A Romeo and Juliet by another interpretation is still as sweet

Motyer-Fancy Theatre’s The Juliet Project offers a new twist on a classic love story

In English literature, many regard Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as the quintessential love story. It set a standard for the romance tales of its time but also influenced many of the tropes and themes we see in our romantic comedies today. It has a bit of everything: Star-crossed lovers, feuding families, secret plots, and tragic endings in the name of love. It is arguably one of the best-known and most-performed plays of all time. However, Romeo and Juliet is also noted for its many different interpretations and adaptations. There have been many feature films, such as Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 modern take—Romeo + Juliet —starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, and even the 2011 animated hit Gnomeo & Juliet. There have even been modern retellings of Shakespeare’s plays. These include: 10 Things I Hate About You (after The Taming of the Shrew), She’s The Man (after Twelfth Night), and, most recently, Anyone But You (after Much Ado About Nothing). It is possible you could be a huge fan of Shakespeare’s stories without even realizing it! Stage interpretations are another area in which Romeo and Juliet can be redefined in its original medium. The Motyer-Fancy Theatre’s final production of the season offers a refreshing look into the story you think you know. 

The Juliet Project—conceived and directed by drama faculty member Paul Griffin—offers a quirky and refreshing take on the “love story for the ages.” It takes Shakespeare’s words and twists them around in a way that changes the trajectory of the play and gives agency to characters who never had it before. Conceived out of a desire to refresh such a consistently performed work, the play gives the cast, crew, and audiences a chance to engage with Shakespeare in a way that is accessible and fun! Second-year English and drama student Kayla Trites is using her role as Juliet to redefine her preconceived notions of Shakespeare’s work. “Even though I’m [playing] Juliet, I have never been a fan of Shakespeare. I auditioned because I heard that The Juliet Project was a modernized dramedy that underlines Juliet’s ‘survival story.’ All of my opinions about Shakespeare were thrown off the balcony so that I could challenge myself with this role.” 

When working with a script of this nature, it is often the case that different jokes or bits will come out of the actors’ personalities and styles. Dawson Cormier—a second-year English and drama major who plays Romeo—noted there are fewer character limitations in this version of the play. “This show has been particularly fun to work with because of how much free rein we are given as actors to mess around with and have fun with the script. The amount of ridiculous bits and absurdities that we have been allowed to keep in our performances really makes you reconsider if this play could have ever been considered a tragedy.” In modern restagings of Romeo and Juliet, like this one, the humour and comedy embedded in the text are freed, adding a new layer to the play as a whole.

Upendra Adhikari – Argosy Photographer


This version of Romeo and Juliet gives agency to a character featured in the original but was never given a word of dialogue. Phoebe Rex, a second-year classics and drama student, has helped create the role of Rosaline, whom Romeo was originally in love with at the beginning of Shakespeare’s play. “What has been so great about working on this show is that as an actor, it is very rare that you get the opportunity to be involved in the creation of the character you are playing. I feel so lucky that the team has been incredibly open to my input on who Rosaline is and how she exists within the world of this play.”

The Juliet Project offers audiences a chance to explore Shakespeare’s work in a way that avid theatre fans typically do not see. For Trites, the humorous twist of the play is an easy sell. “Audiences will enjoy The Juliet Project because our characters both highlight and critique Shakespeare’s greatest ideas in a way everyone can understand…comedy!” It is important to expose audiences to the world of Elizabethan theatre through a new and exciting lens. Since this play is typically required reading in high schools, many people have a negative connotation with it. For Rex, the new perspectives the play offers give its audience a paradigm shift. “Getting to see a world be built in front of you in rehearsal is such a special thing, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone In this version, you can cast off your preconceived notions of what exactly Shakespeare’s text is, and then enjoy it in a completely different way!” While the two plays may be alike in dignity, they are vastly different in how they impact audiences.

The Juliet Project runs at the Motyer-Fancy Theatre from March 20 to 23. Thursday is pay what you can. Tickets are available on Eventbrite. To hear more from Trites, Cormier, and Rex, tune into The Argosy: Live Podcast this Friday at 2 p.m. on CHMA 106.9.

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