casting all women, and then played its comedic ending as a tragedy. There’s this moment where you watch Petruchio realize that he’s destroyed the best thing in his life, because he loved it, and because the world only provided him with broken ways to love and define people. I came to that play ready to hate it, and I left replaying those final moments over and over for more than a year. That, to me, is the power of live theatre. 
  • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? We need as many stories as possible about every gender and race and sexuality and class and lifestyle. Kids should look at a stage and see the entire world.
  • What is this reading of Romeo and Juliet all about? Shakespeare’s timeless love story is about putting aside differences to pursue love above all else. And we are exploring the passion, beauty, poetry and tragedy of that story as only Phamaly can. This is a workshop presentation with minimal staging.
  • Why does Romeo and Juliet matter? Imagine waking up every morning to find out that three new tragedies occurred overnight. (Maybe you don’t have to imagine that.) Every tragedy leads to more fighting and heartbreak, but nothing changes, and maybe people have stopped believing things can ever change. Romeo and Juliet is “that play where the kids fall in love and die,” yes, but it’s also about hope in the middle of a cycle of violence and hate. It asks if a better world is possible. And it makes a lot of sex jokes, because it’s Shakespeare. What’s not to love?
  • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Romeo and Juliet? I hope they laugh more than they expect and remember the last time they fell in love with possibility. I hope they forgive themselves and someone else. And I hope they have fun.
  • What do you want to get off your chest? Being in this production with Phamaly has been more fun and fulfilling than I could have imagined. I’ve learned so much. Thank you so much for the opportunity!

Regan Linton named Colorado Theatre Person of the Year

Phamaly Romeo and Juliet Photo by Michael EnsmingerThe cast of Phamaly Theatre Company’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

Romeo and Juliet: Ticket information

  • Presented by Phamaly Theatre Company
  • Performances through April 22
  • Directed by 2017 True West Awards Theatre Person of the Year Regan Linton
  • At the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder
  • 303-575-0005 or

Remaining performances:

  • 2 p.m., Saturday, April 21 (with talkback)
  • 7 p.m., Saturday, April 21
  • 2 p.m., Sunday, April 22 (with talkback)

Cast list:

  • Romeo: Jacob Elledge
  • Juliet: Elizabeth Bernhardt
  • Mercutio: Marcus Cannello
  • Benvolio: Apollo Blue Norton
  • Tybalt: James Vegliante
  • Nurse: Lucy Roucis
  • Friar Laurence: Kevin Pettit
  • Prince Escalus: Rich Brunker
  • Paris: Connor Long
  • Montague: Gregg Vigil
  • Capulet: David Wright
  • Lady Capulet: MaryAnne Migliorelli
  • Lady Montague: Dale Rose
  • Friar John: Melissa Ottke
  • Apothecary: Tammy Davidson

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

More 2017-18 ‘In the Spotlife’ profiles:

• Meet Sheryl McCallum of Aurora Fox’s Passing Strange
• Meet Brynn Tucker of Off-Center’s This is Modern Art
• Meet Gustavo Márquez of DCPA Theatre Company’s Native Gardens
• Meet Gia Valverde: DCPA Theatre Company’s Native Gardens
• Meet Jake Mendes of Off-Center’s This is Modern Art
• Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Denver Children’s Theatre’s Sleeping Beauty
• Meet Meet Jordan Baker of DCPA Theatre Company’s Native Gardens
• Meet Candy Brown of Lone Tree Arts Center’s Love Letters
• Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep’s Arsenic and Old Lace
• Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre’s August: Osage County
• Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
• Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don’t Speak English Only
• Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don’t Speak English Only

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