Rival Families, Two Teens in Love, A Dismal Fate Awaits
By Sally Deering
“These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder
Which, as they kiss, consume.”
Mackenzie Menter as Juliet and Joshua Blount as Romeo in HSC’s Romeo & Juliet.
What happens when two feuding families poison the love of their offspring with their hatred? Do the sins of the fathers cast evil on their children? Can love ever survive when surrounded by hate?
These are the questions that come to mind in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, the story of two star-crossed lovers who cannot escape the rivalry of their families and although they are madly, deeply in love, theirs comes to a tragic end.
This new production of Romeo & Juliet by Hudson Shakespeare Company (HSC) opens in Hudson on Wed, July 12th at 7 pm at the Secaucus Library, and runs Sat, July 15 at 3 pm at Van Vorst Park in Jersey City; Mon, July 17 at Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken, and Thurs, July 20 at 7 pm at Hamilton Park in Jersey City. It explores the themes of hate and violence that seem to reflect contemporary times, and the cast features HSC newcomers Mackenzie Menter as Juliet and Joshua Blount as Romeo. Noelle Fair directs.
“I said I wouldn’t direct Romeo & Juliet until I knew what I wanted to do with it,” Fair says. “These young tempestuous teens fall in love and die. There’s a song Mandy Patinkin sings, a mash-up of ‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’ from South Pacific and ‘Children Will Listen’ from Into the Woods. It made me think about Romeo and Juliet and how we teach our children hate and we teach them bias. What are we passing down to the next generation? In Romeo & Juliet, the parents don’t know any other way to communicate except through violence and that’s what they teach their children.”
The two star-crossed lovers are not immersed in their family’s hate, but they cannot get away from it, Fair says, and in the end it destroys their love and destroys them.
“When you look at Romeo and Juliet, Romeo’s indulging himself in the idea of love, poetry, everything possible to avoid what his family wants him to be,” Fair says. “I’m sort of going with this very violent world and I’m putting it within the 1990s, and the issues we’re dealing with now. I’m using a lot of grunge music which is based in rebellion. It helps to highlight the themes I want to explore within the text. It’s really cool.”
The Romeo & Juliet cast also features Juliana Valente as Nurse; Kamran Saliani as Friar Laurence/Prince; Tiffany Faulkner as Mercutio/Lady Montague/Apothecary; Leon Morgan as Lord Capulet; Taylor Baskin as Lady Capulet; Matthew Cavender as Tybalt/Paris; and Lindsay Milligan as Benvolio. Combat director is Adele Rylands.
Performing Shakespeare can be tough on its own, but playing outside in make-shift performance venues brings challenges to the actors as well as the director, Fair says.
“One of the biggest challenges for the actors is juggling noise and distractions,” Fair says. “You have to stay really focused. There are going to be kids who can’t sit through a long performance. You’re not going to be in a black box where everyone is well-mannered. They deal with heat. Bugs. And different terrain. One park is hilly without a lot of grass another is concrete which is coliseum-like. We have to adjust exits and entrances. An actor in this company has to be able to have fun and be a team player.”
For the director, putting a show up like Romeo & Juliet takes a lot of pre-planning, Fair says.
“I have to pre-plan where props are going to be pre-set,” Fair says. “Children watching the show think the weapons are cool and walk away with them. We don’t do an intermission, so the actors’ energy has to be sustained for two hours, so I’m mentally preparing them, physically preparing them. I come from a program where we did some weird stuff with Shakespeare. I move scenes. I weave scenes. I play with time and space.”
Fair, who also works as an actress, teaches at a Middle School in Astoria, Queens. The Jersey City resident just did a production of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, where she played the role of Stella. Fair enjoys directing, she says, and she believes Shakespeare is as relevant today as it was during Shakespeare’s time.
“Why is Shakespeare still so appealing,” Fair says. “Shakespeare was able to touch the human heart. Beforehand, not too many playwrights got to the heart of what it is to be human.”
If you go
Romeo & Juliet
Wed, Jul 12 @ 7pm
Secaucus Public Library
1379 Paterson Plank Rd, SEC
Sat, Jul 15 @ 3pm
Van Vorst Park, JC
Mon, July 17 @ 7pm
Frank Sinatra Park, HOB
Thurs, Jul 20 @ 7pm
Hamilton Park (9th St and Jersey Ave) JC
Thurs, Jul 27 @ 6:30pm
Hoboken Public Library
500 Park Ave, HOB