2012-07-12 / Schools
University’s theater company puts new spin on ‘Romeo and Juliet’
A special adaptation of the play, the highlight of the university’s 16th annual Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival, will be set in 1492 Spain in an environment plagued by religious confl ict.
“In that time, the Catholic monarchs had recaptured Spain,” said Brett Elliott, the play’s director. “I wanted to make the Montagues, Romeo’s family, Muslim and the Capulets, Juliet’s family, Christian. It gives a context for the hatred between the families.”
Elliott, the associate artistic director of the university-affiliated, professional Kingsmen Shakespeare Company, said changes in the script are minimal but meaningful.
“Romeo’s spiritual adviser is an imam rather than a friar,” he said. “(But) it’s still a Shakespearean play.”
In preparation for the performances, Elliott led seven interfaith workshops between First Christian Church of North Hollywood and the Islamic Center of Southern California.
The weekly workshops, organized by the Christian-Muslim Consultative Group of Southern California, provided people from the two faiths with the opportunity to learn from one another, Elliott said.
“Core beliefs, ethical beliefs, rites of passage . . . they could ask and answer questions in a safe place,” he said.
“I’ve drawn a lot (for the play) from those exchanges.”
Elliott said he hopes those same exchanges will take place between audience members who come to see the outdoor show at CLU’s Kingsmen Park. He will lead a discussion at 7:15 p.m. before each performance.
“I hope that the audience will consider experiencing another faith in a (different) way,” he said. “The struggles between these two faiths continue to this day. . . . Hopefully people will see the consequences of that kind of hate.”
The cast, which began rehearsing the second week of June, is made up of professional actors as well as student and graduate interns.
One such intern, recent CLU graduate Brent Ramirez, said the new religious context will add a different dimension to the classic.
“It’s a more serious conflict,” the 26-year-old actor said. “It raises the stakes a little.”
Rachel Seiferth, who is playing Juliet, said she’s eager to see how people will respond to the play’s changes.
“It applies the themes that exist in the play on a more universal level,” she said. “It should be interesting to see what the audience’s reaction is.”
Regardless of where and when the play takes place, Romeo actor Daniel Hayek said the story remains timeless.
“There’s something about being young and in love,” he said. “It’s universal.”
Individual tickets are $20; those under 18 enter free. Box seats, which accommodate six adults, are $75 or $90, and side box seats are $75.
For information or lawn box reservations, call (805) 493-3014 or visit www.kingsmenshakespeare.org. Individual tickets are available at the door.