Over the weekend I had the really, really great opportunity of attending a performance of Romeo and Juliet. Granted Romeo and Juliet is not my favorite Shakespeare play (it just hasn't been the same since I realized it wasn't the play about true and undying love that I thought it was--just a play about stupid teenagers with short-term memory), but any time I get the chance to see anything performed by the Utah Shakespearean Festival I am going to jump at it. Plus I didn't even have to drive all the way to Cedar City. You see, the festival has this great program called Shakespeare in the Schools which sends a small troupe of actors into schools throughout Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and Idaho to perform a play written by Shakespeare. I've never really paid enough attention to this program to take advantage of it when it has travelled into my area in the past but on a whim this year (and an accident of hearing about it) I decided to try it out. Like I already said, the play this year is Romeo and Juliet and while it is not my favorite play I must say that this version of it was really well done and quite enjoyable. The only other production I have seen of Romeo and Juliet (live) was a few years ago in Stratford-upon-Avon--and sadly it must be said that that production was hands down the worse production of any Shakespeare play that I have ever seen. So I suppose in this light the production performed by the USF couldn't really have been any worse. Luckily, though for me, it was much, much better.
Since the whole point of Shakespeare in the Schools is to make Shakespeare more accessible to students I was pretty sure that the version being performed was going to be a more modern and updated version of the play (which I am not opposed to--in the question and answer session after the play the actors were asked if they like doing a modern version and as part of his answer one of the actors pointed out that for the most part that plays written by Shakespeare were performed as contemporary plays in his time and so it seems to make some sense that we occasionally continue to perform the plays as contemporary to our time--the words of course are not changed) which it was. And the cast was rather small for a Shakespeare play (sometimes at the beginning of the play I found myself a little confused about who was playing who at what time as all of the actors played at least 2 characters). And the play was cut down to 90 minutes and there was no intermission. But really all these things worked together to create a unique opportunity to delve a little into Shakespeare on a bit of a casual basis.
The acting was, of course, top notch--I particularly thought that the actress playing Juliet did a great job of portraying her as a bit of a teenage drama queen--and from what I understand 2 of the actors will be performing in the festival this summer. To sum up, I highly recommend this production of Romeo and Juliet. Click here to see the schedule of where they will be performing. The cost of my ticket was $5. You just can't get better than Shakespeare performed by professional actors associated with a great festival for $5.
(Just as a general note: Shakespeare wrote with a lot of innuendos about sex and they portrayed the play as he wrote it. I didn't find it at all inappropriate but I did hear a parent sitting behind me make a comment about it. If you feel nervous about taking a teenager may I suggest that you read the play to inform yourself about its content.--there was a play performed at the festival last year that had some innuendos and I think some swear words as well and there was quite an uproar from some individuals who were offended by it and felt that the festival either should have edited the play or informed its audiences ahead of time about "inappropriate" content. Well the entire conversation drove me nuts because really people the responsibility of filtering out inappropriate material is your responsibility and only yours. If you choose not to inform yourself about what you are seeing and subsequently are offended by it that is your fault and only your fault. Stepping off my soap box now.)