Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reflections about...Dept. of Theatre and Dance Romeo and Juliet Performance Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 7:30 PM

One thing I forgot to mention in my last Romeo and Juliet post is that a reason why I think they chose to perform that particular play at Montclair State University is because it is so well known. They know that this is how they can get audiences. Montclair seems to do this sporadically. They have the intricate, different materials, but then they bring in shows that are more close to home to even it out and of course they all have the same result. Romeo and Juliet was sold out, just like how Sweet Charity and Sweeney Todd were also sold out shows.

So since I ranted last time about just how well known Romeo and Juliet is to our society, here are some observations I have made about the play from this particular performance that perhaps aren't so well known.

"I bite my thumb at you, sir."

This is actually one of the lines that opens up the play. It's so awesome because we can totally relate to obscene gestures, which is exactly what this is. Thanks, Shakespeare! :D

A funny background story about this is how I always thought the line was "I thumb my nose at you," meaning the person would flick his or her thumb on his or her nose. My friends and I in high school, when we were reading the play in English class freshman year, would do this to each other as a joke.

Fast forward to now. My friend Kelly and I always argued about which is correct: "I bite my thumb at you" or "I thumb my nose at you." We would even look it up and they would both appear correct. She and I saw Romeo and Juliet at school opening night, and we finally got our answer. Kelly poked me while we watched the scene to prove her victory.

Thanks, Shakespeare. -__-

By the way, when the servants are having their first battle among each other, Juliet was actually one of the spectators on the side cheering them on. I thought that was odd considering how the character of Juliet wouldn't be expected to have any part of this feud. I know this was a decision to have a good number of people cheer for the battle, considering that it was a small cast, but it's Juliet, you know? It just looks weird lol.

Why are they fighting?

Does anybody else wonder how this family feud began in the first place? Is it said and I just missed it? I feel like Shakespeare might have included this detail. I know it doesn't really matter, but it's just something that crossed my mind as I was watching it. Knowing the reasons why something is happening helps the audience comprehend the story better and can also help the characters settle their disputes better. I'm just under the impression that the two families have been fighting so long that they have forgotten what the fight is about. Either that or their ancestors started the fight and it continued down the generations.

Why Juliet is actually a strong female Shakespeare character

I used to really dislike this kid. I just pictured her such a teenage drama queen, and Romeo no better. I really don't think I'm the only one.

What's funny to is, in this Peak Performance, Juliet was actually excited about her attachment to Parris. It wasn't until she meets Romeo that everything goes haywire and she starts to get miserable and fight against it.

The thing is though, I've now realized that she is pretty intelligent Shakespearean female character regardless of how she is often viewed. She is constantly being suppressed by everyone around her so she has to figure out what to do on her own. She goes to get help from other people of course, but the fact that she even takes the initiative to do so, being a young girl, is pretty admirable.

I disliked her too because I felt she was too young to be so passionate about love. However, in this time period, she is old enough to get married, so it does make sense that she would be so mature about men and how she handles situations.

Couldn't she just have told family/Parris?

Well, maybe not her family, because they seem pretty domineering and wouldn't even consider her explanation, but I feel like they wouldn't get as mad at her. She doesn't give them any reason for being defiant, so that is why they get so angry. But, telling them that she is in love with and married to the son of their greatest enemy may not go over well anyway, so I guess it's for the best.

At least tell Paris. He seems like a nice enough guy to understand. He seems like one of those guys who would do anything for the object of his affections, even let her go. Sad to say it, but he also seems like he would make a pushover of a husband. The only reason why he has issues with Romeo is because Romeo killed Tybalt and he considers him a threat. He has no idea about the connection between Romeo and Juliet.

I also don't understand why she doesn't tell her Nurse about the potion she takes from Friar Lawrence. She tells her everything else in her master plan so why not this? It would have been nice if she knew about this because perhaps she could've helped matters.

Something Lady Capulet says to Juliet

I never really noticed this until I saw this play, but Lady Capulet says the following words to her daughter after Juliet defies her father:
Talk not to me, for I'll not speak a word.
Do as thou wilt, for I am done with thee.

Then afterward Juliet gets all upset. However, I took this line as "Well that's nice of her, letting her daughter do what she wants." If a mother were to say these words to her thirteen-year-old daughter nowadays, the daughter would be like, "Fine! Screw you, Mom! I will!" And because, like I said, Juliet is in an adult position to take matters into her own hands, I'm surprised she doesn't take this as a blessing and adopt the rebellious teenage attitude. A lot of times teenagers consider themselves old enough to handle things they cannot handle on their own. Here, Juliet is a teenager but in this time period IS old enough to handle things on her own, but she freaks out when her mother verbally abandons her.

There's something that has to be said about how Mercutio gets stabbed by Tybalt in Romeo's arms.

I first I thought Zazzali included this, but apparently the script calls for it because later on Mercutio gets mad at Romeo for getting in the way and perhaps he would not have been stabbed if he didn't. It's just such a powerful scene because the music stops playing, the action is done, and the audience focuses on Mercutio collapsing and Romeo holding onto him. It almost looks slow motion and silent. It's a very mesmerizing moment.

Why mourn Tybalt and not Mercutio?

This is the main thing that struck me that never did so before. Okay, so we know that Tybalt stabs Mercutio in Romeo's arms. Benvolio drags him off and he dies offstage. Romeo, out of vengeance, goes to kill Tybalt, succeeds, and then runs away seeing the error of his ways. When this happens the whole cast runs onto the stage around Tybalt's body and mourns his death.

Um...Mercutio died too...

What the heck? Nobody seems to care about Mercutio! Mercutio dies and nobody but Romeo and Benvolio react right away but when Tybalt dies suddenly all of Verona gets bent out of shape? They ignore the fact that Tybalt was not the only one to die in the brawl. Mercutio is totally disregarded by everybody besides his two friends. His death is acknowledged, I will admit that, but it isn't acknowledged until Tybalt is killed. I think that's what made me take notice of this. It makes it seem like he was such an insignificant person to them, like they don't care, as if they wouldn't have noticed his death if Romeo had not killed Tybalt as well. That's not fair!

It's definitely obvious that blood is thicker than water here. Everybody cares about Tybalt's death because he is Lady Capulet's brother's son. Mercutio was just a friend of Romeo's, or like Kelly refers to him as when I asked her about this, "a kid who lives up the street." I think the thing is I've always associated Mercutio with the Montagues, and therefore put him in the family as a brother/cousin figure, when in reality he's kind of an outsider everywhere. Or, perhaps he is a median between the two. He does land himself on the guest list for the Capulet party. How did THAT happen? That's another thing this performance brought to my attention. How do the Capulets not notice that the Montague kid's friend is coming to their party? Wouldn't that bother them? He goes by his own name on the list, so it's not like he disguised the fact that he is attending. I guess he's just such a party goer that he knows his ways around the system.

However, this little observation I made has helped me to connect Romeo and Juliet with another Italian classic: The Godfather.

Oh yeah? Don't believe me? A bit of a stretch? Keep reading.

After Tybalt is found dead and Benvolio explains what happened (That's his only purpose in this play, let's be honest), Ben reveals that Romeo did the deed and so therefore Romeo is exiled by Prince Escalus and if he is found, sentenced to death. Much like in The Godfather, you mess with a family member, your mess with the whole family. You're going to get it and they will not yield until you do.

But another thing both of these Italian classics bring to the table is the idea that friendship equals family. When Don Corleone forms a friendship with someone, he forever has an alliance with them and he would do anything to help them. In Romeo and Juliet, it's the same thing. I already said about how I consider Mercutio a Montague family member even though he is just Romeo and Benvolio's friend. When Tybalt disrespects Romeo, Mercutio gets all pissed off and challenges him to a duel to protect Romeo's honor. When Tybalt kills Mercutio in this duel, Romeo mourns the death of his friend and vows to kill Tybalt in their own duel, and succeeds. The only difference is, I don't think death is the intent when it comes to Mercutio and Tybalt's battle. As you can see, respect is a huge theme in both Romeo and Juliet and The Godfather as well. And, of course, they both involve Italian families. Everything I have mentioned here has a connection to the Italian family culture.

Alright, so that should be the end of my Romeo and Juliet ranting...for now. The play has been closed for like a week and a half now lol.

I actually saved this post for today for a reason. It's the final day of February...and... Happy Leap Year Everyone! This is my only chance to post something on here on February 29 for awhile lol.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My Very First Montclarion Article of the Year and Spring 2012 Semester and How it Helped me to Appreciate a Shakespeare Classic

Yes, this is an entry of my first theater review for The Montclarion in both the year and spring semester of 2012, AND my senior year, but this particular production got a reaction out of me, so I think I am going to write a "Reflections about..." piece about it as well.

Okay, so here's the background story to this article.

First off, I was never a big fan of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

We all know the story right? Two families in Verona, Italy are fighting and their teenage kids fall in love but then kill themselves. The End.

Okay, I know it's more complex than that, but it's annoying! Both Romeo (16) and Juliet (13) are so lovey dovey and gushy after just meeting each other at a party and planning to marry that night only a few days ago at their young age that it's just so nauseating to me. I know the balcony scene is the most iconic scene in any drama, but to me, it's not that great. It just drags on and is, you guessed it, gushy. The best part about any of the characters in this play is that they are Italian!

Another thing I don't like about it is that it is so overdone to the point where it's bland and medicore. It's the play to which most of us are introduced as children, so therefore, we grow up with it, see many different versions of it, and it's not very exciting after a while. There are also so many parodies of it. If one of the plots on a TV show is that characters are performing a play, most likely that play is Romeo and Juliet, as if there are no other options. Of course, when I was a freshman in high school reading the play for my English class, our teacher told us that freshmen are taught this play at that level because it's the simplest. Well, I guess it is. So I guess that's why it's used for TV? Maybe. I know that Romeo and Juliet is probably Shakespeare's most famous work, but it is just such a common play. It is always there.

But here's the thing. Given these reasons, I was really skeptical when I heard that one of the Peak Performances of Montclair State University for the 2011-2012 season was going to be Romeo and Juliet, and this goes way back to this past summer when I read about this season's performances on the school website. I'm just so used to Montclair presenting the most intricate of theater. You see the stuff I write about on here. When I was a freshman at Montclair, they performed Shakespeare's As You Like It and I appreciated that because you never hear about that play, so it was nice to actually see it performed and it was different! But Romeo and Juliet? That just seems like a step back from what Montclair normally offers. To me, Romeo and Juliet is a high school play, not exactly a college performance featuring college students majoring in the theater field, matching the same caliber as the other theater Montclair offers. When I first saw it on the website, I wasn't even sure if I wanted to see it considering my feelings about it. And I knew I would probably see it because my goal is to see every show presented by the Department of Theatre and Dance, so I was dreading it.

Fortunately, I was wrong about everything. :)

As time went on and I befriended people involved with the production, I grew more and more excited for it and them. Romeo and Juliet, now playing at the L. Howard Fox Theatre until February 19, is now one of my favorite Peak Performances since I began attending MSU. It has that Montclair flair. There's the play, but then there's something magical about it that just engages the audience. It just made me appreciate the play and story more. Granted, Romeo and Juliet themselves are still gushy and I still can't stand that, but that's to be expected so I am willing to look past it and accept it.

Want to know why I like this play so much? One reason is that thankfully they don't include that Romeo and Juliet theme "A Time for Us." I was actually expecting it and wondering if they were going to use it and I am so glad that they don't. It's a good song and piece of music, but there's something about it and how romantic and droll it is that just makes the play that much more depressing. Others are that the whole entire play is one gigantic "Peak Performance and its awkward sexual moments," the music and costumes much resemble our current time period so it is relatable, the acting and delivery of the performers helped me to understand the storyline better, the set is extremely simplistic, using black blocks and a ladder for instance, and at times it is actually pretty funny. For more reasons, check out my review here. Enjoy!

If you can, be sure to see this play before it closes to see what I am talking about! :D

Another reason why I liked this play is that it made me realize things about it that I had never realized before, but I will save those for another post.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Theatrical Nudity From an Actor's Perspective: One on One Time with Actor Michael Brewer

Remember those days when I talked about theatrical nudity in the Spring 2011 semester production of The Grapes of Wrath and about the practice in general?

We're still in those days.

I FINALLY had the chance to talk to senior Acting major Michael Brewer, who played "Al" in The Grapes of Wrath, about his views on the subject. Click here to remind yourselves of my opinions about the character of "Al" and how he contributes to theatrical nudity. This video has been a long time coming and I am so glad that I finally got the chance to accomplish it. He was very enthused to talk to me about it.

Check out our interview here. I apologize for the sound in this video. It was breezy the day we filmed. (P.S. Michael is sitting on a sculpture outside of Life Hall. I think something artistic like that is a pretty appropriate background. My friend Kelly and I hung out there once and it is one of our favorite landmarks on campus.)

We also talk about what is next for him as an actor. Michael will be playing "Lord Capulet" in this semester's production of Romeo and Juliet, which is premiering next week! Click here for tickets and more details. Best of luck to the cast and crew of Romeo and Juliet!

Thank you again to Michael for talking with me!