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BWW Interview: Branda Lock on Directing “Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending” for Little Fish Theatre

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BWW Interview: Branda Lock on Directing “Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending” for Little Fish Theatre

No doubt anyone who has read or seen a production of Shakespeare's tragic love story "Romeo and Juliet" has wished they could change the ending so that the lovers can be reunited rather than separated by death due to a seemingly split-second decision. And now, thanks to Little Fish Theatre and director Branda Lock, you CAN choose to change things around during "Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending" airing online Saturday, July 25 at 6pm (Pacific) and on Sunday, July 26 at 2pm. But exactly how will it work? I spoke with the production's director, Branda Lock, to find out.

Branda Lock (Branda): I'm very excited to be bringing this interactive piece of theatre to people's homes via Zoom! This play is not only a hilarious take on Shakespeare's classic, has a ridiculously talented and diverse cast, it is also very near and dear to my heart. I mean, hasn't everyone wished if only Romeo had gotten the note! Or if only Mercutio and Tybalt had lived! Or what about that other girl Romeo was supposedly in love with when the play begins? Well, the brother-sister playwriting duo, Shawn and Ann Fraistat, decided to tackle those burning questions many of us Shakespeare lovers have and turned out what I think to be a hilarious and delightful parody called "Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending"

(Shari): Do you have a personal connection to the play?

(Branda): I was fortunate to be cast in the premier production of this play for the BWW Interview: Branda Lock on Directing “Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending” for Little Fish TheatreWashington D.C. Fringe Festival which was originally directed by Ann Fraistat herself. It was such an all-out fun experience that I will never forget thanks to the genie-in-a-bottle kind of cast and production team who put the show together. It was also incredibly well received by the audiences and the show went on to win the D.C. Fringe Festival Best Comedy in 2010, celebrated by the cast in this photo. The play and its 8 possible endings, with all its zany twists and turns, its clever verse and prose, and its fresh vivacity and zeal, has essentially stayed with me these past 10 years.

(Shari): How did your journey take you to Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro to get the play produced, especially now when live theatre is taking a long "intermission" due to COVID-19?

(Branda): Since the play's publication in 2013, I've basically been pitching it to any theatre willing to consider it. BWW Interview: Branda Lock on Directing “Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending” for Little Fish TheatreAnd happily enough, just last year, Little Fish Theatre expressed interest in producing the play for its upcoming season. I excitedly started putting my production dream board together on Pinterest of a vibrant Elizabethan/Clueless/Late 90's production style mashup-and then COVID-19 hit.

Like a lot of theatre artists, I accepted the shutdown, mourned my current and future production loss, and immediately rushed to stop the hemorrhaging theaters were suffering from by offering my assistance in any way I could; i.e. acting in Zoom readings, directing Zoom readings, participating in weekly coffee table/fireside Zoom chats, starting theatre think tanks, reading new works for possible future development, etc. I was willing to do anything to help generate donations and keep patrons and subscribers connected to theatre.

But as more and more theaters put out virtual content, as much as I found myself thoroughly enjoying the experience, I also found myself really missing the special interaction between audience and performer which makes live theatre so magical. And then it hit me, "Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending" has the ability to connect audiences and performers in such a unique way that could actually translate to the virtual platform very well since it literally cannot move forward without the audience choosing how they want the plot to play out. So, I set about contacting the playwrights to see if they would be interested in a live Zoom format presentation of the production and inquired about streaming rights. They were enthusiastically on board and to my delight, Little Fish Theatre secured two live stream performance dates on July 25 and 26, produced by Suzanne Dean and Little Fish Theatre.

BWW Interview: Branda Lock on Directing “Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending” for Little Fish Theatre(Shari): Tell me a bit more about your vision for the production. (This photo is from the original production and features, from left, Kyra Corradin, James Water, and Branda Lock.)

(Branda): My main desire in directing and presenting this version of "Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending" is to reinvigorate that special and unique audience/performer connection by making this as engaging and interactive an experience as possible by using technology not as a hindrance but as an advantage. That way, we can all continue to come together in newer and fresher ways, especially during these COVID-19 times.

(Shari): Can you tell me a little about the moments when the audience determines the action of the play?

(Branda): There are three moments in the play where Romeo will directly address the audience to get their vote so he can decide which path to pursue. Our audience will then have the opportunity to vote via the Zoom, chat, via a poll, and some lucky audience members may even be invited into the Zoom live broadcast to cast their vote with Romeo in "virtual person."

(Shari): Your cast will have to be able to think of their feet, so to speak, given how the two performances will, no doubt, turn out very differently.

(Branda): I am very proud of my cast who I know will meet any challenge presented to them:
Romeo: Sri Chilukuri
Juliet: Milan Anderson
Rosaline: Selena Price
Benvolio: Ben Campbell
Mercutio: Daniel Gallai
Tybalt: Vonzell Carter
The Friar/The Lady: Samantha Barrios
Paris/The Prince: Brian O'Sullivan
Nurse/Lord Montague: Don Schlossman
Lord Capulet/Friar John: Rodney Rincon

(Shari): So now you have a chance to join the fun and choose the ending you might think you've always wanted or never imagined for Romeo and Juliet. BWW Interview: Branda Lock on Directing “Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending” for Little Fish TheatreBe sure to tune in for "Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending" on Saturday, July 25 at 6pm and/or Sunday, July 26 at 2pm. How can people get tickets?

(Branda): Because this is a published play, this is a password protected live event and no recordings will be made of the performances. In order for audiences to attend they need simply RSVP to suzanne@littlefishtheatre.org and include "R&J" in the subject line for the Zoom link and password. In addition, if subscribers or new audience members would like to make a ticket donation they may do so at https://bit.ly/DonateWYC (Donation suggestion is $20 keeping in mind/depending on the # of people in your watch party. Paying actors and licensing fees are only made possible through even donations.)


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From This Author Shari Barrett