Cal Shakes Blogging Fellow Peter Selawsky continues to blog from inside the Romeo & Juliet rehearsal room.
As rehearsals for director Shana Cooper’s upcoming Romeo and Juliet continue, the production is coming together and the process is intensifying. The work the actors, directors, and crew have been doing was apparent on the afternoon of June 14, as the cast performed a full run-through of the first half of the play. After over a week of watching individual scenes blocked and worked in slow detail, I was impressed to see the unexpected fluidity and lively pace of the first half as a whole. The actors have already found many exciting ways to engage with the audience and the physical space surrounding them and, as someone who’s not used to observing this sort of process, it’s been fascinating to see how quickly the cast members experiment with choices of movement and line interpretation. Many of the transitions revolve around finding the most fluid transition from a moment of love or humor to a moment of danger or violence.
It’s also been fun to see the actors, many of whom are playing three parts, switch between characters without ever leaving the stage and even, in some cases, in the middle of a scene. For example, some sequences or transitions require both Benvolio and Lady Capulet (both played by Arwen Anderson) or (both played by Dan Hiatt) at different points. Letting the audience see quick costume and character changes calls attention to the cast as constituent parts of a resourceful and flexible unit, playing roles as needed to best tell the story. Without spoiling any details, I can say that director Shana Cooper and the cast have come up with several creative solutions to the sorts of logistical problems that come with a small cast. If what I’m seeing at this point in rehearsal is a good indication, audiences will be impressed with the versatility and energy of the cast, and entertained and moved by the play.
The run-through would not have been possible without the hard work the cast has been putting in with movement coach Erika Chong Shuch and fight choreographer Dave Maier. Although both the fight and dance scenes were rehearsed at half-speed during the first run-through, the sequences are now fully blocked and the cast is becoming increasingly comfortable with them. With the production’s X-shaped stage, spacing choices are a major consideration.
Much of the blocking leading up to the deadly duel between Mercutio, Tybalt, and Romeo is designed to emphasize the danger of direct confrontation. For the beginning of the fight, Maier and Cooper carefully consider how far apart Mercutio and Tybalt should be in each moment, whether or not they can touch and how, when and where they should circle each other, and what specific lines or moments create specific motivation for escalation. The result is a memorable fight that creatively utilizes the space and surrounding materials.
Romeo and Juliet opens at the Bruns Amphitheater on July 3 and runs until July 28. Tickets are available at the Cal Shakes website.
Big thanks go to Jay Yamada for making this blogging fellowship possible.