The University of South Carolina Theatre Program will conclude its 2021/22 season with William Shakespeare’s beloved drama Romeo and Juliet, running April 8-15 at Longstreet Theatre.
Show time is 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with additional 3 p.m. matinee performances on Saturday, April 9 and Sunday, April 10. Admission is $15 for students, $20 for UofSC faculty/staff, military, and seniors 60+, and $22 for the public. Tickets may be purchased online at sc.universitytickets.com. Longstreet Theatre is located at 1300 Greene St. Enter from the rear breezeway off Sumter St. In accordance with university safety protocols, masks are no longer required indoors but are encouraged for all patrons.
Professional theatre director Carolyn Howarth is directing this ageless tale that still has the raw power to connect in visceral ways. Fiery passions lead to fateful outcomes as two impetuous teenagers succumb to their irrepressible attraction, despite a long and bloody feud waged by their warring families. As riveting today as when it first appeared in print 425 years ago, Romeo and Juliet is a story of love, intrigue and danger that is sure to leave audiences breathless until its shockingly tragic end.
A veteran theatre director and actor, Howarth has become one of the most respected directors of Shakespeare plays in the country, with extensive credits at esteemed venues such as Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Foothill Theatre Company, and Orlando Shakespeare Theatre. Her connection to the University of South Carolina stems from Orlando Shakes, a Florida theatre for which UofSC theatre professor Jim Hunter is a frequent scenic and lighting designer.
Howarth says her approach to Shakespeare starts with a focus on conveying his epic stories to the audience, while giving his powerful language the life and energy it was always intended to have.
“Shakespeare on the written page and Shakespeare in front of your face are two entirely different things,” Howarth says. “First and foremost, it was meant to be seen. When you couple his words with the action in front of you, you instantly know what is going on.”
“The main thing to me, no matter the play, is to concentrate on the basic tenets of storytelling and to really get the story across,” she says. “It’s fun to have fog and swinging chandeliers and all that, but when push comes to shove, I just need an empty space with some actors and an audience.”
“Romeo and Juliet have both been brought up in an environment of great dissent and are trying to find a way out of it. They’re trying to navigate their way through a world they did not ask for.”
Carolyn Howarth, Director
That’s not to say that her Romeo and Juliet will be devoid of sumptuous design. For this production, Howarth and her artistic team were inspired by the elegance of the early 1900s art nouveau movement, a period of design that aimed to modernize and streamline the more ornate traditions of the Victorian era. She describes the look of the play as portraying an empire in decline – opulent but showing signs of decay.
“My take on this play is that the older generation of long-feuding families has kind of ruined the world for the younger generation,” she explains. “Romeo and Juliet have both been brought up in an environment of great dissent and are trying to find a way out of it. They’re trying to navigate their way through a world they did not ask for.”
A particularly exciting storytelling element will be the production’s swordplay, being choreographed by professional fight director Geoffrey Kent, resident Fight Director at Colorado Shakespeare Festival, and past president of the Society of American Fight Directors.
Howarth raves, “The sword fights are going to be delicious! Geoffrey is so good at telling a story through violence, and not just violence for its own sake but for the purpose of progressing character objectives. He’s really good at that.”
Creating the world of the play alongside Howarth are graduate design students Nate Terracio (scenic) and Lawrence Ware (lighting), Assistant Professor Kristy Hall (costume), and guest artist Danielle Wilson (sound). The production’s cast features students David Alexander, Aaliyah Broadwater, Asaru Buffalo, Anthony Currie, Parastoo Ebrahimi, Cameron Giordano, Cady Gray, Sunni Greene, Tiffany Hagan, Brendyn Hyslop, Carly Siegel, and Carlos Turner; theatre faculty Marybeth Gorman Craig, Erica Tobolski, and Dustin Whitehead; and guest artist Darion McCloud.
“There are no sexier stories than Shakespeare’s,” says Howarth. “They’re full of passion, violence, anger, guilt, and sorrow on the grandest scales. That’s what makes them so special to see in a live setting.”
“If you want to see one of the world’s most iconic stories, full of more love and grief than you can imagine and with incredible fights, then you must come.”
For more information on Romeo and Juliet or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.