Shakespeare 2014: Romeo and Juliet

Sunday, 30. March 2014

by Daniel Davis Wood

Last night the Grossen Saal erupted with cheers and applause from more than one hundred and fifty audience members, as the first of two performances of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet reached its catastrophic conclusion. Combining the talents of more than two dozen students and a dozen staff members, the annual staging of a Shakespeare play is one of the biggest and most anticipated events on the Ecole calendar. This year saw Ecolianers bring to life Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy for the first time in more than a decade, mesmerizing the audience with spectacular fight scenes, haunting live music, and a heartrending story of true love thwarted by vanity and vengeance.

    Two households, both alike in dignity…
    …where the infectious pestilence did reign.

Although Shakespeare's text chronicles a bitter conflict between two households “both alike in dignity,” our production of Romeo and Juliet brought a touch of irony to that phrase by exaggerating the differences between the Capulets and the Montagues. “Fair Verona, where we lay our scene,” was in fact a society on the brink of collapse – a society whose lowest members, including the Montagues, left the streets overrun with poverty and pestilence while the gauche and exorbitantly wealthy Capulets preyed on the underclasses with the blessings of the dictatorial President Escalus. And as Shakespeare's “star-cross’d lovers” came together in secret, bridging the divide between their two warring families, the tale of their ill-fated romance was told by a chorus of vagrants and drug dealers whose dialogue was drawn from some of Shakespeare's other works in a way that reflected the fragmentation of the world they were living in.

“Romeo’s encounter with the drug-dealing Apothecary pinpoints the poverty of this society,” says the production’s director, Melissa Bagg, “where those who are ‘bare and full of wretchedness’ are left to ‘hang, beg, starve, die in the streets.’ This is a world where rich men turn human beings into ‘baggage’ and only those of ‘noble parentage’ are ‘acknowledged.’” To emphasize the socio-economic divisions between the Montagues and the Capulets, the Grossen Saal was split in half. While the Montagues were cramped together on a small stage cluttered with garbage, the Capulets enjoyed spaciousness and luxury in a palatial villa complete with a chandelier made of bones.

Taking the lead roles were Michael Stampfli as Romeo and Kylie Zimmer as Juliet, both of them returning to the Shakespeare stage after having performed in the productions of previous years. On the Montague side of the familial dispute were Eddie Diller as Romeo’s cousin, Benvolio; Will Belhumeur as the lascivious Mercutio; Royina Banerjee as Romeo’s friend, Balthasar; Kebir Gadio and Nina Saghi as Romeo’s parents; and Cassia Frazier, Nico Jacobs, Meret Kernen, and Anika Nykanen as the members of the chorus. Loyal to the Capulet household were Julius Lutz and Annabelle Schapals as Juliet’s parents; Mario Diller as Juliet’s suitor, Paris; Hassib Zahine as Juliet’s cousin, “the furious Tybalt”; Harry Wu and Jody Lam as the put-upon servants; and Luca Schumacher and Sam Cowan as Sampson and Gregory. Lording over the chaos was Jesse Clements as President Escalus, while Ami MacKenzie as Juliet’s Nurse, Yannick Graf as Friar Laurence, and Sam Cowan in a second role as Friar John all worked together to bridge the divide between the Montagues and the Capulets. Click here to download a program with a complete list of cast and crew (PDF) or click here to view photographs of the performance.

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Shakespeare Program.pdf

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