This weekend, Springfield’s Wildish Community Theater will host a performance of William Shakespeare’s classic play Romeo and Juliet. The theater will be decorated with a three-quarter sized replica of London’s Globe Theater, which is where Shakespeare first premiered Romeo and Juliet more than four centuries ago. The performances will run Jan. 27 through Jan. 29 at 630 Main St.
“People who have ever seen [The Globe Theater] look at our replica they say, ‘Oh it’s the Globe’ because it looks just like it,” said Judith “Sparky” Roberts, the play’s artistic director.
The replica was built by the Lane Community College Performing Arts and Theater department several years ago. This is the first production outside of LCC that will use the set. It features an elegant backdrop of a Renaissance-style mansion along with the iconic balcony where Juliet confesses her love for Romeo.
It can be argued that Romeo and Juliet is just as relevant now as when it was written in the 16th century. The play follows a young couple as they pursue a relationship forbidden by their feuding families, the Montagues and Capulets. Incorporating themes of fate, tragedy and duality, Romeo and Juliet is often considered to be one of the most famous and influential works ever written. Roberts has updated certain aspects of the play to fit today’s society.
Roberts has 40 years of acting and directing experience and 33 years of teaching performing arts. This will be her 12th time directing one of Shakespeare’s plays.
Despite studying and performing Shakespeare’s plays for much of her career, Roberts said she and the crew still get excited to work with his scripts.
“We get a real charge out of doing Shakespeare,” Roberts said. “We relish the language. We try to taste it and chew it and then deliver it in a way that’s really delicious.”
The title roles will be portrayed by local thespians Cloud Pemble and Nicole Trobaugh. Former Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors Joe Cronin and Maya Thomas play Friar Laurence and the Nurse, respectively.
The production also includes several current University of Oregon students as well as a video produced by recent UO film graduate Jordyn Roach. Working closely with Roberts, Roach developed a video in the artistic style of Chiaroscuro, a technique developed during the Renaissance that creates a dramatic effect by using strong tonal contrasts.
The multimedia aspect of the play is one of the ways Roberts has brought the play into the 21st century. This version of Romeo and Juliet isn’t necessarily ultra-modern, but it embraces the cultural and technological advancements that have occurred over the past four centuries.
“The humanity [Shakespeare] brings to his characters is so enduring,” Roberts said. “Geniuses like Shakespeare and Mozart kind of make being a human being more meaningful. They’ve left a legacy that is unerasable. Something about the quality Shakespeare brought out of humans is permanent.”
Another challenge of directing such a popular play is getting audiences to pay for something they’re familiar with or may have already seen. Shakespeare is often considered to be the most influential playwright of all time, but the language he uses in his works can intimidate people and scare them away from attending his plays.
“People don’t go because they think they won’t understand it,” Roberts said. “It’s true that some of the words have changed over time, but in context with the actors and the set, anyone can understand it. Whether the words are a little bit unfamiliar or not, the [audience] gets it.”
Roberts understands this challenge, but she believes that whether audience members are seeing the play for the first time or the 40th, Romeo and Juliet can be an enriching experience.
“A knowledge of Shakespeare not only deepens people’s understanding of English literature and language, but also themselves,” Roberts said. “The issues that he wrote about and the people he wrote about are always relevant.”
General tickets cost $22 and can be found at Wildish Theater’s website. A grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust has made a limited amount of $5 tickets available for students and seniors. Once those tickets are gone, regular student and senior tickets will available for $15.