Finding common ground

 

R&J
The Harvard-Radcliffe Summer Theatre production of Romeo and Juliet looks to its two lovers to teach about ideological divides.

By Truelian Lee ’21

 

Could Shakespeare's feuding Montagues and Capulets work as a metaphor for Democrats and Republicans in our times?

That’s a question at the heart of the Harvard-Radcliffe Summer Theatre adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet running July 25-28 at the Loeb Experimental Theater.

Director Julia Belanova ’18 was inspired by the “contemporary relevance” of Romeo and Juliet. She saw parallels in the divisions between the Montagues and Capulets and the divisions between Democrats and Republicans.

“I picked 2017 as the year in which the show is set because I wanted to make it as relevant and as recent as possible,”

R&J
Simon Rogers '17 (Boston College) and Molly Peterson '21 as the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet.
Belanova said. “We’re living in a tumultuous time, and I thought of how prejudice exists across all boundaries and really, the only way we can make progress or find common ground with other people is to look beyond just affiliations and really evaluate people based on the content of their character.”

Belanova also shortened the script of the play to focus more on the relationship between Romeo and Juliet.

“For me, that love across huge ideological divides was really compelling,” she said. Her vision of the play won her the slot for HRST this year.

The process began in January when the
Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club opened applications for producers. Co-producer Devonne Pitts ’21 said the producers functioned as de facto leaders of the program, soliciting and reviewing pitches for potential plays during the summer.

Anisa Ahmed ’20, who is also a co-producer, said the team chose Romeo and Juliet because Belanova had a strong application.

“She knew what she wanted to do. She already had a lot of the uses for the space planned out,” Ahmed said. For instance, Belanova uses the two-story structure of the stage in Loeb to take full advantage of the play’s balcony scene.

Romeo and Juliet also includes actors who are not affiliated with Harvard — a recent Boston College graduate and a recent Lesley University graduate are also in the cast.

“It was really cool to integrate local Cambridge actors into the Harvard community, and I think that it’s in some ways stepped up the level of professionalism for student actors to see and work with people who are pursuing acting pretty seriously,” Belanova said.

Belanova said one of her favorite moments this summer was the callback for Simon Rogers '17 (Boston College) and Molly Peterson '21. Belanova described the two actors reading Romeo and Juliet's balcony scene as an “electric” experience.

Both got cast.

“As soon as Molly and Simon left their callback, we all felt so excited about the show and we could really see it come together because we could really see them play the parts,” she said. “I’m really excited to see them perform after seeing their whole journey — from their first meeting with that audition to actually getting to develop their characters.”

 

See also: Theater