Hungry Hearts Tour | April 13 – June 10, 2017

With its ravishing language and uproarious comedy, Romeo and Juliet celebrates love’s triumph and its trivialities. Verona’s walls embrace the volatility of youth as well as the wisdom and restraint that often escapes young and old alike. Thumb-biting, dance, and swordplay share the stage with sonnets, bawdy wit, and soul-searching speeches in this profoundly human and always surprising treasure.

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Stuff that Happens
Stuff that happens during the plaY
  • Members of two feuding families (the Capulets and the Montagues) brawl in the city streets of Verona.
  • The Prince promises death to those who “disturb our streets again.”
  • Romeo, the only son of Montague, shows up after the brawl professing, to his cousin Benvolio, unrequited love for Rosaline.
  • Paris, kinsman to the Prince, wants to marry Juliet, the only child of Capulet; Juliet’s father tells Paris that Juliet is too young to marry but invites Paris to a Capulet party and encourages him to woo his daughter and win her love.
  • Benvolio persuades Romeo to crash the Capulet party so that Romeo will see women other than Rosaline.
  • Mercutio, another kinsman to the Prince and Romeo’s good friend, leads Romeo and Benvolio in masks to the party.
  • Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, recognizes Romeo at the party and wants to throw him out; Capulet orders Tybalt to leave Romeo alone; Tybalt vows revenge.
  • Romeo meets Juliet at the party; they share a sonnet and a kiss, and quickly fall in love.
  • After the party, Romeo escapes from Mercutio and Benvolio; he overhears Juliet at her balcony declaring her passion for him.
  • From the balcony, Juliet tells Romeo, “If thy love be honorable, thy purpose marriage…”
  • Romeo tells Friar Lawrence of his new love and asks the Friar to marry them today.
  • Secret nuptials, fatal swordplay, banishment, potions, poisons, and tragedy ensue.
Notes from the Director
“Here’s much to do with hate but more with love.”

The first Shakespeare play in which I ever acted was Romeo and Juliet. As a college freshman knowing next to nothing about the play or really anything about Shakespeare at all, I strolled into the audition where I read for both Friar Lawrence and Romeo, and wound up getting cast in the role of the County Paris. I was frankly very pleased to be playing anyone who had a name, but this particular casting would prove important for a number of reasons. First of all, the production’s passionate (read: tyrannical and somewhat insane) director decided he would play the role of Lord Capulet himself, thus putting my turn as Paris under an extremely critical microscope, as I shared nearly all my scenes with “Doc.” Secondly, and more importantly, it meant that I had to await my first entrance in the wings and watch the play’s incredibly exciting opening scene every night. This experience was to have a lasting effect on me.

It was really my first experience watching Shakespeare played live and right in front of me. The costumes were gorgeous, the fencing was exciting, but the language…the language was…easy. I very clearly remember our Tybalt’s first entrance: “What, art thou drawn among these heartless hinds? Turn thee, Benvolio, look upon thy death.”

I thought that was about the most badass thing I had ever heard, and I didn’t need a dictionary or lexicon to understand it in the least. Shakespeare might be the height of western literature, but as far as I was concerned, that line could just as easily come from Cobra Commander as Tybalt.

That was exactly twenty years ago, and since then I have appeared in Romeo and Juliet four more times, three of which were here at the American Shakespeare Center. Because of my frequent involvement with this particular play, I wondered, feared even, if I actually had anything new to say with it. I even went so far as to ponder, “Does the world really need another production of Romeo and Juliet?” Sadly, it does. In fact, it is the Shakespeare play that America needs the most.

Shakespeare’s Verona, like our own country, is rife with division – division between families, genders, classes, etc. – and also like our own country, it is brimming with violence. All three families suffer the loss of loved ones throughout the course of the play, but unlike our country, the city of Verona learns something from it. The loss of our titular heroes, who would rather take their own lives together in love than live in a world full of hate, changes the way their families think and act. Their shared loss creates a new community.

As I write this in the days following the worst mass shooting in American history, my greatest hope for this production is that our audiences will see that while violence has dire consequences for those who perpetrate such acts, and harrowing effects on those who survive them, we can, and indeed must, as Romeo does, defy the stars. We are not doomed or fated to this violence and division. We can, as Montague and Capulet do, bury our strife, and I hope we do. I am particularly happy that this production will be seen in many different parts of the country, and I hope it can do even a little bit to show that, “here’s much to do with hate but more with love.”

Benjamin Curns

Guest Director