COD students tackle story of doomed lovers in ‘Romeo and Juliet'
Actors memorize lines. They learn sword fights. But replicating the naiveté of youth, that's a challenge.
There's a purity — an unlearned love — that takes the stage with the ill-fated young lovers "Romeo and Juliet" in College of DuPage's latest production.
If you go
What: "Romeo and Juliet"
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through April 1
Where: McAninch Arts Center Theater 2 at College of DuPage, Fawell and Park boulevards, Glen Ellyn
Cost: $12 for adults, $11 for students and seniors
Info:(630) 942-4000 or atthemac.org
The quintessential love story opened Thursday at the McAninch Arts Center Theatre 2 in Glen Ellyn.
"Everybody has been like Romeo at one point in their life," said student Dan Stromquist, 21, of Brookfield, who plays the title character.
"What Romeo wants is really what everybody wants. He wants to find true love and, when he does find it, he wants to fight for it with everything he has. They have a chance at true happiness — and, unfortunately, it doesn't work out for them, and that's why everybody loves this show so much."
Set in the late 1400s or early 1500s, this classic Shakespeare work focuses on the blood feud between two families and the forbidden love of Romeo and Juliet.
Director Connie Canaday Howard, the college's director of theater, said the tragedy is heightened by a unique characteristic — unlike many of Shakespeare's other works, the protagonists don't have much responsibility for their own downfall.
"The conflict is really the familial pressure. It's not through any action that they make. It makes it more tragic," she said.
Transitions throughout this production are almost seamless, Canaday Howard said.
"It's happening quickly so the spiral of conflicts and emotions are accelerating throughout the piece. They're entranced by the costumes and the swordplay in the script."
Several members of the cast took a rapier and dagger class last fall, and the experience enhances the fight scenes, she said.
But once you're older and wiser, it's hard to go back to young and dumb, say actors. Or, when it comes to love, young and naive.
Stromquist plays Romeo between 16 and 18 years old, but said the character acts more like a modern-day 14-year-old.
"It's not that he's immature, it's that he hasn't lived yet," Stromquist said. "He's unlearned about things like love, but he wants to learn. It's not a negative quality of him."
That quality is endearing to Juliet and to audiences.
There's been a learning curve for all the actors, including Juliet, who had to train herself to walk differently.
"I have to make sure that I'm walking more on the balls of my feet," said Meghan Hays, 22, of Westmont. "It takes place in the Renaissance period. Women were dainty, and they just wouldn't have walked on their heels the way we do today. They weren't expected to make big strides. They took little steps."
In all, though, actors let Shakespeare's words work their own magic.
"We incorporated the lightheartedness and we're working on trying not to make it melodramatic," Hays said. "The words and plot do that for you. You don't need to elevate it further, otherwise it kind of becomes like a soap opera."
People sometimes shy away from Shakespeare because of the complicated language, but they won't get bogged down in "Romeo and Juliet," Hays said.
"This is a show that a lot of people would really enjoy and they'd be surprised by how much they'd enjoy it," she said. "People would surprise themselves by how much they would really grasp about it. It really has all the elements that people would want if they go to the theater."
The show continues at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through April 1 at the McAninch Arts Center Theater 2 at College of DuPage, Fawell and Park boulevards in Glen Ellyn.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $11 for seniors and students.
A post-show discussion with actors follows the performance Friday, March 30.
For details, call (630) 942-4000 or visit atthemac.org.
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