Grassroots Shakespeare Brings ROMEO AND JULIET To SCERA, 1/17-20
When Romeo appears on stage at SCERA Center for the Arts later this month, he just might deliver the famous line, "What light through yonder window breaks?" by looking directly at someone in the audience. Romeo hopes he or she will answer something like, "Oh, that's Juliet's light. You're in luck. You are almost to her house."
That's because The Grassroots Shakespeare Company will present "Romeo and Juliet" using a stage technique called original practice that would have been used in the early 1600s. The company will unfold the classic tale of two star-crossed lovers and their feuding families in a style inspired by Shakespeare's original staging techniques.
That means that, among other things, audiences are encouraged-even expected-to express their approval or disapproval with shouts, hisses, boos and other declarations about the story unfolding on stage.
Scheduled for four nights, "Romeo and Juliet" will play January 17-20, Wednesday through Saturday at SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 S. State Street, Orem. Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m., and tickets at $12 for adults and $10 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and older are available at www.scera.org, by calling 801-225-ARTS, or at the SCERA Center main office 10am-6pm weekdays and Saturdays from 12Noon-6pm. All seats are reserved. Discounted $6 tickets for groups of 20 or more may be purchased in advance by non-profit and church groups (no refunds or exchanges).
True to original practice, it is a play without a director. The cast collaborates and provides insights and ideas while observing their fellow actors in their scenes.
"Everyone is encouraged to provide input whenever they are not performing in a scene," explains Aubrey Wilde, managing director. "In that sense, everyone in the cast is a director. The person on stage is encouraged to try the new idea, and then the cast evaluates whether to incorporate it.
"You won't find a lot of subtext, because we use Shakespeare's original words, and only those words," she adds. "We believe if Shakespeare wanted something, he put it in the script."
Many of their shows emerge out of "what if" explorations. "What if we don't do the balcony scene, for instance," Wilde explains. "What does that do to the feeling of the play? Why is it on a balcony in the first place? Or 'what if' they kissed earlier? What does that do to the meaning?"
Wilde adds that sometimes actors come very well-prepared with their great ideas and objectives, but sometimes someone will have suggestions that are incorporated. "You might have someone ask whether a particular scene could be more lighthearted or offer another idea. Often, we see that we breathe new life into a show. It's an interesting process."
While the company has auditions, they often use veterans in the roles, and the shows at SCERA will showcase seasoned Grassroots favorites. Often the leads continue in the same part from year to year. Wilde used to play Juliet, but when she got pregnant, she passed the role to Merry Magee, who now plays Juliet each year.
Also, true to original form, the actors bring their own costumes and props. In Shakespearean times, players would often perform in their own clothes rather than relying on a costume shop.
Among the key performers is Lucas Adrian Buchanan as Romeo. Other players include Chris Hults, Jessamyn Svensson, Steven Pong, Daniel Whiting, Jessica Jean Myer, Archelaus Crisanto, Brandon Bills, Nick Grossaint, Jarrith Parker McCoy, AJ Taysom, Robert Starks, and Addison Blakely Radle.
Grassroots Shakespeare began in Orem in 2009, when a group of Utah Valley University students and a few BYU students wanted to put on a show. They got ladders and curtains from their parents' garages and gathered money to put on the first production. Several UVU professors helped the students launch a tour throughout Utah. Through donations, grants, and committed professors, the players experienced a successful season. They particularly thank Christopher Clark, who helped share his passion for Shakespeare and taught them about original practices, and Kate McPherson, who helped immensely with getting grants so the group could build their first set.
The company has a staff that oversees the company, and in addition to Aubrey Wilde, includes Nick Grossaint as artistic director; Drew Wilde as marketing director; Brooke Bolick as director of development, and Daniel Anderson, costume supervisor. Their emphasis is on original interpretations with strict adherence to the original text while still making it enjoyable, understandable and accessible for children, adults and seniors.
"We did a production of 'Hamlet,' and a child close to the stage was enthralled the whole time as were her parents in the next row and her grandparents in the row after that," Wilde says. "That is typical of our shows."
Now poised to celebrate their 10th season this summer, Grassroots Shakespeare tours Utah throughout the summer, setting up their stage in parks, and find indoor venues in Utah and Salt Lake counties through the colder months.
"Originally, students made up the cast," Wilde says. "But as we have aged, new students have joined us. Some of the original students have moved and established their own grassroots Shakespeare experience in their new states. It is a benefit that we are in the heart of two college towns. We have professors audition, and we happily have a nice age diversity after a decade. We could mount 'King Lear' if we wanted, and the ages could be appropriate."
"We are pleased to offer a Shakespeare experience that will be educational and enjoyable, says Adam J. Robertson, SCERA's President and CEO. "They typically showcase 'Romeo and Juliet' close to Valentine's Day, so it was a perfect fit with our calendar."