With “Romeo and Juliet,” Shakespeare gave us the archetypal tragic love story that’s been rending audience hearts since the late 16th century. The play was a hit in Shakespeare’s day and its popularity seems destined to endure because the “star-cross’d lovers’” doomed trajectory strikes a basic yet profound chord that resonates across cultures and ages.
Next month, Director Kristin Wolanin and her Country Day troupe will bring the perennial fan favorite to the Steinman Theatre stage for four performances. All four will present a timeless tale of ill-fated love. But, besides featuring sets and costumes evoking the 1950s, two of those performances will tell the story from a less familiar perspective.
For those shows, at 7 p.m. Saturday April 8 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Madison B. ’17 will take the stage as Romeo and the love she and Juliet (Lily D-L. ’17) share will be fervid. It will also be homosexual. The first two performances, at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, will feature Cole S. ’17 in the Romeo role, with Lily continuing as Juliet.
“Cole and Madison each have their own journey to take, and both explore their own path toward love. I’m proud of the intensity and dedication and thought that both actors have brought to the roles and I think this casting decision will essentially give audiences two plays for the price of one, so to speak,” said Wolanin.
“‘Romeo and Juliet’ is such a great story of teaching people to appreciate the individual,” she continued. “Being open to showcasing two star-crossed love stories speaks volumes about the school and the values it embraces. This production is more than a show of support for the LGBT community at LCDS. The students do a good job of advocating for themselves and one another, but this is the first time they’ve had a project with this kind of substance and reach.”
The spirit that embodies the production was eloquently captured by “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda in a sonnet, and this quatrain in particular: “We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger / We rise and fall and light from dying embers / Remembrances that hope and love last longer / And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love.” Wolanin said that portions of Miranda’s poem will be incorporated into the set itself.
Just as important as what the play is, is what it’s not, Wolanin said.
“Other than changing the pronouns for the Saturday evening and Sunday matinee shows, we’ve stuck to the letter of the text. This production isn’t a cover for some moralistic exhibition,” she said. “We’re just trying to raise awareness and, to the extent that there’s a message we want to convey, it’s simply that people are people and we should love them for who they are.”
“Romeo and Juliet” opens at 7 p.m. Friday, April 7 and runs for three days, with performances at 7 p.m. Saturday, as well as 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $15 at the door, or $10 online.