Myswyken to stage new adaptation: “Romeo vs. Juliet”

This Saturday, April 22 at 7 p.m. may be your only chance to witness a guidance counselor marry a couple of high schoolers over the Book of Mormon in the courtyard between Boe Chapel and Buntrock Commons.

Myswyken Salad Theatre Company will put on “Romeo vs. Juliet,” directed by Ian Sutherland ’18 and Ash Willison ’17, a variation of the classic star-crossed lover’s tale set in a contemporary high school. In this iteration, Romeo (Matt Stai ’18) and Juliet (Christine Menge ’18) are rebelling not from their families but from their high school cliques. The Capulets are a cheer squad, the Montagues are a lacrosse team and their feud centers around a bitter prom breakup. Some of the scenes have been rearranged and the language has been reworked to suit the more modern setting, such as changing “kinsmen” to “squadmates.”

“We talked a lot about inherited conflict,” Sutherland said. “There’s the sort of traditional men vs. women conflict in the show, which is an inherited conflict. People from older generations have brought this notion that there’s a competition between the sexes. And also there’s an inherited conflict between the team and the squad.”

According to Sutherland, the show questions the nature of inherited conflict and how we live in it, with implications for the society we live in today.

“I think it’s very important right now, as we have not only a very partisan divide in the U.S. but also a rural/ urban split,” he said. “It’s how do we bridge that gap, is there a way to bridge that gap right now, or is it just going to devolve?”

Willison and Sutherland started working on the script in January.

“We had to go through a lot of it and say what fits, what doesn’t fit anymore and we had to restructure a lot of it,” Sutherland said. The ending in particular is notably different from the original.

Several members of the production pointed to the focus on movement as an important part of the production, from the fights to the party scenes.

“It’s a very stylized show, everything is really pushed to the extreme,” Bjorn Long ’19, who plays Mercutio, said.

“Ash is very interested in physical theater, which is to say theater – not necessarily musical – that emphasizes physicality as an expression of the inner emotions,” Sutherland said. The directors did not bring in a choreographer; rather, about 80 percent of the moves in the show were created by the actors themselves.

“It was so much fun to set them off with a task and see what they came back with,” he said.

There were some challenges involved in the production, as many students were involved in other productions such as “August: Osage County” and “Krapp’s Last Tape,” making scheduling difficult. On top of that, student productions like Myswyken ask a lot of its members, since the actors are also responsible for all of the aspects of the show.

“It’s our job to to come up with costumes, props, posters,” Long said. “It’s your own clothes, so you have to figure out [how] to get fake blood out of them.”

“Student theater is challenging. I can’t believe we’re stupid enough to keep doing it but I love it,” Tybalt actor Bess Clement ’18 said.

The cast promises an energetic and fun-filled start to Saturday.

“We’re all so committed to making this fun for people,” Clement said. “I’m excited for people to see a non-standard kind of theater.”

Audience members are encouraged to boo, cheer and interact with the characters. According to Sutherland, they even briefly considered having the audience move around to different parts of the stage, before opting for the more accessible option of setting up chairs and blankets in one place.

The forecast for Saturday is currently sunny, but come rain or shine the Myswyken Salad Theatre Company will be bringing pom-poms, laughs and timely commentary on conflict to the Boe courtyard.