Blackfriars Playhouse will host a performance of William Shakespeare’s classic play, Romeo and Juliet, capturing the love, drama, and violence that surrounded the Bard’s work, with an added twist in the modern era. An all-male cast.
To complete her Master of Fine Arts requirements, Shannon Schultz, a student in the Shakespeare and Performance graduate program at Mary Baldwin University, directs the Renaissance-era play.
“I was inspired to direct an all-male production of Romeo and Juliet because of the work I did on my thesis [at Mary Baldwin],” Schultz said. “I started to wonder what Romeo and Juliet would look like with casting conditions similar to what was available to Shakespeare and his company. I knew that getting a modern audience to buy into this concept would be difficult, but I also knew that this community — with the Blackfriars Playhouse in its midst — would be more ready than most for an all-male production.”
Schultz’s objective is to emulate the original conditions of Shakespeare’s work from the mid 1590s as closely as possible. A cast comprised solely of men is representative of how the performance would have been presented during that time. Schultz uses contemporary music, just as Shakespeare would have used in his day. She also employs a technique known as Early Modern Costuming, in which the production crew and cast pull clothes from their own closets instead of spending money to buy new costumes.
Other elements that are similar to Shakespeare’s original work are the use of a well-lit stage and audience contact. Blackfriars — the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s original indoor theater — provides a venue in which the audience views the play on three sides, similar to the space conditions for which Romeo and Juliet was written.
The actors involved in this project are either students or graduates of the Shakespeare and Performance program.
“Everyone in Staunton will benefit from seeing this show because it is such a beautiful story with love, laughs, and great stage combats,” said MLitt student Amanda Allen, student publicity intern.
The play — which is free and open to the public — is scheduled to run at 8 p.m. on February 7 and 8. The Playhouse is located on Market Street in downtown Staunton.