“…when he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night.”
Two star-crossed souls collide and fall fast in love, only to take their own lives in a tragic twist of fate. In this music-driven, 90-minute production, heightened theatricality and original alt-rock anthems will engage audiences and bring a fresh perspective to Shakespeare’s classic tale. Narrated by Benvolio, an unsuccessful peacemaker, Romeo and Juliet is a lesson in loss, destiny, loyalty – and most importantly, love.
This production is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.
DID YOU KNOW
- Romeo and Juliet was performed as part of our 2022 summer season, the first in our new home.
- The works of William Shakespeare have been translated into over 100 languages and are continually performed all around the world.
- From West Side Story to The Lion King, new takes on Shakespearean stories are common. But did you know that Romeo and Juliet is itself an adaptation of Arthur Brooke’s 1562 narrative poem The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet?
Romeo and Juliet was the first play I ever directed, the summer I was 16. As a teenager myself, I felt I understood its dynamics perfectly, and I felt like the play understood me. At that age, I felt most alive with my friends, I felt ready to fall in love, and I felt like the adults around me didn’t really understand me. Perhaps most importantly, when I was 16 I felt like I would live forever. The recklessness and passion and the feverish pace that drive Romeo and Juliet are informed by this feeling – both the magic and the enduring tragedy of this play is that none of these brilliant young characters feel like they will ever die, or even that they can, and then by the end, almost all of them do.
Some years later, I had another striking thought. What happens to Benvolio?
Romeo and Mercutio’s best friend, their third wheel in some sense, disappears from the play about halfway through, at the point where Mercutio is killed and the play’s comic center is destroyed, shifting the drama on its axis. In the original text, after Romeo is banished and we spend most of Acts 3 and 4 in Juliet’s troubled home, we arrive in Act 5 with Romeo receiving the news of Juliet’s ‘death’ from a servant named Balthasar. I wondered, what happens if that news comes from Benvolio? What happens if it’s Benvolio who walks Romeo to the tomb, who carries Romeo’s letter to his father, who runs back into the final scene with all the grownups behind him, just a moment too late? This character (who opens the play by trying to stop a fight from happening, something he tries more than once) then takes on a much greater significance, not only that of the attempted (and unsuccessful) peacemaker, but also in some way, the key witness. By giving Benvolio both the famous Prologue and the Epilogue and setting them to music, I have in some ways recast him as the narrator of the story. In this production, he is here to memorialize what happened to his friends, to sing us their song.
It has been a great gift to me to return to Romeo and Juliet 16 whole years after I directed it the first time, and to not only be back in conversation with its juicy, indelible characters (who still all feel like dear friends to me) but also with the young person I was, and now most importantly, with the young people who will receive this production in the audience. To you I say: You deserve drama that takes the stakes and the conditions of your lives seriously, and I believe that Shakespeare has you covered. No matter who you are, I hope you can find yourself in this play. In Romeo’s great capacity for feeling, in Juliet’s miraculous courage and intelligence, in Mercutio’s molten charisma and dazzling humor, in Tybalt’s sense of honor and desire for respect, and maybe in Benvolio’s deep love for his friends, in his sense of justice, or even in his grief.
It is my greatest hope whenever I direct a Shakespeare play, but perhaps most especially this play, that someone will leave thinking, as I did 16 years ago when this part of my life began, “This play is about me.” Because you’re right, it is.
Cast & Creative
Emma Rosa Went
Emma Rosa Went is a New York-based theatre director who makes new and classic-text plays. Recent work includes: Much Ado About Nothing (Opera House Arts, Stonington ME;) A Midsummer Night’s…
Naiya Vanessa McCalla
Naiya Vanessa McCalla (she/her) is so excited to join the tour! She developed an unshakeable adoration for performing Shakespeare– particularly his masterpiece Julius Caesar– while studying with the Classical and…
Reagan Tankersley is an actor and teaching artist in New York City. He began performing in and leading Shakespeare workshops for rural communities in Central Texas, starting in 2011. More…
New York based actor, musician, singer-songwriter and director. Born and raised in Italy where she graduated from the Bernstein School of Musical Theater, she moved to New York to attend…
Sophia K. Metcalf
Sophia K. Metcalf (they/them) is an NYC-based actor, musician, and writer. Recent credits include: Netflix’s I Am No Longer Here, Feste in Twelfth Night (The Acting Company; Irvington Shakespeare), and…
NETTIE CHICKERING (Lady Capulet/Montague) is overjoyed to work with the HVSF cast and team! Recent NY/Regional Theatre: Into the Breeches! (Hub Theatre Boston), As You Like It (60 Hr. Shakespeare…
Mercutio / Prince / Paris
Liam Gerard (he/they) is an actor and artist based in Queens, New York, and is over the moon to be making their HVSF debut. Previous credits include Puck (SSF), Vittorio…
Is ecstatic to be working with HVSF again! Previous credits include front of house, operations assistant, and production assistant. Tyler received his BFA in Musical Theatre from The Boston Conservatory.…
Production Manager: Piper Theatre; National Tour: Flamenco Vivo – Carlota Santana; Production Stage Manager: Stealing Mona Lisa, Noises in My Head, Candlelight by John Patrick Shanley, Trails reading Dir. Lorin…