Two River Theater’s most popular education program in Red Bank, New Jersey is creating something entirely new with Tiny Shakes: Romeo and Juliet, adapted and directed by Em Weinstein (A Little Shakespeare: Twelfth Night).
Weinstein and Two River’s Education Director Kate Cordaro joined WBGO Journal host Doug Doyle to talk about the exciting and creative break from the theater’s A Little Shakespeare productions.
Because of the limitations of 2021 and coronavirus pandemic, Tiny Shakes brings high school students (audition submissions due March 1) from all over the country together with a professional design team, with students performing and supporting the production behind the scenes.
Em Weinstein says students will get a great opportunity to delve deeply into Shakespeare’s star-crossed romantic tragedy, giving them creative license to come up with virtual interpretations through TikTok videos, animation, dance routines, as well as rap battles and traditional scene readings.
“I love Shakespeare. I think Shakespeare taught me so much about gender, identity, falling in love and language. I’m mostly a writer these days, but what I love about working on Shakespeare is kind of get to write using his incredible language. You get to contemporize it and bring new stories and make it sing in a time that’s 400 years later where the words are still relevant and sometimes not. What’s fun about Shakespeare is that you are not going to break it, so you can have a lot of fun.”
With that in mind, the videos selected will be edited into a theatrical collage that can be accessed through Two River’s website this May.
Kate Cordaro has led the education efforts at Two River Theater since 2004.
“I am very excited about Tiny Shakes because it’s really using this time and place where we are now and all of the restrictions that are put on us and having the creativity come out of that. I loved having conversations with Em that were very admimant about really using this as opportunity. Em really brought the theater along to their vision of this idea. I’m thrilled by it and I love it. Usually A Little Shakespeare, you know it’s a 75-minute cut of a Shakespeare play which is directed and designed by theater professionals and performed and supported backstage by high school students. We’ve done this model for seven years. Being able to use this time when we can’t gather and change it completely, like just break it and build it into something completely new is thrilling. We’re all looking for inspriation these days aren’t we?”
Cordaro says the student submissions can be sent to the theater’s website.
“The great thing about this is our rehearsals are in the Eastern Time Zone. If you are able to make those rehearsals, you can audition. We have some kids in Georgia who have signed up for auditions already just because they have enthusiastic teachers who know about Two River and are excited about it.”
Weinstein’s MFA came from Yale’s School of Drama. Em says Romeo and Juliet can be a dangerous play for teens if it’s done poorly.
“I think it can actually really glorify suicide in a way that I don’t Shakespeare really intended at all. He tells you in the beginning that this is all fate and that these two young people are star-crossed lovers who were destined to die, so sit back and watch two hours and let fate work its magic. And then what you actually see is a whole bunch of adult failings and poor decisions, miscommunication and like human pain and error. But then you end up watching these two kids take their lives and I think Shakespeare wants you to be pretty angry and to be like, what, that shouldn’t have happened. There’s nothing romantic about that. That’s just plain tragic, pathetic and preventable. I think that resonates with me and hopefully resonates with the kids I work with too. It’s an anti-teen sucide piece in a lot of ways. But I also there’s so much other right material about falling in love, having crushes on your best friend who doesn’t like you back and getting into fights, there’s so much there.”
You can see the zoom chat with Weinstein and Cordaro here.