By Sarah Beck
Modern-day productions of Shakespeare’s old work, especially in educational settings, are now adapted to appeal to an audience who will understand what’s going on. Shenandoah Conservatory went against the grain and decided to keep this classic, “Romeo and Juliet,” in its traditional Elizabethan Era. The cast and crew clearly knew the story and grasped its understanding. Junior Joanna Whicker who played Lady Capulet, said what made her think the role was right for her was the “complexity of the language, and also the complexity of my character.”
To start off with the technical theatre side, the set was beyond beautiful and gave a sense of royalty in this world. The costumes did the same thing, with mesmerizing tones of reds cast on the Capulet family and greens for those of Montague blood. The lighting was pivotal in depicting the time of day that certain scenes took place in. For example, when Romeo first saw Juliet at the ball, purple and blue lighting depicted the nighttime. The opposing sides were defined with the technical aspects from the very beginning of the play.
The first act of Romeo and Juliet was surprisingly comedic with the Nurse, played by Chris Godshall and Mercutio, played by Dion Mills. The audience was extremely engaged with the comedy that was involved and frankly rather surprised. Romeo and Juliet is known as a classic tragedy, and to have the natural comedic timing that they had gave a different view of the play itself. When one thinks about the text, there are some funny things about it that are bypassed when approaching this script for a production. On the flip side, Whicker said, “Lady Capulet’s text reveals such vengeance and pride. The challenging part was partnering those stoic adjectives with motherhood. When combining the need for Lady Capulet to both a mother and a woman of esteem. The outcome was a practical woman with deep need to protect the things she loved.”
Coming back from intermission, my heart dropped knowing that these two beloved star-crossed lovers would eventually die, and as expected that’s exactly how the tragedy ended. The first act had left spectators happy and full of joy because of the actor’s humorous performance, but after the second act, smiles quickly faded away and tears began falling from the eyes of the audience. Shakespeare writes so beautifully and leaves an impression on not only the audience members but the actors as well. Whicker explained, “Working on Shakespeare is difficult if you overlook the details of his words… If we fall off course his precise wording nudges us back on. If we truly read and experience the script Shakespeare can be one of the most satisfying adventures we as actors relinquish into.”
The production of Romeo and Juliet was a prime example of the talented young artists that are studying acting or musical theatre at Shenandoah Conservatory.
J.J. Ruscella, along with his cast and crew worked hard and achieved success. They explored the text on a level that most fail to see and provided a new outlook on the classic love story.
“J.J. Ruscella, our director,” Whicker said, “did a wonderful job at creating an environment on stage that supported the playfulness as well as the grandness of the text. His direction allowed us to both honor the truth of our character and play in a whole new, fully fleshed out, world. Lady Capulet’s strength led me through the semester and will stick with me in my journey as a young woman and artist.”