Windsor’s Kordazone Theatre is set to come alive with passion and drama as Korda Artistic Productions presents its highly anticipated production of “Romeo & Juliet.” Directed by the talented Jeremy Burke, this contemporary adaptation promises to captivate audiences from May 26 to 28, June 1 to 4, and June 8 to 10. We sat down with Jeremy Burke to discuss his inspiration, unique approach, and the enduring appeal of Shakespeare’s timeless masterpiece.
When asked about his inspiration to direct “Romeo & Juliet,” Burke shared a serendipitous encounter. “I was working on Spring Awakening at Korda in early 2022 and had a conversation with Tracey Atin about theater,” Burke recounted. “She mentioned the absence of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ in Windsor’s recent theater scene. I offered to direct the play, and within days, I became consumed by the script, its exploration of tragedy and comedy, and what excited me about it.”
Burke’s production of “Romeo & Juliet” sets itself apart through its contemporary setting, departing from traditional sword-wielding depictions. “Don’t expect doublets and swords,” Burke warned. This fresh take also includes unconventional casting choices, with Romeo portrayed by a woman, offering a unique exploration of character dynamics. The Nurse, too, is closer in age to Juliet, while certain characters, such as the Capulet parents, have been merged into more complex, multi-dimensional figures.
The director’s meticulous approach to the script is evident in his careful editing and trimming. “I spent months revisiting the script, honing in on our focus and eliminating unnecessary elements,” Burke explained. The result is a streamlined version that highlights the play’s central themes within a contemporary context. Gone are references to Juliet’s age, which Burke found superfluous. This adaptation requires only 13 actors, eliminating the need for double casting.
When it comes to directing such an iconic play, Burke believes in approaching it with a fresh perspective. “You forget that it’s famous,” he stated. “I want my performers to focus on the authenticity of their characters, rather than the weight of the lines.” Burke’s aim is to remind the actors that their characters are experiencing these emotions and speaking these lines for the first time, emphasizing the immediacy and sincerity of the performances.
Reflecting on the enduring appeal of “Romeo & Juliet,” Burke sees it as a story about hope and the universal themes of youth and destiny. “It’s the kind of stuff we concern ourselves with,” he mused. The play’s poetic language also contributes to its timeless allure, as its beautiful verses resonate beyond the confines of the stage. The enduring power of “Romeo & Juliet” lies in its ability to capture the essence of human emotions and explore the complexities of love and tragedy.
Burke explains that the production delves into several key themes. “From the beginning, we focused on the generational divide in the play,” Burke reveals. He explores the notion of a younger generation inheriting a feud that is not their own, navigating the complexities of love in a violent world. Another central theme is the concept of destiny, with imagery of Tarot and astrology employed to offer the characters a sense of control or understanding of their fate. Finally, amidst the play’s foreboding atmosphere, hope emerges as a powerful force. Burke views hope as Romeo and Juliet’s tragic flaw, as they yearn for a better, more loving, and safer world.
When it comes to interpreting the iconic characters of Romeo and Juliet, Burke’s approach involved envisioning them in a contemporary setting. “We imagined who these individuals would be today,” he explains. “Where would they hang out at a house party? What kind of friend are they?” Alex Hristoff, portraying Romeo, infuses the character with a disapproval of violence and a tendency to distance herself from the feud. Small decisions, such as Romeo’s aversion to physical contact, deepen the connection and trust she shares with Juliet. Lilly Battista, playing Juliet, develops the character through her relationship with the Nurse, using subtle gestures and expressions to convey a range of emotions.
The casting process for the production aimed for inclusivity and diversity. Burke welcomed performers of all races, gender identities, and body types. Pronouns were adapted to match the gender identity of the actors, contributing to a more inclusive portrayal. The director recalls asking each auditioning performer what excited them about “Romeo & Juliet,” seeking individuals who cared deeply about the material. Burke notes that assembling a team passionate about their work was paramount to the production’s success.
Bringing out the emotions and complexities of the characters required a collaborative effort. Burke employed various techniques tailored to each actor’s needs. “We do exercises with the lines, we sit down and talk, and we make decisions on our feet,” Burke explains. Early rehearsals focused on establishing the characters’ relationships through conversations and specifics. Understanding how characters became friends, why they remain friends, and whether they would reach out in times of trouble provides a foundation for the actors to make nuanced and compelling choices.
Burke acknowledges the inevitable challenges that come with mounting a production of this scale. “There are always those pesky little challenges,” he muses. Technical feats and budget constraints may pose obstacles in realizing certain ambitious moments, leaving audiences eagerly anticipating surprises such as the possibility of golden rain. However, perhaps the greatest challenge lies in filling the seats, with the director hoping that the well-known title and the excitement generated by the production will draw in theatergoers, including skeptics of Shakespeare.
Balancing the violence of the feud with the romance of the love story has been a central focus for Burke. The characters of Romeo and Juliet find solace in their love, a refuge from the strife that has engulfed their lives. Burke enlisted the expertise of fight choreographer Sean Westlake and intimacy coach Rebecca Lashmar to ensure that both aspects are portrayed with authenticity and emotional depth.
As Kora Artistic Productions prepares to enchant audiences with their contemporary take on “Romeo & Juliet,” the dedicated efforts of Jeremy Burke and the talented cast promise to breathe new life into Shakespeare’s immortal tale of love and tragedy. Be sure to witness this captivating production at Kordazone Theatre in Windsor from May 26 to 28, June 1 to 4, and June 8 to 10.
For tickets and additional information, please visit www.koraartisticproductions.com or call (555) 123-4567.