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My Acting Debut...Whaaat?
Romeo and Juliet enter my life
Here’s the story. I’ve written for the theater but have never acted in it. Why now? The Kaua’i Community Players advertised casting calls for “Romeo and Juliet,” and there was one character, and one only, I felt I could play: Friar Laurence. He’s the father confessor to both Romeo and Juliet, and there would be no play without him. The friar is a kindly man who provides spiritual and moral guidance to all who seek him out and he is of critical importance to the actions taken by Romeo and Juliet.
Confession: Although I knew my lines thoroughly, a case of stage fright enveloped me and my speech about my herbal collecting. I was flummoxed for a few seconds until Romeo rescued me.
Right after Romeo spoke his first words, I snapped out of my befuddlement and performed as I should.
“Holy Saint Francis!” I blurt out and flop down into a chair. Romeo sits next to me.
The friar, however, does agree to perform the marriage ceremony because he feels it may end the feud between the two warring families of Montagues and Capulets.
The feud’s been going on for ages and no one knows how or why it started. It would be unthinkable for a Montague (Romeo) to marry a Capulet (Juliet).
The friar says, “These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die: like fire and powder which as they kiss consume. The sweetest honey is loathsome in his own deliciousness and in the taste confounds the appetite. Therefore, love moderately, long love doth so. Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.”
Romeo says nothing, and as soon as the friar’s speech ends, Juliet enters the friar’s cell. After the greetings and a brief Romeo and Juliet kiss, the friar ushers them to a place where he’ll perform the wedding ceremony.
The action shifts. Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin Tybalt in a sword fight soon after Tybalt killed Romeo’s friend, Mercutio. The penalty is death; but the Prince, the ruling authority of Verona, spares Romeo’s life and banishes him to Mantua.
When Juliet learns of these events from her nurse, she is beside herself with sadness and goes to the friar for advice. The friar knows her plight and tries to find a solution.
Friar Laurence tells Juliet that the potion will be effective for 42 hours. During this time she’ll have no pulse, no warmth, and no breath, and when she’s awakened the next morning she’ll seem dead. She’ll be moved to the Capulet tomb where all previous Capulets are kept. They are not buried, but kept in a large airless chamber.
The friar also tells Juliet that Romeo, by his letters, will know what’s happening, and that he’ll return to Verona just as Juliet awakens. The friar will be with Romeo when this happens. Then Romeo will take Juliet to Mantua where they can live until it’s safe for him to return to Verona.
Alas, the friar’s plan goes awry. Romeo never receives the friar’s letters because the bearer of those letters was kept from entering Mantua because of plague. Balthazar, Romeo’s man, has been keeping his eye open on happenings at the Capulet residence, and he is able, somehow, to get to Romeo in Mantua. He tells Romeo Juliet is dead. Romeo is in anguish and decides he wants to be with Juliet and kill himself. He obtains a poison from an apothecary and heads to the Capulet tomb.
Romeo is with Juliet and he comments on how alive she looks. He drinks the poison and falls dead. Juliet awakes and sees the dead Romeo. She hears a noise, takes Romeo’s dagger, and stabs herself. She dies, falling on Romeo’s body.
We performed this 30-minute adaptation of a 2 1/2 hour play twice at Mark Jeffers’ Storybook Theater in Hanapepe. Every year Mark hosts a Shakespeare festival to celebrate the bard’s birthday. This year, scenes from three of his plays took to the stage: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo & Juliet, and King Henry IV, along with some dancing and recitings of poems and sonnets.
And a good time was had by all!
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