By Brian Robin
Teen Players Rise to the Challenge In "After Juliet"
Hisa Takakuwa sees her mandate directing the Teen Players as a challenging one, which is a good thing. Because this challenge cuts both ways.
Challenging for her to select plays that stretch the range of her actors. And challenging for her actors to learn and build their acting skills.
“When I choose a Teen Players play, it’s important for me to balance shows and to do a range of shows over the time a student may spend in the Players,” said Takakuwa, who is directing the Teen Players in After Juliet by Sharman Macdonald. “Doing different things is the best learning experience for them.”
Takakuwa has given her Players different challenges. Three years ago, it was Metamorphosis by Mary Zimmerman. Two years ago, the Teen Players—advanced students in grades 10-12 from SCR’s Theatre Conservatory—performed Snow Angel by David Lindsey-Abaire, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Rabbit Hole. Last year, Takakuwa went the Charles Dickens route with Nicholas Nickleby.
All plays with different demands for actors.
After Juliet was part of a National Theatre of Great Britain project that commissioned plays to be performed by young people. Takakuwa said she chose it largely because it’s written in a multi-layered form that combines forms of Shakespearean language with a contemporary voice. It allows the cast to dive into character work and language in a challenging—yet accessible—manner.
“The play deals with loss and coming to terms with a world that is different and changing and I think that makes it more resonant and powerful right now,” Takakuwa said. “I always think it’s important that the play is told in their voice and I think this is something they can really identify with, stretch themselves and challenge themselves. And they can do it in a space like the Nicholas Studio, which is the perfect size. There’s something special about being in an intimate space. This play has acapella singing and to do it without amplification to me is so raw and personal. We don’t get to experience that much in theatre …
“There’s different storytelling and different roles to play. There’s something about the language. They get to play characters their own ages, which I always think is a good thing.”
After Juliet begins where Romeo and Juliet ends—and it’s told from the point of view of the teens who knew them best. Benvolio, Romeo’s best friend, is in love with Rosaline, Juliet’s cousin. But Rosaline is still carrying a torch for Romeo—and she’s bent on revenge. This sequel is based on an original idea by Keira Knightley and written by her mother, with thanks to William Shakespeare.
“Our goal is to make it feel real and alive for audiences,” Takakuwa said.
After Juliet runs for seven performances May 20-28 and tickets are $15.