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UA theater program to present ‘Romeo and Juliet’ but with a twist

University+of+Arizona+School+of+Theatre%2C+Film+%26amp%3B+Television+professor+Brent+Gibbs+is+directing+the+programs+production+of+Romeo+and+Juliet+this+semester+with+Sydney+Di+Sabato+cast+as+Juliet+and+Max+Murray+cast+as+Romeo.+%28Courtesy+Brent+Gibbs%29%26nbsp%3B

University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film & Television professor Brent Gibbs is directing the program’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” this semester with Sydney Di Sabato cast as Juliet and Max Murray cast as Romeo. (Courtesy Brent Gibbs) 

The University of Arizona’s School of Theatre, Film & Television program is hosting its fourth play of the 2022-23 season, “Romeo & Juliet,” from Feb. 26 to March 19 at Tornabene Theatre. The production is expected to have 10 performances, with two being previews and one including a post-show discussion.

Although the program is performing this classic, there will be an added twist to the production. Instead of taking place in Verona, Italy, “Romeo & Juliet” will instead be taking place in Verona, Kentucky.  

The Daily Wildcat had the opportunity to interview the director and the two leads for a behind-the-scenes look at the production.

Brent Gibbs: Professor and director 

As the production’s director, UA TFTV professor Brent Gibbs explained why he picked “Romeo & Juliet” as this season’s Shakespeare production and how he plans on making it stand out.

“I was driving through the hills of Ohio and it suddenly occurred to me that Appalachia is full of tales of fated lovers who meet untimely deaths,” Gibbs said. “It got me thinking that maybe that might be a fruitful setting for our production and so we are indeed setting our production in Verona, Kentucky.” 

Gibbs believes this twist on the play, including the addition of Southern accents, will help the audience take in and understand the over-400-year-old story more easily.

Overall, he said he hopes the audience will not only have their hearts break over the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet but also admire the students’ efforts.

This will be the professor’s 50th production he’s directed at the UA as well as his 23rd Shakespeare play. 

Max Murray: Romeo Montague

Max Murray, a UA junior studying acting, is excited to play Romeo. Landing this role has been a momentous opportunity for him, he explained, since he typically plays more comic relief-type characters. 

With this lead role, Murray wants to bring a lot of himself to the character.

“I want to make a fun, energetic Romeo,” he said, “like you want him to succeed.”

Murray holds a deep love for Shakespeare and said he’s excited about the added twist in this production. 

“I think that’s one of my favorite things about Shakespeare is that you can do so much with it,” Murray said. “These stories have been told so many times that it’s almost like a game to see what new thing you can do with it to make it new and interesting and exciting.”

Murray also spoke about why he loves the UA theater program, highlighting the community amongst students and staff.

“You go to any show after opening night and a lot of the building is just student actors and student stage managers and student costume majors and everybody working in their different parts,” Murray said. “It’s a lovely community working together to make a lovely thing.”

Sydney Di Sabato: Juliet Capulet

Sydney Di Sabato, a UA senior studying musical theater, was thrilled to be cast as Juliet.

“It’s such a titular role, and it’s classical, and I had never done it before,” she said. “There’s not a feeling like it. I was floating amongst the clouds for like a week.”

Di Sabato’s reaction to the change in setting of the play held a special relatability factor to her since she is originally from the South.

“Putting it in Kentucky makes it so different,” Di Sabato said. “And I feel like it makes it more accessible to people because it makes it more of an American rivalry almost, like an American thing, and I think our patrons will love to see that.”

The play will also be incorporating song and dance. Di Sabato highlighted a particular moment in the play that is her favorite so far, one choreographed by Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre Christie Kerr.

“In the party scene, which is towards the very beginning of the show, normally in the original version it’s a really fancy ball with gowns and masks and such, but since we’re doing it in Kentucky … we’re clogging,” she said.

Di Sabato also spoke about her thoughts on the school’s decision to pause the recruitment in the Acting/Musical Theater and Design Tech BFA and MFA programs for the 2023-24 academic year.

“A big part of the show is trying to … show [the school] administration that we’re a successful program and we have talented people,” Di Sabato said. “We’re just trying to do our best work and [show] that live theater is very much alive and well.”

What you need to know

What: 

  • “Romeo & Juliet” presented by the Arizona Repertory Theatre and the University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film & Television

Where:

  • Tornabene Theatre, 1025 N. Olive Rd., Tucson

When: 

  • February 26 – March 19

Tickets:


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