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
[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 shakespearemiami.com.