What does Romeo and Juliet mean to you?

(excerpt from an article in progress that will run in the program for The Hilberry Theatre‘s upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet)

Romeo and Juliet. In fair Verona. Two star crossed lovers. In fair Verona where we set our scene. Deny thy father and refuse thy name. Two households both alike in dignity. A plague o’ both your houses! But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Is there a Shakespeare production that has greater iconic impact and resonance? This one occupies a special place in literary minds. But this fascination takes many forms.

Consider film. Older audiences recall, and younger audiences might be familiar with, the 1968 cinematic version by Franco Zefferelli, with Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey portraying the lovers. In the 1990’s, filmgoers were treated to the romance again, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes in the leads. Now, in 2014, that once modern portrayal is almost 20 years old and has begun to age. A more recent adaptation, with Douglas Booth and Hallee Steinfeld in the lead roles, was less well received following its choice to not incorporate all of Shakespeare’s traditional dialogue.

The story’s first true home is arguably right here in the theatre, and the play has been seen six times here at the Hilberry. With a play so familiar, we continue to look for ways to tell the story in a fresh and appealing way.

Director Blair Anderson itends for this version intends to be a postmodern approach to the classic, with an increased emphasis on the perspective of Juliet. In conceptualizing the story, Anderson notes that “different generations have different emotional contexts.”

Scenic Designer Tonae Mitsuhashi has fashioned a festival of light for this production, with many lines of string coming into center stage. The costumes will also take on the modern flair.

We hope this production will carry on the lovers’ story to new audiences through our ongoing student matinee series. Such a story can still find relevance in our frenetic modern world and cause audiences to pause to reflect on historical romance and the role of citizens and culture.


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