It takes a lot of effort to make a Macalester Main Stage play happen. From September to November of this year, actors, a director, stage managers, costumers, set builders, publicists, ushers, and others in the Theatre and Dance Department put in thousands of hours producing Romeo and Juliet. As an actor in the show, I witnessed firsthand all the—literal—blood, sweat, and tears that went into the show’s creation.
Like the other actors, I was in rehearsal up to six times a week for three-plus hours a night preparing the show. As a cast, we moved at breakneck speed from auditions to script read-throughs, into the Black Box theatre, and then up to the Main Stage, jettisoning scripts as we memorized lines and accumulated props, costumes, fight choreography, music cues, lights, sets, and makeup.
Giving the play an unconventional twist, guest director Matt Sciple chose to have the entire cast play the parts of Romeo and Juliet rather than casting single actors. In the final production, there are moments, notably in the balcony scene, where the entire cast—seven Juliets and seven Romeos—is simultaneously present on stage.
To cast an ensemble capable of pulling off this concept, Sciple led auditions in which actors were asked to tackle monologues in groups. This allowed him to see how people took the lead, acted out images, and brought the text to life. From these auditions, the newly formed cast jumped into our first read-through of the script—a version significantly altered from Shakespeare’s original. Many lines have been cut or merged and the multiple casting of Romeo and Juliet creates a choral-like effect.
But back to that blood, sweat, and tears. First, we regularly sweated, especially as guest artist and fight choreographer Brandon Ewald taught us how to throw a good stage punch. The crying came both on stage, as the Juliets and Romeos died, and offstage, as stress and schoolwork sometimes got the best of us (though fellow actors were always close by with a hug). We bled only once, and accidentally, when an actor ran his leg into a metal pole.
Yet on Friday, November 9, all the hours, work, and pain proved worth it when the show opened to a nearly sold out crowd.