Drama updates ‘Romeo and Juliet’
By Randall G. Mielke For Sun-Times Media June 26, 2013 9:18AM
‘Romeo and Juliet’
♦ June 28-July 7
♦ Wheaton Drama Playhouse 111, 111 N. Hale St., Wheaton
♦ Tickets, $10
♦ (630) 260-1820
Updated: June 26, 2013 9:18AM
When audience members attend Wheaton Drama’s presentation of “Romeo and Juliet,” they may hear playwright William Shakespeare’s words, but they might not recognize the modern-day, New Orleans setting.
“I feel that the modern setting and music will help make what most people are afraid of — that ‘Ew, Shakespeare’ mentality — become totally accessible,” said Jeni Dees, who is directing the play for Wheaton Drama. “The language is beautiful — you can’t mess with the language — but you can make it better understood by using modern locations and devices. For example, in the fight scenes, we will not be using rapiers or swords, because people don’t walk around with those strapped to their belts nowadays. Instead we are using devices that are similar: police batons for swords, skateboards and trash can-lids for shields. One young lady is using a spiked, high-heeled shoe as a dagger — these are all items from a modern era.
“Romeo and Juliet” will be presented from June 28 through July 7 at Wheaton Drama Playhouse in Wheaton.
In the play, The Montagues and Capulets are two feuding families whose children meet and fall in love. The couple has to hide their love from the world because they know that their parents will not allow them to be together.
“It’s a classic tale of two star-crossed lovers stuck in a family blood feud,” Dees said.
Adapted by Dees and several of her friends, the updated version of “Romeo and Juliet” includes alterations from male roles to female roles.
“As I read and studied the script I started thinking about how there were so many male characters and not enough female characters,” Dees said. “This was out of necessity in Shakespeare’s time since women were not allowed to act and young men had to play the female roles. But I started thinking that although there are a ton of great female roles in other Shakespeare scripts, I wanted to see it more balanced in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ so that the modern setting would make more sense.”
Despite the changes, the main appeal of the play is still the same in that audience members can identify with the characters and the situation.
“This is a romantic fairytale that has lasted over the ages because it is so accessible,” Dees said. “Everyone can understand a feud, or an overbearing parent, or being interested in someone that maybe you shouldn’t be, but can’t help it. But also, this play isn’t just a love story. There is so much fighting and action and humor all wrapped up together. There is something for everyone.”