Modern take on ‘Romeo and Juliet’ examines politics, race and gender

The Theatre School at DePaul University presents Shakespeare’s classic

Romeo
The Theatre School at DePaul University will set William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in the modern sociopolitical landscape. (Image by Grip Design)
CHICAGO — Four hundred years ago, William Shakespeare wrote plays that explored sexual identity, familial obligation and public unrest. As a contentious election cycle comes to a close this fall in the U.S., The Theatre School at DePaul University will set Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in the modern sociopolitical landscape of Black Lives Matter and the struggle for gender equality.

Directed by Cameron Knight, an assistant professor teaching acting and Shakespeare at DePaul, the production will run Nov. 4-13 on the Fullerton Stage at The Theatre School. Verona will take on the look and feel of modern-day Chicago, explained Knight. The infamous feud between the Montagues and the Capulets ends when Romeo and Juliet, a pair of star-crossed female lovers in this presentation, take their own lives.

“Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for teenagers and young people,” said Knight. “This play traffics heavily in that theme, which led me to question where the adults in the play are focused when their kids need them most.”

Knight also sees many parallels in today’s political discourse. “While we’re busy fighting over ideologies and politics, we’re ignoring the actual currency of our future, which is our children,” he said.   

Knight reshaped several of the roles in the play to create more space for women on stage. “Shakespeare’s plays don’t have large ensembles of women, so I’ve reworked the cast so that many of the leading roles — Romeo, Mercutio and Abraham — will be played by women,” he said.

Knight’s directing credits include “Pericles” at Notre Dame Shakespeare; “Seven Guitars” and “Once on this Island” at Carnegie Mellon University; “Underneath the Lintel” at 12 Peers Theater; and Bricolage Theatre’s annual fundraiser (B.U.S.). His regional theatre credits include Teatro Vista, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Texas Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, Richmond Shakespeare Festival, Michigan Shakespeare Festival, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and The Kennedy Center. Knight’s acting credits include Othello in “Othello,” Dogberry in “Much Ado About Nothing,” Booth in “Topdog/Underdog,” Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet,” John Worthing in “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Oberon in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Hud in “Hair,” Cleante in “The Imaginary Invalid,” Bill Walker in “Major Barbara,” and Cory in “Fences.”

The cast features Emily Anderson as Gregory and Apothecary; Hunter Bryant as Montague, Friar and John; Matthew Elam as Benvolio; Kayla Forde as Juliet; Danny Gadaj as Capulet; Elsa Guenther as Mercutio; Caroline Hendricks as Peter; JJ McGlone as Friar Lawrence; Samantha Newcomb as Lady Capulet; Emma Page as Romeo; Courtney Peck as Abraham; Elise Randall as Nurse; Dekyi Ronge as Prince; Isaiah Rusk as Sampson and Watchman; Nick Trengove as Paris; and Andrew Yeni as Tybalt.

The production team includes Phil Timberlake, vocal coach; Claire DiVito, scenic designer; Olivia Engobor, costume designer; James Mitchell, lighting designer; Connor Wang, sound designer; Hannah Greenspan, dramaturg; and Ben Gates-Utter, stage manager.

Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Previews are Nov. 2-3 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15, preview tickets are $10 and student tickets are $5. Subscriptions and group rates (six or more people) are available. All tickets are reserved seating. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 773-325-7900 or visiting http://theatre.depaul.edu.

Cameron Knight
Cameron Knight, an assistant professor teaching acting and Shakespeare at DePaul, will direct the production of "Romeo and Juliet." (Image courtesy of Cameron Knight)
The Theatre School at DePaul University is located at 2350 N. Racine Ave. (at Fullerton Avenue). The school is accessible via the Fullerton CTA Station and the Fullerton (74) bus. Visitors and audience members may park in DePaul University’s Clifton Parking Deck, located at 2330 N. Clifton Ave. Please call the box office for more information.

For patrons who are blind or have low vision, the 2 p.m. performance Nov. 13 will include audio description services, as well as a pre-performance touch tour. For more information call 773-325-7900. The performance Nov. 13 will also be interpreted in American Sign Language. TTY: 773-325-7975.

Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. is USO of IL Night, when U.S. Armed Forces personnel and their families can attend the performance for free. Visit http://www.tixfortroops.org to reserve tickets, or call 773-325-7900 for more information.

Additional special events include an opening night reception following the performance on Nov. 4 and post-show discussions Nov. 6 and 10. 

The Theatre School at DePaul University educates, trains and inspires students of theatre in a conservatory setting that is rigorous, disciplined and culturally diverse. As an integral part of the training, The Theatre School produces public programs and performances from a wide repertoire of classic, contemporary and original plays that challenge, entertain and stimulate the imagination. Additional information is at http://theatre.depaul.edu.

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Source:
Cameron Knight
cknigh11@depaul.edu
773-325-7563

Media Contacts:
Kristin Claes Mathews
kristin.mathews@depaul.edu
312-362-7735

Anna Ables
abbles@depaul.edu
773-325-7938