Theater//Romeo and Juliet

By Cassidy Foust

“Two households, both alike in dignity…” Thus begins arguably the most well-known play in the English-speaking Western world—William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This November, Macalester’s Theatre and Dance Department is working with guest director Matt Sciple (known in the Twin Cities for his work with Ten Thousand Things theatre company) to create a new, devised take on the play. I sat down with him and a few cast members to discuss the show and the experience of creating a new entity from a familiar text. “I particularly enjoy this show, particularly for a younger audience—it’s primal and basic but also complex emotionally,” Sciple said. He was eager when he learned that the rest of the department’s season was entirely composed of devised shows, which are typically physically-based theatrical pieces without pre-determined scripts. “I thought, what would happen if you took a devised approach with a text? It allows for a lot of imaginative input from the audience.” Sciple’s “devised approach” contains most uniquely a cast of 8 Romeos and 8 Juliets. Each actor has a specific role—i.e., Mercutio, Lord Capulet, or Friar Lawrence—as well as a specific set of scenes and lines for either Romeo or Juliet. Sciple hopes that this will help highlight some themes and concepts that are applicable to the modern world and how we as a society are trained to view and react to each other. “I want to focus on things that divide people that aren’t obvious,” Sciple said. “The filter that people see the world through divides them more than anything. Montague and Capulet hate each other reflexively. The Capulets are killing the best in themselves and the Montagues are killing the best in themselves when they let Romeo and Juliet die… This was the best way I could think of to tell the story.” The devised nature of the show brings with it a physical approach to the language. “There’s a lot more emphasis on people in space,” said Kat Hunter ‘13, who plays Benvolio and also Romeo. “We’re a lot more body-focused production than word-focused.” Though Sciple’s vision of the show adds a lot of complexity and challenges during rehearsals, the cast agrees that this vibrant take on Romeo and Juliet has its fill of rewards as well. “We’re finding the text in each other,” said Nora Spellane ‘16, who plays Balthazar as well as Romeo. Brigid Warnke ‘13, who plays the Prince and Juliet, added that, “people are finding ways to tell their own story through the ways we’re also finding to tell this story as a group.” Each actor created and discussed as a group their own specific character intentions and motivations for their Romeo or Juliet. No two interpretations are identical and each subsequent interaction of the star-crossed lovers reveals a new story. It is truly an ensemble-driven piece. Tickets are $2 for students with reservation, free for student rush, and free for Macalester/ACTC faculty and staff. General admission is $7. refresh –>