April is National Poetry Month, and is also the month of both Shakespeare’s birth and death. Every year, a troupe of actors from the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company perform a Shakespearian play at the college, sponsored by UC Clermont’s English, Languages, and Fine Arts Department. Recently, students, faculty, staff, and local community members near Clermont College had the opportunity to observe a unique rendering of Romeo and Juliet.
Professor JoAnn Thompson is responsible for bringing the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company to UC Clermont, and she has seen every performance they have put on at the college. She confided that Julius Caesar is her favorite play she has seen them perform. She enjoys hearing phrases throughout Shakespeare plays that have become commonplace English expressions. When she came to UC Clermont and realized that many students had never seen a stage play, much less a Shakespearean play, she decided to contact the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and arrange to have them perform at the school. Because of her involvement, there has been a show put on at Clermont every year for the past eight years.
On its website, The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company describes itself as “a resident ensemble theatre company bringing Shakespeare and the Classics to life for audiences of all ages.” In 2014, the company completed the entire Shakespeare canon, a feat accomplished by only five theaters nationwide. The company has a theater at 719 Race Street, but will soon be unveiling a new location called the Otto M. Budig Theater.
The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company also has a significant focus on arts education. They have a group of young professional actors that travel to parts of the tristate area to perform in schools, parks, and other facilities. This program reaches over 50,000 people a year. The goal is to make Shakespearean works more relatable to students and to help kindle a passion for the plays. When used for educational purposes, the shows only run ninety minutes long in order to keep students interested and prevent as many scheduling conflicts as possible. This is the type of performance hosted at UC Clermont.
Before the play started, the cast members could be seen rehearsing on stage for their various fight scenes. Kyle, Tess, Cary, Christian, Eden, and Brandon were the actors who performed in Romeo and Juliet. Since only six actors performed in the play, they each performed the roles of multiple characters; additionally, some characters were played by actors of the opposite gender. This gave the play an interesting twist, and the audience especially got a chuckle out of the male nurse.
The play was put on in a very minimalistic manner. Few props were used—mainly boxes, curtains, and small items that could be held in someone’s hand. The actors all wore black shirts and pants, layering skirts, hats, jackets or other costumes depending on which character they were playing. The cast also gave Romeo and Juliet more of a modern feel. Footballs, iPhones, and a masked ball filled with Montagues dressed as Marvel superheroes and Capulets dressed as DC characters contributed to this. After the play was completed, the actors held an informal question and answer session with the audience. They discussed several topics, including the audition process for The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the process of designing sets, and the team’s rehearsal schedule.
Kyle Brumley is the ensemble and tour manager for this season; he also acted in the play, notably starring as Romeo. This year was his second time performing at UC Clermont. He told The Lantern that he loves the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company because all of the plays are cast from the same small pool of actors, and the way the company is set up allows a close-knit community to form. His favorite Shakespearean works he has performed in are Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. This is because of the continuity in the characters. He had the opportunity to play the same character in both, and he explained that it was amazing to see the character development throughout the two works.
He also explained that, for him, developing a love of Shakespeare took time. However, as he got older, he was able to get a different perspective on the plays. “[Shakespeare is] a great life companion,” he stated. This is because at different points in a person’s life, they will be able to relate to different aspects of the story and the lives of the characters. There is a lot that can be learned from Shakespeare’s writings, and it is impossible to catch on to every lesson after reading a play once.
See more about the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company at https://cincyshakes.com/about-us/