Shell Lumber (That's Right, a Hardware Store) Presents Romeo and Juliet

Whenever you hear, "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?", it's rarely followed by "I'm in the lumberyard you crazy, Capulet." But we do things a little differently in Miami. So when Shakespeare in Miami's production of Romeo and Juliet was booted from Peacock Park in the Grove the company had to take a more drastic step to replicate the streets of Verona.

That's when Shell Lumber on 27th Avenue stepped up like the trusty

ladders they sell. The owner offered the space to Colleen Stovall,

producing Artistic Director of Shakespeare in Miami. Apparently: "Her

beauty makes this vault a feasting presence full of light." Or something

like that. Below is our Q & A with Stovall about this made in Miami

love story, between Shakespeare and Shell Lumber, we mean.

New Times: Why should people go to a lumber yard to watch Shakespeare?

Colleen Stovall: At first, I thought it was a terrible idea, because we usually fill

Peacock Park with up to a couple thousand people and Shell only holds

about 400-500 people. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it

made. First, the space is like a perfect old school Shakespearean

theatre: double balconies, an open air space and being in the space

allowed us to hang lights properly, (and) control the sound better. The

more I stood in the space with the lumber and workers streaming by and

the sound of the saws... it just felt right. I have been to concerts

there and have always had a blast, so after banishing the memories of

Peacock Park and looking forward, it has been kind of magical.

How has the idea been received?

The actors were confused and worried until they stood in the space.  Now

I hear them bragging about it.  My Juliet, Bree-Anna Obst, trained at

the Royal Shakespeare Company and when she stood in the space, said: "It

feels like the Globe Theatre."  The public's reaction has not been what

I expected. To a man, everyone has been enthusiastic.  I thought I'd

receive more audience "freak-outs" about the Lumber yard location, but

strangely enough, people think it's cool.

What are some unique aspects of this Shakespeare in Miami production, including but not limited to location?

In order to hold the performances at Shell you have to understand that

we have to build and strike the stage floor, set and all equipment after

each show.  With the help of the staff at the Florida Grand Opera, we

devised a set piece that is easily disassembled and stored so that Shell

Lumber can open for business each day. At 5:01 p.m., you will see our

crew spring into action to turn the busy lumberyard into a theatre

capable of holding a company of 24 actors battling to the death on old

Verona's streets.

[About the production] First, as a woman director, I was freaking sick

of two things: that Juliet has no spine and Romeo is a whiner. We do

classical Shakespeare and aren't about to change the words, but in a

closer study of the script, we found a way to allow Juliet to be a human

being, not some walking sonnet. I banished all moping and whining from

the acting and forced the actors to use the words as written.

Romeo is 15. Sure he complains, tries to get laid, goes from one girl to

another and makes stupid decisions. (But) didn't we all? Nick LaMedica

plays all of it like a 15 year old. It's really rare that a director can

find an actor both emotionally mature enough to be a "leading man" and

with talent enough to realistically portray the role of Romeo Montague.

I'm in director heaven.

Oh, and there's the sword fighting. Joey Costello is our fight

choreographer and he has created one of the most magnificent

rapier/dagger duels I have ever seen. Our company has 12 stage

combatants and our melees on Verona's streets feature all 12 on stage at

once. Joey has had them in training for a minimum of 8 hours of

training per week since November.

What should the audience expect?

Audience members can expect to see someone finally portray Romeo and

Juliet as real three dimensional human beings... real teenagers. They

can see Romeo grow from a teenager to a man before their eyes. They can

expect to see the hottest balcony scene ever staged. It involves swords

ala Catherine Zeta Jones and Antonio Bandares in the famous Zorro duel.

(And) the play is funny. People tend to forget that before people start

dying, the play is very, very funny.

Catch Romeo and Juliet at Shell Lumber (2733 SW 27th Ave., Miami) from January 21-23 and 28-30 at 8 p.m., with special matinees at 2 p.m. January 23 and 30. Visit

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Sebastian del Mármol