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ROMEO AND JULIET Brave A Plague Again

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ROMEO AND JULIET Brave A Plague Again

While it's highly likely that Shakespeare penned a pair of his most enduring plays while quarantined during the Bubonic Plague, and that his heartbreaking classic Romeo and Juliet is peppered with references to "the infection" and the well worn "a plaque over both your houses", Shakespeare had to wait until London theatres reopened to introduce his latest.

Live theatres are again shuttered four centuries later, but this time around, theatre makers have been zooming online to escape the current creative confines, providing their own sort of bread lines, delivering food for thought to deprived theatre patrons starving for live entertainment.

Realizing that Romeo originally met his star-crossed lover Juliet at a forbidden "masked ball", Los Angeles theatre director Miles Berman wondered what the Bard might have concocted if he'd had access to the internet. The result is "Romeo & Juliet; Virtually", a live "zoom party" airing online in August as part of the #FringeFromHome Hollywood Fringe Virtual Theatre Festival.

"There are two things I noticed as I weighed presenting this," reflected Miles. "The first was just how funny the play is before everything goes horribly wrong. And the second is how current the theme of two families pitted against one other over an unquestioned prejudice still is. Without hitting you over the head with it, the time absolutely seemed right to tackle Romeo and Juliet."

In this version, things take off with an opening overview from fussy Mayor Escalus, a Governor Gavin Newsom type, about those two warring households in (now) fair Pomona. From there the show jumps right into the party, with the online audience encouraged to text chat their advice to the Renaissance revelers as events careen out of control. It all takes place in continuous real time, like one big video conference call, with the characters constantly logging in and out, and walking around with their phones and laptops. "I wanted to make live streaming an asset, instead of seeming like a compromise," offered Miles. " I hope that as viewers become immersed in what is still one of the greatest romances ever written, they'll enjoy just how active, flirty, snarky and relevant this story still is."

Miles enlisted the help of award-winning playwright Steven Vlasak to adapt the story, and has recruited eight A-list actors, many Fringe Festival veterans, to bring it all to life, broadcasting from their homes in Los Angeles, Orlando, and Brisbane. There'll be four performances only, on August 21, 22, 28 and 29.

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