Other changes in our adaptation of ROMEO & JULIET

There isn’t really any such thing as a “spoiler” in a well-known story, but you might want to read this post after you see the show, so that its impact isn’t diminished by anticipation.

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romeo-juliet-logoIf you know the play well, or have seen other productions, you will certainly notice a couple of things missing or changed in our version–over and above the material cut according to the criteria given in Dramaturgy part 1.

  1.  Shakespeare calls for a “Chorus” to speak the opening speech. But he abandons that convention after the first act and Chorus disappears. With another tip of the hat to Larry Life’s 1976 production, I severely edited the prologue and gave the lines to Friar Lawrence, who also ends the play. (The final quatrain in Shakespeare’s version is spoken by the Prince. But I find it more emotionally satisfying coming from the Friar.)

2. The Capulet servant in Act I, Scene 1 is supposed to be called Samson.  But he (and Gregory) disappear, never to be seen again. However, Peter has a recurring small role as the clownish, illiterate servant, following the Nurse around, delivering invitations for Capulet, etc.  And in the scene in which Mercutio teases the Nurse, Peter protests that he is always ready to fight “if the law be on my side”…which was a primary concern for the servant in Scene 1. Convinced therefore, that Samson is actually Peter, I made the change.

tybalt-and-romeo3.  Regarding swords:  renting swords was remarkably easy–especially because our friends at Fire & Light had just done The Three Musketeers and had exactly what we needed! We transferred their rental agreement with weaponsofchoice.com to afO. However, sword sheaths are very tricky to fit and expensive to rent. We ended up just having the actors tuck their swords into belts. This is fine as long as the actor can keep a hand on the hilt in order to keep the sword from sticking out behind and potentially stabbing an audience member.  Therefore, though most actors should have been carrying weapons most of the time, we limited to absolute need.

I did not want Romeo carrying a sword at his wedding. He goes directly from there to the fight with Tybalt, so we solved it this way: Continue reading

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The Music of ROMEO & JULIET

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Having decided on a Renaissance setting for our production, it became the obvious choice to use music of the same period. Originally we had hoped to employ musicians to play all the incidental music live, but the nature of the black box theater is that live music too easily overpowers unamplified voices. Additionally, using the excellent sound system that the ArtsLab provides allows us to choose exactly where each sound comes from

For instance: during the dances, since there is important spoken dancersdialogue going on as well, the music is coming from speakers on the floor underneath each section of audience seating. Being near the floor allows us to keep it quite muted but still allows the dancers to hear well enough to not lose their place.

Ultimately, in this wonderful digital age, the sounds of drums, recorder, classical guitar and harpsichord on an Continue reading

Can a classic be unique? (Dramaturgy, part 2)

romeo-juliet-logoOf course each production–indeed, each performance–of a LIVE play will be unique.  Its actors are different, its stage, its costumes, scenery and props are specific to that production design, even if the script stays exactly the same. No two productions of any play will ever be identical.

In fact, although Shakespeare’s plays are among the very oldest “classics” that an American audience is ever likely to see, there is as much or more variation in the way his plays are mounted as in any other playwright’s work.

Public Domain 

Written works are protected by copyright for only so long (usually 70 years or so). After that, the author is presumed to have made all the money he or she is going to make on that piece of work.  In producing Shakespeare, therefore, our budget is helped by not paying royalties to a publisher.

[However, since we must either 1) purchase printed copies of the script or 2) print our own, there is still certainly some cost involved. In our Dramaturgy post (part 1), we explained how the script was shortened. But it is still 77 pages long, and in a cast of 17 with several production team members, that’s a lot of printing!]

Production Choices

middle-classShakespeare wrote Romeo & Juliet during the Elizabethan era, in England. So should we set the play there and then? Continue reading

DRAMATURGY (part 1): Background

romeo-juliet-logoWho was Shakespeare?

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon, England, in 1564, and died in 1616. He lived  during the reigns of Elizabeth I and her successor, James I. He founded a company of players who called themselves the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, and performed in London theaters, notably the Globe. He wrote 38 plays and 154 sonnets, and is widely considered the greatest writer in the English language.

Did he really write all those plays? Continue reading

Of Capulets and Capitalism, part 2

romeo-juliet-logoA guest post by Nate Chen, who portrays Lord Capulet, Juliet’s father, in our production.

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When I sat down to consider how to best play the part of THE Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, I wasn’t thinking of commerce or mercenaries. But
after reading the script, one thing that bothered me was that I couldn’t put my finger on what Capulet’s place in Verona society was supposed to be. He’s important, of course, and he wants everyone to know it. But why is he important? Continue reading

ROMEO & JULIET: Of Capulets and Capitalism, part 1

romeo-juliet-logoA guest post by Nate Chen, who plays Lord Capulet (Juliet’s father)

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Nate first offers some background to the social and political setting of the play:

Shortly before 1000 AD an odd phenomenon started taking place in Italy. People started to immigrate into Italian cities in large numbers. Now in most feudal societies of the era that kind of mass immigration was impossible – you swore your allegiance to a feudal landlord quite early, and paid rent on the land you worked for the rest of your life when you weren’t serving as a foot soldier in your liege’s army. But in italyItaly, city denizens – or citizens for short – were freed of their allegiance by virtue of living behind really thick walls and the assurances of the city government. This, along with a handful of other guarantees, was one of the first instances of people having rights backed by government.

For most people, the principle of being free of a renter’s life wouldn’t be enough to convince them to uproot from the familiar and go somewhere else. Continue reading

Staging Shakespeare

romeo-juliet-logoI can hear the murmurs…”Why Shakespeare?”  “Why Romeo & Juliet?”  “Why in the round?”

I am so glad you asked!

–Shakespeare, because he is the high-water mark of English literature and English language.  Many words and phrases still in common use today can be traced to the Bard, and he is still consistently studied by high schoolers across the US and around the world.  Moreover, afO always desires to enrich as well as entertain, Continue reading