Kickstarter campaign: Juliet & Romeo

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In all of English literature, the most well-known love story is unquestionably Romeo and Juliet. It has been told and retold countless times, and now {Your Name Here} A Queer Theatre is seeking $3,500 to put a twist on it not often seen: a story of lesbian love.

The head of the Kickstarter campaign, Victoria Tucci, is a lesbian herself. When her home state of North Carolina passed Amendment One, changing the state constitution to ban marriage equality, she was devastated, and wanted to do something in protest. That desire eventually became the play Juliet & Romeo; it will be This is {Your Name Here}’s first production using Theatre as Advocacy, which Victoria describes as “a philosophy of theatre making which uses storytelling to inspire, educate, and activate our audience about particular political or social justice issues.”

To discuss the project, 429Magazine got an exclusive interview with Tucci.

429Magazine: For the sake of clarity, why not title the play Juliet & Rosalina, for example?

Victoria Tucci: Mark Ducan, the director and adaptor of Juliet & Romeo, and I briefly talked about this but since we’re still using Shakespeare’s original text, changing Romeo’s name to something more traditionally feminine would mess with the scansion of the text too much to make it worth it. Also we’re setting the play in modern day and today people have all different types of names… who knows maybe in this version I was born with a more feminine name and changed it to Romeo? Haha I actually like that!

429Mag: What are the differences, if any, between Romeo & Juliet: Forbidden Love Comes to North Carolina and Juliet & Romeo?

Tucci: While the initial concept of having Romeo & Juliet be a lesbian couple is the same in both productions Juliet & Romeo is a completely new adaption. It’s a completely different show in so many ways! The focus of Romeo & Juliet: Forbidden Love Comes to North Carolina was to show this story was no different with two women playing the lovers as it is with a man and a woman. We did this in order to bring attention to the anti-LGBT Legislation, Amendment One, that was happening in my home state of North Carolina. After this production happened, in the spring on 2012, I kept thinking about the themes of suicide, homelessness and hate crimes that exist in the story of Romeo & Juliet and I wanted to explore them further within the context of queer youth. When I started working with {Your Name Here} A Queer Theater based in New York City last summer I felt like this summer was the perfect time to pick up this play again and really did deep into these issues that plague my community.

I talked to Mark about all of these things and he has created an amazing adaption of Romeo & Juliet through cutting and re-arranging portions of the text which really supports the story we’re telling. A great example of this is that in this version of the play the order of events in the big party scene is different. So Tybalt, who traditionally flips out because he simply hears Romeo’s voice at the party, sees Romeo & Juliet kissing and this is what sets him off into a rage and sparks him to seek out Romeo the next day which of course leads to all of the deaths in the middle of the play.

429Mag: If I can ask about spoilers, does either of the star-crossed lovers survive?

Tucci: Unfortunately, we’ve stayed true to the traditional story here and both lovers still die.

429Mag: For those who can’t make it to NY for the performance, is there any chance of a post-production DVD release?

Tucci: We are very fortunate to be working with incredible actors in this production including some Equity actors. Since we are performing under an Actors Equity Showcase code we are not allowed to film any portion of rehearsal or performance. I’m a person who likes to dream big so who knows what the future may hold for this adaptation / production in the future. With enough support we may be able to bring the lesbian Juliet & Romeo to towns all over the place!

429Mag: Can we get a brief summary of a scene you especially like?

Tucci: I always joke that I love the beginning of the play because things are happy and I get to fall in love with Leanne Mercadante which is so fun! Leanne played Juliet in Romeo & Juliet: Forbidden Love Comes to North Carolina as well and it’s so nice to work with her again. There is a scene towards the beginning of the play where Romeo goes to Reverend Lawrence and asks for her to marry Juliet & Romeo later that day. We were rehearsing this scene last week and I suddenly realized “Oh my God I’m coming out to this religious leader in this scene!” I was raised Catholic and suddenly flashed back to a time when I was home from college and came out to a youth minister of mine who fortunately responded to me with love and kindness. For me it’s nice as an actor to connect real life experiences I’ve had to a scene I’m working on. So I’m really enjoying working on that scene and the relationship between Lawrence and Romeo at the moment.

429Mag: On Kickstarter, you mention “after-show talk backs and educational materials… at each performance.” Will there be a specific theme to the after-show talks, or discussion topics will depend on the show’s audience?

Tucci: We’d like the focus of the talk backs be a conversation around the ideas of support and what we as individuals can do to support members of the queer community. This goes hand in hand with our #Letters2Romeo campaign. We’re hoping that by gathering information from LGBTQ people all over the country we will have examples of tangible things members of our community have said would help them to feel supported. Of course if there are other topics or questions that audience members bring up we’ll be happy to talk about those things as well!

429Mag: When you preformed the first play, each show “provided literature on the Amendment, petitions to sign, and registered people to vote!” Are there plans to do anything similar at showings of Juliet & Romeo?

Tucci: At the moment we’re planning on putting together information to hand out to audience members that talks about what we’ve learned through the #letters2Romeo campaign, This will include suggestions on how to be a supportive community member, a supportive ally and resources for people if they feel they need help or support for something. There’s also been a number of hate crimes over the past few weeks here in New York City. I’m not sure what this might be but we might decide to create some sort of action that people can take in response to these recent crimes.

429Mag: In this day and age I can’t imagine any kind of resource literature without a few URLs to check out, but are any of the links provided going to be to sites where interested people can continue the discussion?

Tucci: I definitely want there to be a place for people to continue the conversation. Right now I think the plan is to keep #letters2romeo going as long as people are interested and participating in the conversation. We’re just beginning to launch the social media portion of the advocacy campaign. After the show is over we will keep our e-mail account open, and the letters2romeo tumblr people will also be able to conect and continue the conversation through {Your Name Here} A Queer Theater’s Facebook page and Twitter. If enough people are interested I’m sure we’ll create another way to connect with us and continue the conversation.

For letters2romeo the main way we’re going to be sending out our messages of support and tips is through tumblr and connecting that to {Your Name Here}’s other social media so follow us!

429Mag: You mentioned that in Juliet & Romeo, “we’re still using Shakespeare’s original text”. Does this mean the dialogue is only minimally changed from the original despite the modern setting?

Tucci: We are using the classic Shakespeare text but we’ve made a lot of changes to the script in order to support this particular story we have set out to tell. For instance pronouns are changed for the character of Romeo. The character of Friar Lawrence is now Reverend Lawrence and is played by a female. The script is also cut down to 47 pages. Even without the changes we’ve made through cutting the script and re-arranging certain sections of the text it’s pretty amazing what happens when you read the story thinking of the lovers as two women. The text naturally supports the story we’re trying to tell. The nurse for example has a line to Juliet saying “You know not how to choose a man”. Juliet’s father has a whole scene where he’s saying you either shape up and marry this guy or you’re get out of the house and die in the streets for all I care. The themes that already exist in the play really lend themselves to the issues that so many people in our community have to deal with.

429Mag: I can imagine! Two straight teenagers willing to die for each other after a few days is… not the most rational of decisions. Two young lesbians, in contrast, are a lot more justified in fearing they will never again find someone they connect with this strongly.

Tucci: Totally! I’ve been thinking about this a lot ‘cause I just started dating someone new… the intensity in which you fall for someone when you’re having your “coming out affair” is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. For me personally it was a light bulb moment of “this is what everyone’s talking about?! this is how it’s supposed to feel!” To have two young women experience that together and then have it ripped away so quickly is devastating.

It’s interesting because I had a Shakespeare teacher in an acting class talk about R & J and she started yelling one day “Romeo and Juliet don’t love each other they want to F*** each other!!” Which I also totally agree with when looking at the play just as it is unaltered. They want to hook up and then all this crazy stuff happens as a result of that which ends in tragedy. I think one of the great things about classics such as Romeo and Juliet is that it lends itself to taking a piece of text that everyone has some base knowledge of and twisting it and re-inventing it in a way so an audience can experience something they thought they already knew and breaking it open so it’s fresh and they can see this world and story in a new way. That what’s so exciting about working on this piece we have to opportunity to touch people’s hearts and minds because the story they think they know is going to be told in a new way.

429Mag: For those of us that can’t make it to New York to see it, is it possible to sell copies of the script?

Tucci: I’m not sure what the rules are in terms of “publishing” an adaption of a work that is public domain. I’ll do some investigation and would need to talk to Mark because it’s his adaptation but it may be very possible that we’ll be able to make Juliet & Romeo available for people to read and use for their own productions.

I’ll definitely let you know if that happens!

429Mag: We’ll look forward to it! That’s it for our questions; is there anything you’d like to add?

Tucci: I’d just encourage people to donate to the Kickstarter campaign if they can and to get involved with our advocacy campaign. You can answer the questions found on our Kickstarter page or on the {Your Name Here} A Queer Theater website if you like or just send us any messages of support or thoughts you have surrounding support and any of the issues we’re exploring in the play!

429Mag: Fantastic. Thank you so much, and best of luck!

The Kickstarter campaign can be found here; the page also contains information how to participate in the Letters to Romeo campaign. The fundraiser ends on June 9.

About The Author

Just another multi-disciplinary writer and bundle of contradictions trying to figure out how to get the most out of life, and make a living while I'm at it.

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