Since the end of February, the cast of Romeo and Juliet has been rehearsing for an opening that will happen in less than two weeks. We’ve read and studied the script, looked up unfamiliar words and phrases, blocked scenes, memorized lines, worked with props, tried on costumes, danced, fought (in character, of course), and we’ve laughed a lot.
Along the way, we’ve also talked and learned about Shakespeare, about customs of his time, and about the 1967 setting—including the Vietnam War, peace protests, draft card burning, the Summer of Love, culture, clothes, and music—of our version of the play.
We’ve also worked hard to make the story and the emotional highs and lows of the play real for ourselves and for our audience. Romeo and Juliet isn’t just a five hundred-year-old classic that we perform only because it’s endured. It’s a story that—despite the young marrying age of its title characters—could happen today. It’s a story of anger, hatred, drug use, and choosing suicide as a seemingly only way out of a troubled life. Romeo is depressed (as is his mother); Juliet feels trapped in her home; Mercutio may be (or may not be) struggling with his sexuality; Tybalt follows his anger and arrogance to his own death. These aren’t struggles that happened only half a millennium ago. These are challenges that teens and adults faced one hundred years ago, ten years ago, one year ago, and to this day. From Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway to 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, suicide continues to be a frequently explored theme in popular culture.
The production team and cast hope that we’re doing well by this important topic. We also ask our audience to remember that these struggles are present for some people every day, and we hope that love, respect, and understanding will allow some suffering with these struggles to know that they are not alone, not a burden, and not without other choices. To further support this cause with your time or dollars, please visit the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide and The Trevor Project.