By Liz Ellis, Reporter
“When you think Shakespeare, you think tights and someone holding a skull,” director Rachel Hibler said. “But I think you will be surprised… at how quickly you get swept away in the show.”
The Stage Company’s first ever Shakespeare production, ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ will open Friday and Saturday at the Historic Rodgers Theatre. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and will last about two and a half hours—about half the length of what the actual script would be.
“It was really hard to cut,” Hibler said. “I love every word of this play, and I had to be careful that it still told a story and had a purpose. And you have to keep your audience in mind.”
While everyone is familiar with the story of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers from Verona, audiences may be surprised by this rendition of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ The play is set in the 1980s with the trademark big hair, the bright colors, hair music and costumes that the audience will hopefully relate with.
“I was really glad to hear it was going to be in the ‘80s instead of the old times,” said Jordan Czerwonka, who portrays Lady Capulet. “I think it makes it a lot more fun to do and a lot more fun to watch because people will be able to relate to it better.”
However, despite the modern theme, the play itself is still going to be done in the original language. Audiences, the cast warns, will have to pay a little bit of attention because of the language. But, that does not mean that it will be incomprehensible.
“I think everyone will be able to understand [the play] because we have such good actors who know what they’re saying, so their bodies tell the story,” Hibler said. So even if the language is unfamiliar and the words do not make sense on the page, seeing it on stage makes all the difference, she continued.
“It is a play, and I think you must hear these words for it to make sense. You can’t just read it,” Hibler said. “Any teacher who tells you to just read it off the page or say it in your head wasn’t teaching you Shakespeare.”
Many people seem to have this misconception that Shakespeare is difficult and is not something entertaining—after all, it was written 400 years ago by a dead guy. Surely there cannot be anything that interesting shoved between the “wouldst” and “couldst,” the “thee” and “thou” and “thy” that makes it so intimidating, right? Not so, says Hibler.
“Shakespeare has everything. It has everything that humans care about—it has family, love, hate, revenge—really anything we experience Shakespeare wrote about,” Hibler said. “When we think Shakespeare, we think it’s untouchable—it’s like the Bible. You don’t mess with it or expect to understand it easily. But Shakespeare wrote for the masses. He wrote the fart jokes, he wrote the drug jokes, he wrote the sex jokes and he wanted people to have access to his work.”
The play itself will have minimal props, sound and light cues and very minimal set—just the way Shakespeare did it. The language is the star.
“I think it will be a great show and will get the audience to open their minds and just try something new,” said Vanessa Todd, who portrays Juliet in the show.
“You don’t see a lot of Shakespeare in Poplar Bluff, and it’s a fun show,” said Cory Jenson, who plays Lord Capulet. “Everyone hears about ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ but how many of us have actually seen it? This is an opportunity to come out for just a few bucks and see a really fun, good, Shakespearean production, so come on out.”
An addition to this weekend, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ will be performed at 7:30 p.m. March 16 and 17, and at 2:30 p.m. March 18. Tickets may be purchased at the door and are $8 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Advance tickets are available at Southern Bank, The Book Shop, the Greater Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce and The Bread Co. There will be carnations for sale at every show for audience members to give to the cast or each other. Carnations will cost $1 and all proceeds go to The Stage Company.
“Come see the show, because you’re going to love it,” Hibler concluded. “It’s everything I hoped it would be, and I know if you give it a chance and get past the Shakespeare, you’ll see an entertaining show with some wonderful actors.”
Liz Ellis can be reached by emailing email@example.com or by calling 573-785-2200.