Indiana University faculty member in composition Don Freund's music drama Romeo and Juliet begins a five venue tour on Thursday, March 17, at the Bloomington Playwrights Project, where it premiered two years ago.
"It's very appropriate that we return to the BPP, because in some ways the kind of new theatre they do there was what got me started on this," Freund says. "But, I hasten to add, this time we're really rethinking the process and the production. To do that, we're dipping deeply into the resources of Indiana University."
It was the production's original Romeo, IU Jacobs School of Music student Sean McCarther, who proposed the new production. "I very much wanted to do it again," McCarther says. "We were able to get some of the original cast [back onstage], together with some new singers." He goes on to say that there are changes. "This time, we're going for a minimal set with modern dress to focus even more on the music, the story and the characters."
Arwen Myers is one of the new singers; she plays Juliet. "It's been a real treat for me to work with the group, with the intimate setting, and with Juliet. I'm used to bigger venues, and actually being less than a football field away from the audience really offers some opportunities-along with some challenges. It's been really interesting to get to know Juliet. She's wise beyond her years."
Minimal Production For Maximum Drama
Although the production eliminates some visual effects and costumes there's still an emphasis on drama. "For this we brought in stage director John Maness from the IU Theatre and Drama Department. John's total concern is with the theatrical rather than the musical aspects," says Freund.
Romeo and Juliet also sought help from IU's Arts Administration Program. Producers for the company and the tour are graduate students Katie Spohr and Kelly Scott. "For our program we have to complete internships. Kelly and I both have backgrounds in musical theatre. When we saw the opportunity, we took it," said Spohr.
So far, she says, the toughest challenge has been to get the whole group together. "Everyone is so talented that they're all involved with other projects. We're kind of working on a âsummer stock' model with individual meetings and then an intense couple of weeks prior to the opening. It's tough, but it's going to be good."
Thursday, March 17, 8pm, Bloomington Playwrights Project
Sunday, March 20, 3pm, Northern Kentucky University
Saturday, April 2, 3pm, Vincennes University
Sunday, April 3, 3pm, Jackson County Theatre (Brownstown, IN)
Sunday, April 10, 2pm, Monroe County Public Library Auditorium