My colleague at The Roanoke Times, Dwayne Yancey, who’s also a playwright and theater maven, shares more about his experience with plays abroad. Here he returns to the Renaissance Theatre in Lynchburg (which he has visited before) and finds continued evidence of a thriving theater scene. —MikeA
Your readers may recall that about a month ago, I went to the Renaissance Theatre in Lynchburg to see “The Full Monty” and came back marveling at how youthful the crowd was — in marked contrast to many of the theatre crowds I see here in the Roanoke Valley. Some wondered at the time if that was simply a function of Renaissance doing a musical – and a recent and raucous musical at that (about male strippers, if you don’t know the story.)
Well . . . over the weekend, I went back to the Renaissance, this time to see “Romeo and Juliet,” which is certainly not recent nor particularly raucous –- although the theatre makes it a very modern adaptation, with the Capulets and Montagues as political rivals in a Senate race.
This time, I conducted a census, of sorts. It’s always difficult to guess people’s ages, so my estimates here are fairly broad but . . . only about 20 percent of the audience appeared to be age 60 or over, while nearly half appeared to be under age 35 – and most of those appeared to be clearly under age 30. I fall somewhere between those two cohorts and often I’m one of the youngest people in the audience at shows in the Roanoke Valley.
OK, maybe not enough said. The Renaissance has put together a fun little marketing campaign for the show, creating “campaign videos” for “Senator Capulet” and his challenger, Montague. (You can find them below.) Characters are dressed as campaign workers – with stickers, badges, and so forth. Romeo’s compatriot Mercutio is a punk girl with blue hair. To complete the theme, you need to read the program closely. Some of the minor characters who only had one name now have a full name – Petra Lewinsky and Abigail Palin. Director Melora Kordos hasn’t tinkered with the Bard’s words – other than to insert a brief audio clip of election returns coming in – although she has made one important change. Juliet is blind. Melora told me she didn’t think “Romeo and Juliet” works in a modern setting; why would a 21st century teen-age girl need a full-time nurse, as she does in the original, unless she has some impairment? That change makes for some fascinating stageplay, with Juliet often fumbling to find her cane, and lends new meaning to the famous balcony scene. “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” is a whole lot different when Juliet can’t see Romeo on the ground below.
Also of note: Kelly Anglim of Roanoke, who has been often seen in shows at Showtimers, Off the Rails (now Gamut) and the former Studio Roanoke, is in the show, as Lady Capulet. The show runs through Saturday.