Romeo and Juliet - Notes from the Director


Here are some notes I gave the actors before we started rehearsals:

I want us to create an R&J with “two households, both alike in dignity.”
  • there’s no reason for this feud, there’s no “right side” in the feud
  • neither family is “better” than the other
  • there’s no reason why Juliet should not be able to be matched with Romeo
I want us to find the balance Shakespeare gives us in presenting a world that’s messed up.
  • it’s NOT a world in which the kids are always right and the parents are always wrong (or vice-versa)
  • the kids, the parents, the confidants, the royals all think they are doing the right thing
  • I want a world in which everyone is making the best possible choices for the people they love and it still goes tragically wrong
  • I want us to find all that’s sacred and all that’s profane in this world
  • I want all the love and all the lust embedded in these lines
  • I want all the unmatchable beauty and reasonless hate Shakespeare gives us
I want us to create an R&J that finds and milks all the humor and bawdiness Shakespeare gives us.
  • this “tragedy” has the funniest and bawdiest first half in all Shakespeare
  • teenage boys in every era tell dirty jokes and have sex on the brain (although the Nurse and Juliet have their fair share of bawdiness in this play too)
  • we don’t have to illustrate dirty jokes with gestures and gyrations
  • but part of our job is letting the meaning and the humor breathe
  • we will not add bawdiness that Shakespeare did not write
  • if the audience hears a dirty joke, Shakespeare is the culprit
I want us to create an R&J that finds all the love that Shakespeare gives us.
  • it’s so much easier to seek and play the negative; I want us to find the love
  • I want the chemistry, passion, awkwardness, and excitement between Juliet and Romeo to remind us all what it was like to fall in love for the first time or the last time, or show us what we have in front of us if we haven’t yet fallen in love
I DON’T want absolute villains.
I DON’T want flawless heroes.
I DON’T want an R&J that’s just about kids for kids or an R&J that’s just cynical adults putting down youth or love.

  • Shakespeare gives us deliciously three dimensional characters
  • let’s find all of the nuance, intensity, passion there is to find
  • we really can hold the mirror up to nature, so let’s do it
  • I want the parents who see our show to see themselves in it, warts and all
  • I want the kids who see our show to see themselves in it, pimples and all
I want us to create an R&J with great stage violence.
I want us to create an R&J that moves me (and others in the audience) to real tears.

  • I want us to take the audience on this remarkably modern ride and let the language envelope them in the love, the friendship, the humor, the rage, the ache, the fun that make this play as exciting and relevant today as it was four hundred years ago.

Jim Warren
ASC Co-founder and Artistic Director