On Friday, July 11th, The City Shakespeare Company opens a gritty production of Romeo & Juliet that asks a question: What would you die for?
I asked some of the major players in this production that same question. Not what would their characters die for, but what would THEY, the actor, die for? Initially I assumed that everyone would have the same obvious answer, but when I pulled people aside with a recording device to get their answers, I suddenly became present to how intimately personal the question actually is.
“I would die for a chance to truly live,” said David Hartstone, the actor playing Romeo and also City Shakes’ fight choreographer. “I was always into parkour, gymnastics, skydiving. I want to experience things that are larger than life. I would give anything to feel that higher power of real living.”
Megan Ruble, the actress playing Juliet, had a much different answer.
“My instant response was my family and my faith. But as I thought about it, I realized that I would die for anything you could convince me that my death had a purpose. If you could convince me somehow that my death would end world poverty, I would do it,” she stated.
As I listened to these responses, I began thinking about Romeo and Juliet themselves. Are they actually dying for each other? Not really. They’re not sacrificing themselves for the sake of the other. On the contrary, they’re releasing themselves from their anguish.
“I can imagine a scenario where I thought that death would be freedom,” said Brooke Bishop, City Shakes co-founder and director of Romeo & Juliet. “In my life, I’ve definitely felt like it was hard to keep going because I could imagine how easy it would be to not have to.”
With answers like these coming from the director and cast members, I’m excited to put up this visceral production of the play. Everyone has a unique perspective on what it means to live, and what it means to die for something.
If you go: Romeo & Juliet plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 pm July 11 through July 26. Location is 1454 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Plenty of free street parking after 6pm. Doors open at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $20 at http://cityshakesrj.brownpapertickets.com/
Allison Volk is the co-founder of The City Shakespeare Company. In this production of Romeo & Juliet she plays Lady Capulet and Benvolio.
For more information, please visit www.CityShakes.org.