Romeo and Juliet tells the story of a love-struck couple in the midst of a family feud; a story of forbidden love and personal sacrifice.
In their desire to perform a theatrical classic, The Kalamazoo College Theatre Department adapted the well-known work. However, following K’s custom of defying the norm, the theatre department resolved to flip the genders of the participating actors.
“We are taking a risk,” said Todd Espeland, Professor of Theatre Arts, but this is not unusual. “K [tends] to do non-traditional plays,” he said.
Espeland thought that Romeo and Juliet offered only the younger audience a chance to relate. “I wanted to have something greater to say,” he said, hinting at his decision to flip the genders.
The idea developed from the need to reverse a few roles to accommodate the dominating number of female participants in the play. After further deliberation, the gender reversal was expanded to the entire cast. Sans the gender flip, the story of Romeo and Juliet will remain intact.
“When director Todd announced the gender flip, all of the females faces lit up and all of the men’s face were like…,” said Gabrielle Miller ’17, displaying an displeased expression.
Miller is the play’s dramaturge and Lord Montague. “Todd wants me to come in every week with some sort of feminist literature that we can talk about as a group just to open up discussion for the cast to have this be an ongoing process of exploring gender,” said Miller, explaining her dramaturge role.
The cast is in the process of developing the characters and accustoming to their assigned gender. “We have thought a lot about what it is like to speak from the other gender’s perspective,” said Lindsay Worthington ’17, who will be playing Romeo.
The participants expressed their fear of the audience experiencing the performance as a comedy. “There are some people who are expecting to see a Monty Python parody,” said Thaddeus Buttery ’17, who will play the role of Juliet. “Once they find out it is not the case, they might be confused, but I think most people are going to contribute to the conversation we are trying to open up” he concluded.
This risk-taking play premieres on November 6th and will run through the 9th. The gender aspect was a new way to explore the play, with the actors. Be ready to see a play you have grown up knowing but one that will open new gender discussions.