Photo Booth Pictures from Romeo and Juliet

During each performance, we’re inviting audience members at Romeo and Juliet to participate in our photo booth. Using props, quotes, and a camera we want you to tell us your story of Romeo and Juliet.

Find your photo listed by date below:

3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 9 // 10 // 11 // 12

13 // 14 // 16 // 17 // 18 // 19 // 20 // 21

23 // 24 // 25 // 26 // 27 // 28

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Ask Philippa: ROMEO & JULIET Edition

Philippa Kelly, resident dramaturg for Cal Shakes, shares her thoughts on the current production, and invites your questions. Romeo & Juliet runs through July 28, 2013.

Choose your side. Choose your weapon. Choose your love.“My mind misgives/Some consequence yet hanging in the stars,” says Romeo early in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This, Shakespeare’s first great tragedy, has long been seen as a tale of young love blighted by fate. Yet, as director Shana Cooper notes, the “fateful” blow to this love story is delivered not by fate, but by Romeo himself when he chooses to kill Tybalt, protecting his honor above the fragile blossom of his new love. Intriguing, provoking, heartbreaking, Romeo and Juliet compels us to question our most dearly-held beliefs about love—when to indulge it, how to express it, how to protect it, and whether it’s possible to let it go before it expires of its own accord.

Are you going to see our production of Romeo & Juliet?  Do you have questions or comments about the production’s cast, themes, creative choices, or anything else? Please leave them in the comments, and I’ll be sure to respond.

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Dispatch #4 from Inside the R&J Rehearsal Hall: On Quick Changes and Indispensability

The fourth peek inside the Romeo & Juliet rehearsal room from Cal Shakes Blogging Fellow Peter Selawsky.

In my last post, I wrote about watching the cast of Shana Cooper’s Romeo and Juliet perform their initial run-through of the first half of the play on June 14. Since then, rehearsals have focused entirely on blocking and practicing scenes from the second half; on June 20 I was able to see the first run-through of these scenes in order. Just as before, the speed with which the actors assimilate direction and blocking was remarkable, but I was especially impressed by the emotional depth and fluidity to cast was able to achieve in such a short time.

Condensed to suit a cast of seven, the script brings on the calamities of the second half with a merciless suddenness, creating a strong contrast with the good humor and relative expansiveness of the play until Mercutio and Tybalt’s deaths. At the beginning of the play, Romeo has all the time in the world, and doesn’t seem to take the conflicts around him seriously. In its early stages, the play allows for pleasurable digressions and spectacles such as Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech or the Capulets’ party. By contrast, the second half is nightmarish, sped up and out of control with confrontations and miscommunications escalating in rapid succession. After the brief final moments between the lovers near the beginning of the second half, circumstances force them apart and then unite them in death.

As in the first run-through, the pace and logistics of the production require actors to make instantaneous costume changes in front of the audience. Arwen Anderson wears a stocking cap when appearing as Benvolio; we in the audience see her become Lady Capulet by putting on a coat and eyeglasses several times during the play. Perhaps most notably, Dan Hiatt becomes Lord Capulet after a scene talking to Romeo as the Friar; later, Hiatt has two consecutive scenes with Juliet, one as the Friar, one as Capulet. I’ll be writing more about these quick costume changes, and about the costumes in general, in my next post.

At least in this first run, Hiatt’s performance as Capulet was less tempestuous than one familiar with the play might expect. Rather than merely ranting, Capulet reacts with a mixture of controlled rage and exasperated confusion upon discovering that his daughter does not share his wishes for her future. In general, Hiatt’s Capulet gives the sense of a man who is not used to being out of control, and now, therefore, doesn’t know what to do. At the same time, his genuine care for his daughter is apparent, and seems to be confirmed by his anger. All this is re-emphasized in the scene in which the Nurse and parents believe they have found Juliet dead in her bed, as Capulet’s orders—“All things that we ordained festival/Turn from their office to black funeral:/… And all things change them to the contrary”—sound like his determination to take control of the tragedy before even possessing the ability to process it.

With such a small ensemble, each member is indispensable, and all have memorable moments in the second half. Dan Clegg is a highly likeable Romeo and Rebekah Brockman brings a quiet maturity to the role of Juliet; the leads have excellent chemistry together and their shared scenes are delightful. Domenique Lozano (the Nurse, Prince) has a memorable discovery of Juliet’s apparently lifeless body. Nick Gabriel, Tybalt in Act 1, returns to play another foil for Romeo, Juliet’s intended husband Paris; Joseph J. Parks, Mercutio in Act 1, returns as the Apothecary.

Romeo and Juliet begins previews at the Bruns Amphitheater on July 3, opens July 6, and runs through July 28. Tickets are available at the Cal Shakes website.

Big thanks go to Jay Yamada for making this blogging fellowship possible.

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Dispatch #3: First Half Run-Through

Cal Shakes Blogging Fellow Peter Selawsky continues to blog from inside the Romeo & Juliet rehearsal room.

Arwen Anderson plays Lady Capulet and Benvolio.

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 Dan Hiatt (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.

 

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Where, and Who, Are the Mothers In Shakespeare?

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly muses on maternal absences in Romeo & Juliet and other Shakespeare plays—an update on this blog she wrote last summer.

Nurse, Mother, Juliet 2009

Catherine Castellanos (Nurse), Julie Eccles (Lady Capulet), and Sarah Nealis (Juliet) in our 2009 production of R&J; photo by Kevin Berne.

In Renaissance times the mother was the family member principally involved with her children’s education and upbringing. Yet in Renaissance drama older women were rarely represented on stage in what would obviously be one of their more sympathetic roles: that of the loving and nurturing mother. This lack is partly explained by the fact that women were not allowed to perform on the English stage: All of the female roles were played by young boys before their voices broke, so that a younger character part was obviously a better physical and vocal match. The lack of mothers in Shakespeare is notorious:  We have the three sisters in King Lear, Marina in Pericles, Miranda in The Tempest, Portia and Jessica in The Merchant of Venice, Beatrice and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, Ophelia in Hamlet, Desdemona in Othello, Isabella in Measure for Measure, and Rosalind and Celia in As You Like It, all of whom are deprived of mothers. Moreover, almost all of the older women Shakespeare does represent on stage offer negative images of motherhood: Volumnia in Coriolanus and Gertrude in Hamlet, and then Lady Macbeth as well, who says that she would have been a terrible mother if she had had the chance to be one. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet of course has a mother, but not one who will protect her: Lady Capulet, anywhere from age 26 to her mid-thirties (Juliet could have been born first or, perhaps, after a long line of children), is thoroughly subjected to her husband’s will. We can infer that Lady Capulet is significantly younger than her husband (who talks of his younger days: “tis gone, tis gone, tis gone…”), and a fairly distant mother. Her relationship to Juliet, and to the whole subject of marriage, seems perfunctory, accentuated, for example, in the stiff rhyming couplets in which she describes the bookish “joys” of an upcoming marriage:

This precious book of love, this unbound lover,
To beautify him only lacks a cover.
So shall you share all that he doth possess,
By having him, making yourself no less.

For a surrogate mother, Juliet has the garrulous old Nurse, possessor of four teeth in her head and purveyor of bawdy jokes.

Prospero and Miranda, 2012

Michael Winters (Prospero) and Emily Kitchens (Miranda) in our 2012 production of THE TEMPEST; photo by Kevin Berne.

Why does Shakespeare exploit this idea of the older woman as an unsympathetic figure (except for those few rare mothers who, like Hermione in The Winter’s Tale and Thaisa in Pericles, are effectively buried alive, losing their children either forever or for most of the play)? We might hypothesize about the playwright’s own life—married, as he was, to a woman eight years older than himself who reached middle age well before he did. We know that William Shakespeare spent most of his married life living in London, while Anne Hathaway lived in Stratford with their children. We also know that Shakespeare’s plays were written in an extremely patriarchal period. But we can also see how useful a mother might be to a girl as, at a very young age, she comes face-to-face with the complexities of love and life. And this is where there emerges a structural and thematic reason for the absence of mothers in Shakespeare. Aside from helping to solve the difficulty of finding boys who could play the parts of mature women, this lack allowed Shakespeare to create an important dramatic pretext: By taking away the mother (either, as in Romeo and Juliet, as a figure of real guidance, or, as in many of his plays, as a presence on stage at all) Shakespeare creates a gap in the young female characters’ lives, compelling them to develop that extraordinary independence and character that makes them so attractive. It is Juliet, after all, who changes Romeo, urging him onward to transform himself from an idle young man “in love with love” to a passionate and committed lover.

Shana Cooper’s production of Romeo & Juliet plays July 3-28 at the stunning outdoor Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda, CA.

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Dispatch #2 from the R&J Rehearsal Hall: Repurposing, Re-creating

Cal Shakes Blogging Fellow Peter Selawsky continues to blog from inside the Romeo & Juliet rehearsal room.

In my last post, I summarized the main points raised by director Shana Cooper as she discussed her upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet with Cal Shakes staff. Today, I want to take a closer look at how her general vision for the play is being reflected in the details of the production’s set design. We were lucky enough to recently hear from set designer Dan Ostling (Cal Shakes’ productions of The Verona Project, Macbeth, and Much Ado About Nothing) who shared some of his general thoughts about the play, and how they might relate to the specific needs of this production.

Ostling’s first observation was that the world Shakespeare created for Romeo and Juliet is “not what we immediately think about… it’s not perfume and flowers, it’s brutal.” More specifically, he pointed out that Renaissance Verona had the reputation of being a fortified, violent city. He imagines Verona as a fortified city filled with fortified houses and dangerous streets, torn by internecine strife and random violence where opposing forces meet in the public square—but with internal gardens and sanctuaries such as Juliet’s balcony or the Friar’s cell. The idea that love and beauty could grow up from the very heart of hate and violence may be why the story of the children of bitter enemies falling in love was ever considered remarkable in the first place, and may be why one of Shakespeare’s best-loved works still has the capacity to move us. Like director Cooper, Ostling emphasizes that the harshness of the young lovers’ surroundings not only endangers but highlights their love.

This focus on the bleakness of the surrounding world explains why Ostling envisions a bleak set with nothing superfluous: We “start from a bare stage and build up from there.” Indeed, Ostling claims to be the rare set designer with “a distrust of scenery,” refusing to allow any elements that do not prove themselves to be necessary. The set will feature barn wood that will be torched to look like reclaimed wood and worn, aged, rusted grates on the downstage corners of the stage. Both set and costume will display an appreciation for the possibilities of repurposed things, utilizing tension and distress of materials and creating an austere, militaristic vintage aesthetic. The stage will be built in the shape of an X, creating a neutral, public focal point for the collision of equal and opposing forces.

Set Model for Romeo and Juliet

While the set will have a very minimal backdrop, Dan is interested in including (potentially) mobile spaces where actors can perch. For example, the crew has discussed various possibilities for re-creating the famous balcony scene. Seen with fresh eyes, this moment has the potential to appear as an unexpected miracle, full of tender humor and the wonder of the discovery of love.

Romeo and Juliet opens at the Bruns Ampitheater on July 3 and runs through July 28. Tickets are available on the Cal Shakes website.

Big thanks go to Jay Yamada for making this blogging fellowship possible.

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Dispatch #1 from the R&J Rehearsal Hall: Small Miracles of Joy

Hello, this is Peter Selawsky blogging from the Cal Shakes rehearsal hall. I’ve been coming to Cal Shakes productions since I was a child growing up in the East Bay, and I’m very excited for the opportunity to sit in on rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet and write about the process I’m witnessing.

On Tuesday, June 4, at the first-rehearsal Meet-and-Greet for Romeo and Juliet, director Shana Cooper shared her thoughts about her upcoming Cal Shakes production. Cooper envisions a raw Romeo and Juliet that strips away the expectations and preconceptions most of us have built up around one of Shakespeare’s most well-known works, honing in on the extremity of the elemental human passions at the heart of the play—hate and love. In Shakespeare’s Verona, the two passions are equally important, equally powerful, and equally inexplicable: Just as we can never explain the origin of love, we never learn the cause of the famous family feud that drives the play’s tension.

Dan Clegg and Rebekah Brockman as Romeo and Juliet

Dan Clegg and Rebekah Brockman as Romeo and Juliet; photo by Kevin Berne.

Love has the potential to heal the houses’ rancor, and offers an oasis or sanctuary in the very heart of a world of violence. Romeo and Juliet find love in a sea of hate, and it briefly transforms them into their best selves, giving them unexpected strength and courage. The play asks us whether or not true love can overcome a history of hate, sustaining itself against a world of violence where everything seems to conspire to push the characters towards their worst, most primal selves. Some moments in the play, such as Juliet’s willingness to be buried alive in order to remain faithful to her love, inspire great hope in the triumph of love. But in abandoning himself to his rage and killing Tybalt, Romeo perpetuates the cycle of violence that defines the world of Verona, turning a potential comedy irreversibly toward tragedy.

For all the play’s talk of star-crossed lovers and fortune’s fools, Shakespeare suggests that it is not fate, but the very basic human choice of hate over love in a moment of passion that shapes the course of these lives. As such, the production will emphasize the comedy and occasionally surprising tonal shifts of the play’s first half, creating a world where the inescapable brutality of the second half makes love all the more miraculous. Small miracles of joy and humor allow small moments of love, distracting us from the harsher surrounding reality.

With a cast of only seven, the production will be marked by a fluid, guerilla theater-influenced style featuring quick changes of costumes and visible character shifts. This—along with stark, minimal scenery and a setting bound to no particular place or time—places the focus entirely on a small group of actors who will become both chorus and street performers in order to tell a universal story.

Romeo and Juliet begins previews on July 3, opening July 6. Rehearsals are now fully underway, and I will be updating this blog with periodic posts on the production’s ongoing development and rehearsal process. Look for a preview of Romeo and Juliet’s costume and set design up next.

Big thanks go to Jay Yamada for making this blogging fellowship possible.

 

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Ask Philippa: Off-Season Edition

Philippa Kelly at Blithe Spirit Scoop 2012 by Jay Yamada

Philippa Kelly at the Inside Scoop for BLITHE SPIRIT, July 2012; photo by Jay Yamada.

Philippa Kelly, resident dramaturg for Cal Shakes, invites your questions about our 2013 season, which begins May 29. Subscriptions and FlexPasses on sale now.

Just because the Main Stage season closes, it doesn’t mean we at Cal Shakes are suddenly turned to marble, like Hermione in the fourth play of our 2013 season, A Winter’s Tale. Ask any questions you like and you’ll get an answer promptly. Are you reading the 2013 plays between seasons? Curious as to what we’re planning? Or do you have questions about Shakespeare—what is known about his life and writing process? Ask in the comments and I’ll be sure to respond.

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An Artistic Learning Valentine: R&J in Suburbia

Last week we heard from Eli Wirtschafter, a former Cal Shakes Conservatory student—that’s him on the right, playing Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost in 2009, the summer after his senior year of high school. Eli is now studying at UC Berkeley, and he wrote us to tell us about the production of Romeo and Juliet that he’s directing.

We’ll let Eli take it from here.
It’s a Cal Shakes’ Artistic Learning success story!

Everything I know about Shakespeare I learned from my six summers at Cal Shakes, and the program inspired me to direct my own show. It’s with BareStage, a student-run theater group at UC Berkeley and it opens March 4. Susannah Martin, who I was lucky to have as my director four times, would always set Shakespeare’s plays in a specific period; as we engaged with the text we were also engaging with recent history and how we saw ourselves. It was a continuation of Cal Shakes’ mission of “reimagining the classics.” I’m directing my own production Cal Shakes-style, transposing Verona to an American suburb in 1953. I could go on endlessly, but it’s about disempowered youth, strict ideas about family, and distrust of people who aren’t so different after all.


Here’s some information about the show (and here’s the link to its Facebook event)
Location: Caesar Chavez Student Center
Friday March 4 at 8pm
Saturday March 5 at 8pm
Sunday March 6 at 7pm
Friday March 11 at 8pm
Saturday March 12 at 8pm
Sunday March 13 at 2pm
Students $8, General $10

Tickets available at the door and at tickets.berkeley.edu.
I am constantly grateful to Cal Shakes, and I wanted to tell you what I was up to!

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Review Cal Shakes: Help Us Make a Difference for Bay Area Youth

Are you a fan of Cal Shakes? Have you been moved by a performance at the Bruns, or touched by an experience you or your child had in one of our camps, classes, Student Discovery Matinees, or talkbacks? If so, please take just a few minutes and share your story with the world by reviewing Cal Shakes on GreatNonprofts.org, a website that allows people to post stories of their firsthand experiences with nonprofits of all kinds—think of it a Yelp for the nonprofit sector. Review our educational programs by next Wednesday, September 30 to nominate Cal Shakes for the Youth Thrive Awards and you’ll become eligible to win gift certificates through GreatNonprofits for treats from companies such as Clif Bar, Greystone Bakery, and Birkenstock!

Reviews can help bring attention to the work Cal Shakes does, both overall and specifically in service to young people. Those nonprofits that receive the most positive reviews for their work with young people will be named Youth Thrive Award winners in five different categories. Of course, you can review our other programs, too—and we’d be delighted if you did.

To write a review for Cal Shakes, follow these simple steps.

1. Go to greatnonprofits.org/reviews and search for Cal Shakes.
2. Click the “Write a Review” link in the listing in the search results, or click the “Write Reviews” tab that appears in the left column of every page of our profile on the site.
3. Fill in the online review form and submit. You’re done!

Thanks in advance for sharing your Cal Shakes story, and for helping us to continue to bring theater and the works of great playwrights to youth throughout the Bay Area.

Pictured above: Clive Worsley leads a post-performance talkback with students
and the cast of Romeo and Juliet (2009); photo by Jay Yamada.
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