Romeo & Juliet first show performed at Missouri Theatre, showcasing diverse cast and unique interpretation

MU Theatre’s next production is the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Itch.

The MU Theatre Department put a new spin on gender roles in its performances of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2 and Oct. 3 and at 2 p.m. Oct. 4 in the Missouri Theatre.

Director Kevin Brown, who is an assistant professor of theatre, strived to interpret the play in a new light by casting female actors into some of the roles traditionally portrayed by male actors.

One of these women was senior Alison Kertz, who played Mercutio in the production. Several other minor male roles were played by women as well. The roles of Romeo and Juliet were portrayed by senior Alex Givens and freshman Leah Huskey, respectively.

In addition to featuring a non-traditional cast, the show also showcased detailed period costumes and a looming set made to look like Italy during the Renaissance period.

Freshman Christian Graham said that the casting along with the other elements made the performance unique.

“The cast was not all as I expected,” Graham said. “Mercutio was played as a girl, and then you had all the characters interact with the audience, like when Romeo ran out into the audience and stuff like that. I thought that it made it really different from other performances of it.”

Friday marked the cast’s first performance in front of an audience. For some in the crowd, “Romeo and Juliet” was a story they were quite familiar with. For others, it was their first time experiencing the original Shakespearean text.

Audience member junior Katie Harbinson had seen other adaptations before coming to the show. She said she still enjoyed the play immensely, especially seeing people she knew on stage.

“I loved it,” Harbinson said. “I came here to support good friends in the show and I thought they all did a phenomenal job.”

Harbinson said her favorite part was witnessing her friends’ interpretations of the characters.

“For me, (the best part) was seeing Dylan Bainter, who was the friar and a friend of mine,” Harbinson said. “Just seeing his personal adaptation of the character, it was very much a mix of him plus how the character was scripted and written, and I thought it was really well-done.”

Another audience member Katie Farraro read the play in high school, but this was her first time seeing the show performed on stage as intended.

“I liked the tomb scene,” Farraro said. “It was cool with all the steam. It was really theatrical.”

MU Theatre’s next production is the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Itch, which opens at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22.

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