Shakepeare’s R & J Presented by Curtain 5

Aug 8, 2017 | 2017 Articles, Lorie Lewis Ham, Theatre

by Lorie Lewis Ham

This weekend Shakespeare’s R & J will be on stage at Fresno Soap, presented by Curtain 5. Shakespeare’s R & J, is an adaptation by Joe Calarco, directed by J. Daniel Herring, Professor of Theatre Arts and Director of the Theatre Department at Fresno State University. We interviewed J. Daniel and the cast about the show.

KRL: Please tell us a little about the plot of the play?

J. Daniel: Plot of R&J: Four young male prep school students, tired of going through the usual drill of conjugating Latin and other tedious school routines, decide to vary their very governed lives. After school, one breaks out a copy of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and they all take turns reading the play aloud. The Bard’s words and the story itself are thrilling to the boys, and they become swept away, enmeshed in the emotion so much so that they break school rules in order to continue their readings. The rigidity of their lives begins to parallel the lives of the characters in the play: roles in the family, roles in society, and the roles played by men and women soon seem to make all the sense in the world, and then, suddenly, they seem to make no sense at all. Although they had been taking turns playing all the parts, two eventually emerge playing Romeo and Juliet exclusively, bringing a whole new dimension to the proceedings. Perceptions and understanding are turned upside-down as the fun of play-acting turns serious, and the words and meanings begin to hit home and universal truths emerge.rj

KRL: How did it come about that Curtain 5 decided to produce this particular play?

J. Daniel: Curtain 5 likes to produce new work or rarely produced works as well as shows that are served well by the intimate space of the Fresno Soap Co., and so R&J fit the bill on all these levels.

KRL: Why did you want to direct it?

J. Daniel: I like plays that examine a well-known classic in new and innovative ways to challenge directors, actors, and audiences to think about how a story can be seen through multiple perspectives.

KRL: What do you like best about this show?

J. Daniel: What I like best about this show is the improvisational nature of the script. The text of Shakespeare is there, but I, along with the actors, have to create a world in which the characters discover the text and how to stage it for the first time in front of a live audience.

KRL: What has been the biggest challenge about directing it?

J. Daniel: One of the challenges of directing R&J is maneuvering between the contemporary world and the Shakespearean world in which the play is constructed.

KRL: Anything else you would like to share?

J. Daniel: Anyone who knows Romeo and Juliet, I think will particularly enjoy this production because it provides a new insight into the timeless and relevant work of William Shakespeare.

Cast of R & J:

Anthony Tenyenhuis-

KRL: Why did you want to be in this particular show?

Anthony: I had previously worked with J. Daniel in Good Company Player’s production of H.M.S. Pinafore and had an incredible time working under him. So when he asked me if I wanted to be apart of this production, I immediately jumped at the opportunity, and after reading through the script, my excitement doubled. Additionally, the other three gentleman I get to perform with are all such talented performers.


Cast of R&J

KRL: What is your role, and what do you like best about your role?

Anthony: I perform as Student 4 who portrays the Nurse and Tybalt. I really enjoy playing such contrasting characters. The Nurse is on the side of Romeo and Juliet while Tybalt is an opposing force to their love. They are different genders and very different in age. A lot of “Student 4’s” views and opinions are opposite of the nurses and align with Tybalt. Also, the Nurse is just a hilarious role that I am having loads of fun with.

KRL: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Anthony: The biggest challenge for me has been with the language. This is my first time performing a Shakespeare piece and it is definitely difficult. Not only with memorization, but finding the right rhythm for each scene has proven to be quite a challenge. Initially I thought I would have trouble jumping from character to character, but surprisingly it has come naturally to me.

KRL: Are you doing anything special to prepare for the role?

Anthony: I really want to make sure that when I’m performing as the Nurse, it is a distinct change from every other character. I don’t want people to see me as a nineteen year old playing this character, but to look past my age and gender, and just see the character of the Nurse. I have been watching other performances of the Nurse, developing my body language, and voice register to reflect that of the character.

Steven Weatherbee-

KRL: Why did you want to be in this particular show?

Steven: I’ve always enjoyed working with J Daniel, and hearing him speak in person about his passion for this play inspired me to jump at the chance at offering my performance in it. The play touches on a few themes — camaraderie, religion, sexual exploration — all wrapped up in a sort of coming-of-age tale.


Cast of R&J

KRL: What is your role, and what do you like best about your role?

Steven: I play the role of the student who primarily plays Romeo. This particular student is enjoyable to play because he likes to take his art seriously, and is a bit of a hopeless romantic — both aspects of this character that I can relate to!

KRL: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Steven: My biggest challenge in approaching this story has been threefold: Shakespeare’s language (this is my first role in a Shakespeare production), tying the duality of the student’s real life struggles to that of the struggles Romeo faces, and juxtaposing the balance of portrayed devised improvisation on stage.

Sam Linkowski-

KRL: Why did you want to be in this particular show?

Sam: I feel it is a great combination of modern and archaic. It’s a strong adaptation because the playwright puts us in a completely new environment but the language transfers so beautifully. Also, I love to do plays that challenge an audience. This is a very difficult piece for both performers and observers.

KRL: What is your role, and what do you like best about your role?

Sam: I play Student 3 who portrays Mercutio and Lady Capulet amongst others. I appreciate the duality of his character and his conflict between the boys and their portrayal of Romeo and Juliet. He has a major conflict between the love of his friends and his own upbringing. Along with changing different characters on a dime. It’s very interesting to play.


Death scene in R&J

KRL: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Sam: The biggest challenge has been playing the duality of opinion from Student to Character. We jump from Catholic school pupils to very specific characters, and sometimes they do overlap and that gives a whole new layer that has been fascinating to explore.

KRL: Are you doing anything special to prepare for the role?

Sam: Every role has its own special process. I meditate on the words, usually. Truly put myself within the shoes of the character, each individual. My dad is a Catholic school graduate (k-12). Hearing his experiences with the nuns and talking to him in detail about the pressures of that environment has definitely helped me. Also, calling on my own interest in Shakespeare, I have been watching countless documentaries including different adaptations of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare in Love is a great movie that I felt has helped me with preparing for the role.

KRL: Anything else you would like to add?

Sam: I think this is a very important piece for the traditional Shakespeare audience to see. It’s exposing them to an unconventional adaptation that’s condensed and modified rather than an interpretation that includes the full script.

Aaron Lowe-

KRL: What is your role is and what do you like best about it?

Aaron: I feel that portraying the role of Juliet offers an extraordinarily unique opportunity, for me as an actor. Not often are male performers asked to portray such an iconic feminine role. Additionally, this process has presented the challenges of working with a Shakespearean piece, while maintaining the scripts duplicity. The societal pressures that the students are subject to can also be seen in their Shakespearian counterparts. For example, my character as the student relates strongly with Juliet as they both constantly reject social normalities. I really appreciate how accepting the local theatre community is of small projects like this. I’m very excited for the Fresno audience to have a chance to experience the author, Joe Calarco’s, take on Romeo and Juliet.

There are only four performances of Shakespeare’s R & J at Fresno Soap Co., 1470 North Van Ness Avenue: Friday-Saturday, August 11-12 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday, August 12-13, at 2 .pm. Advance tickets are available online from General $15 and Students $10, or $20 and $15 at the door. Major credit cards are accepted.

You can find more theatre articles, and other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and an enthusiastic contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.


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