“Fuck Shakespeare Purists”

Rude Mechanical's star-crossed lovers are cooler than ever

Capital Campus | Shannon Keene | April 16, 2016

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How long have you been working on Romeo and Juliet?

I’ve personally been working on it since I was cast in March. We started rehearsals after Spring Break, and it’s been a relatively short process (most of the Rudes shows are about 6 week processes). However, the production team has been working on this for a long time. The concept and this specific cut of the original script have been in the works for almost a year (shoutout to our amazing director Callie Trawick).

What was the process like for making changes to the story/characters?

Most of that was done before us actors got there, when Callie was editing the script and shaping her version of the story. She focused on highlighting the experiences of women, which I think is wonderfully necessary and not something you often see in Shakespearean productions.

Mercutio is a troubled party girl, Romeo is a teen girl still figuring out sexuality and love, Balthasar is the younger Montague sister trying to find her place in this family and this feud, and Lady and Lord Montague are combined into one character, a single mom trying to keep her family together.  I love the way our story shows the depth of the experience of womanhood in a traditionally male-heavy play.

What choices did you personally make when turning Romeo into your own character? 

I used a lot of myself for this character. Like, a lot. We have a running joke in our cast that so many of our personalities match up with our characters, and that’s definitely true for me. Romeo and I both feel very deeply and allow those feelings to guide our actions, for better or for worse. Okay, definitely worse in Romeo’s case, but I’m hoping my life turns out okay, and I don’t end up committing suicide over my wife’s *supposedly* lifeless body (sorry for the 400 year old spoiler).

If you were casting celebrities as Romeo & Juliet, who would you choose and why?

Well, considering Leo DiCaprio is my Literal Inspiration, would I even want to choose anyone else for Romeo?? But keeping with the theme of this show, I’ll pick a female Romeo and a Juliet. Sophie Turner as Romeo and Lupita N’yongo as Juliet.

What’s the worst part about the rehearsal process?

Memorization. It’s not as hard as many people think, but it’s still a bitch to perfectly internalize however many monologues and dialogues. Especially with Shakespeare, you can’t ad-lib anything because it will mess up the pentameter and syllable count. But other than that, this entire process has been an absolute joy, to which I have our wonderful cast and crew to thank. Eternal heart emojis for all of you.

Tell us about student theatre at AU. Funding, staffing, acting, the whole shebang. 

Everything is entirely student-driven.

It’s great because there are so many opportunities to direct, design, or act. The Rudes and other groups don’t get a whole lot of funding from the administration, so we rely on ticket sales to make our shows happen. It’s kind of cool because we get to be independent in the shows we put on (see: R&J and other ~edgy~ queer shows we’ve done this year), but our lack of institutional support can definitely hurt us.

We have consistent trouble booking spaces for rehearsal and performances. We actually lost our reservation for the auditorium on opening night, and we had to basically beg the group who was booked over us to let us use the space so we could perform. Despite everything, I love this troupe, and I love the things student theatre can do. I hope we continue to prove ourselves and our talents in the years to come.

Give us the Rude Mechanical gossip. 

We have secret rituals where we sacrifice goats to the gods of Shakespeare and all drink the blood from Yorrick’s skull.

Ok but really, who the fuck does he even think he is?

(are you talking about Shakespeare?)

He’s simultaneously our hallowed deity, and the guy we shit on all the time. He (or whoever actually wrote his plays, the conspiracies abound) is timeless not only because of the beautiful language and stories he created, but also for the depth and variety of his work. Because he was so prolific, there’s a lot we can mock him for, but also so much to cherish.

(or Romeo?)

Romeo is the original softboy™ , what with his angsty poetry and dramatic yelling at the stars. I like to think I’ve successfully turned Romeo into a sadgrl™, with the purple hair and alternative music choices and this “not just a phase” phase. But actually, Romeo in any form is just a lost puppy just trying to find affection and validation. It’s cute but also a little sad.


Speaking of, what was your favorite part about being Romeo?

All of it. Honestly. This is the strongest I’ve ever connected with a character and a show. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d get to play Romeo, and I’m eternally grateful for that. The Romeo/Juliet scenes are purely poetic, and acting that language has been a privilege. I simply love the dynamics Romeo has with all the people around her.

The scenes with Mercutio/Benvolio and the Friar have been some of my favorites to play because I’m close with those actors in real life, and it’s fun to bring those friendships on stage (holla @ my big Erica Pierce as Mercutio and my Mr. big Julio Meyer as Friar Laurence).

If you could leave every audience member with one thought in 10 words or less, what would it be?

Fuck Shakespeare purists. R&J can still resonate regardless of gender.


The last Romeo & Juliet show is TONIGHT @ 8 in Kreeger Auditorium! Good luck figuring out where tf that is.