Letters from Verona

This is the second actor blog of the season; this one is written by Marilet Martinez, a member of the Romeo and Juliet ensemble who is also serving as Assistant to the Choreographer, MaryBeth Cavanaugh.

It’s hot here! No really, it’s hot. When Jonathan (Moscone) asked me to lean against the back wall of the rehearsal hall and just imagine that it was a sweltering afternoon in Verona, it wasn’t much of a stretch! With a cast this size and spring in full bloom, the temperature in that rehearsal room has to be at least 80 or above on any given day. But it’s not just the bodies and the weather that make the room sweat. It’s the energy. So much life and passion is being breathed into these characters that “hot” is an understatement.

It’s no revelation that these star-crossed lovers ignite a fire in their audience, that returning us to being in love for the first time. Provoking us to think of the first time someone professed their love for you, or you for them. Recalling the first time someone kissed you on a dance floor. Or just the pure feeling of being utterly obsessed-in-love with someone. This play is a classic for so many reasons, and even though we know how it ends, I think we watch it in hopes that maybe, just maybe, this time it will work out for these two kids. Many of the cast members have been in other productions of R and J, and yet there is still a magic and suspension of disbelief that we are all so willing to go along with. Mainly, because it’s FUN!

As an ensemble member, one of the joys is getting to create your character from scratch. There’s no text to inform you, no lexicon to reference. Only the vision of the director and what you bring to it. In our version, we are in modern-day Verona. The kids are technologically savvy, full of hormones, and ready to rumble. My character, who I’ve named Veronica, is one of Juliet’s bff’s. I get to listen to an iPod as the Capulets and Montagues get into a fight. Then…I get to join in. Chicks in Verona are tough, what can I say?

Soon after the battle, created by the very talented Dave Maier, these Veronians find themselves at the party of the year, where the cast does a number to Rihanna’s “Shut Up and Drive,” choreographed by MaryBeth Cavanaugh. I had the immense pleasure of assisting her with the choreography. When she and I got together, she explained that Jonathan had this idea to mix in some 1950s dance moves, applying them to this very modern pop tune. To be honest, I had my suspicions—I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. But when MaryBeth started teaching me the choreography, it started making sense. There is a carefree and released quality to the movement; it’s just the right amount of sway and cool. The cast was fantastic at learning the dance—all in one day, I might add. And it has to be said, these cats can moooove! Everyone is inhabiting the dance in his or her own unique way. The only downside to learning this dance was having to listen to the song over and over again. It’s safe to say that we all left that day singing “Shut up and Drive,” whether we wanted to or not.

I can’t believe we start tech next week! I’m sure many things will change and readjust around that time, but the one thing that will stay strong is the dedication and focus this amazing group of collaborators bring to the table. OK, more coming your way real soon.

Ciao.

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