Production of Romeo and Juliet is ramping up as the excitement of midterms winds down into seventh week. Actors are now accustomed to their newly appointed stage gender. The cast is off script and ready to impress.
The gender swap was not a simple task. “Actors are starting to get the physicality down,” said Colleen Schuldeis, K‘15, stage manager for the production. In the beginning of production female actors wore dresses to rehearsal, and male actors still took up space like males.
Todd Espeland, Professor of Theatre Arts and the show’s director, soon corrected this. Female actors now wear hard-soled boots and jeans to rehearsal. Male actors rehearse in braces, to substitute for corsets, and skirts.
With this anticipation of a stand out performance came the announcement of free admission for K students. In the past, the admission charge for students was pay as you can. This year will mark an important change for the future of Festival Playhouse.
“We hope that by removing a ticket price it will help student interest,” said Lanny Potts, Professor of Theatre Arts. In the past, theatre performances experienced great attendance on Thursday nights with a characteristic drop on Friday and Saturday nights. All barriers standing in the way of student attendance have now been removed.
The free admission is possible because of support from The Dorothy U. Dalton Foundation. Free admission, while helpful for student attendance, presents a problem concerning revenue for Festival Playhouse. “Because of the visionary support we are able to do theatre the way that we can,” said Potts when discussing the foundation’s contribution to the theatre department.
Students expressed an overwhelmingly positive response when asked on the likelihood of going to see the production. “I am definitely going to attend,” said Johanna Keller-Flores, K‘18, “not only because it is free, but I am also very interested in how the gender reversal will play out.”
The gender reversal has opened up much discussion on gender roles amongst the cast and the student body. With the swap, Espeland highlights that female actors are now able to take up sword fighting, something that was formerly reserved for males. The cast and crew alongside Espeland shatter the age-old critique that Shakespeare only wrote for men, and for men dressed as women. Little did Shakespeare know that over 400 years later Romeo and Juliet would be the setting for a questioning of gender roles.
The production will debut on November 6th and close on the 9th. Admission for students is free, however, it is $10 for seniors, $5 for non-K students, and $15 for regular admission.