Directed by Bonnie McCormick and Betty Kay Seibt, this production updates Shakespeare’s classic tale to highlight the core themes of the original story and present them in an accessible way for today’s audience. It is set on the southern Texas border around the turn of the 20th century.
The directors believe that Shakespeare is still being produced because he has something to say in every era. His works, they explain, “aren’t artifacts, but living discussions about power, morals, love, government, and more.” While environments change over time, human nature is pretty much the same. They also have approached this particular play with an understanding that is highly likely that Shakespeare was not making a commentary on race, but on class, money, and power. These were certainly Shakespearean-era issues. This line of thinking led them to seek out a multi-racial cast and a more modern setting – the Wild West where change is possible. The two families at the center of the drama (in this version, the Montoyas and the Cordovas) are similar, but have allowed money, perceived class difference, and an old feud to literally poison relations within the whole town.
Romeo & Juliet is also a story about the struggle between parents and children. While the parents are unwavering in their hatred for one another, the younger generation is not. The directors point to the friendship between Romeo and Benvolio (Montoyas) and Mercutio (a Cordova). As they try to break free from their elders control and make their own decisions they “wind up raising the devil”, Seibt describes.
By modernizing and cutting the script, Seibt and McCormick hope that audiences will really hear the story. Seibt points out, “The script is full of bawdy humor, double meanings, and linguistic twists and turns. We hope the audience will not get lost in lush velvet and language, but will hang in with these characters as they struggle with family hatred, hormones, and evolving beliefs.”