BLACKWOOD — Filled with love and hate, secrets and danger, passion and anger, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has attracted audiences for 400 years. In 2014, Perry Award-winning director Chris Melohn incorporates social media, bullying, modern music, video, and dance into the mix, enabling teens and young adults to connect with Shakespeare on a whole new level
Jenna Kuerzi of Mullica Hill portrays, Juliet in this production presented by Mainstage Center for the Arts April 4 and 5 at Camden County College’s Dennis Flyer Theatre. Kuerzi holds a B.A. in Acting/Directing/Musical Theatre, along with a Minor in Dance from Rowan University. She portrayed Juliet in a production at Rowan.
Of returning to this role, Kuerzi said, “I’m excited to return to such an iconic character. I usually play goofy sidekick roles, and to be able to play the ultimate intelligent ingenue is an awesome, and challenging, change of pace.”
In Mainstage’s contemporary Romeo and Juliet, the Capulet and Montague families reside in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on either side of the Schuylkill River. The feud between the families is enflamed by comments posted on social media sites. As the tension builds, teenagers, Romeo (Alex Kryger of Philadelphia) and Juliet meet and fall in love at first sight. Juliet’s parents, the Capulets (Curt Foy of Atco and Nikiya Palombi of East Falls, PA) intend for Juliet to marry Paris, not Romeo, a member of Montague family. However, the young couple marries in secret, hoping for reconciliation between their families. When short tempers lead to deadly consequences, the young lovers find themselves alone and on the run, facing impossible odds and making desperate decisions.
“With Shakespeare, there are so many directions you can go. When planning for this production, dramaturge Tessa Nelson and I thought, ‘What in today’s society can bring Romeo and Juliet up-to-date?’ The answer was phones and social media. Once we saw how some of the fighting could be done online, it became very exciting. We’re using Shakespeare’s text, but set in this manner it resonates with today’s kids,” said Melohn.
Kuerzi agrees and said, “I love this production’s idea of incorporating social media. It makes the text that much more relatable. What does happen when you finally find that person you can connect with without the use of a device or an impersonal platform, such as Facebook?
Additional cast members include: Katherine Perry of South Philadelphia, the nurse; Matthew Janis of Haddon Township, Benvolio/dancer; Robb Russ of Philadelphia, Mercutio/dancer; Joshua Kurtz of Blackwood, the Prince; Tyler Shivers of Glassboro, Tybalt; Caitlin Catanella of Cherry Hill, Rosalind/dancer; and dancers: Miriam Payne of Audubon; Ryan Russ and Alisyn Berenato, both of Cherry Hill; Jennifer Gordon of Franklinville; Kate Orlando of Mantua; Chris Erickson and Sean Michael Christofer of Philadelphia.
Romeo and Juliet runs April 4 and 5, 7:30 p.m. in the newly-renovated, fully-accessible Dennis Flyer Theatre, Camden County College, Blackwood. For tickets, visit www.mainstage.org, or call (855) 936, 2467, ext. 3. This performance is sponsored by Comegno Law Group, P.C.