Apprentices help bring modern twist to Shakespeare in Rowayton
'Romeo and Juliet' given modern twist
Shakespeare on the Sound will kick off its 17th season with "Romeo and Juliet" at Rowayton's Pinkney Park on Wednesday, July 18, at 7:30 p.m. Its twist on the tale of the star-crossed lovers from feuding families promises to captivate audiences as the story unfolds on stage, but what goes on behind the scenes is just as exciting for teens in the SOS apprentice program.
Her friend, Cordelia Diamond, a fellow student, urged her to apply to the company's apprentice program. Diamond is working this summer as the production's costume design associate.
Since May, Iovinelli has traveled to Manhattan to help outfit the cast.
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"I've really learned a lot," she said.
Working closely with "Romeo and Juliet's" costume designer Tilly Grimes, Iovinelli has seen how the characters' inner traits are explored visually. Using "very clean, crisp" images, Grimes reveals a "modern twist on Shakespeare," Iovinelli said.
For example, the character Mercutio, who is "quick-tempered and very violent," is costumed in red pants.
Prior to the production's run in Rowayton, "Romeo and Juliet" played for two weeks at Baldwin Park in Greenwich. Before each show, Iovinelli arrived at the park early to make sure each actor's costumes were laundered and neatly pressed.
"I help to organize the dressing rooms," she said.
During the performance, she assisted the actors with quick costume changes.
"I've definitely learned a lot this summer," Iovinelli said.
Leslie Bloomer Lawrence, Shakespeare on the Sound's board president, said she is thrilled that Rowayton has its own local Shakespeare festival.
Shortly after moving to Rowayton in 1998, Lawrence and her husband began their tradition of attending the outdoor performances.
"One year, we happened to be in the park with our kids, who were then 2 and 4 years old, and they were mesmerized by it," Lawrence said. "Ever since then, we've been taking them."
Her children, now 11 and 13, look forward to SOS' annual production. Two year ago, Lawrence joined the organization's board of directors and in October she was nominated as its president.
"We provide a show that's very accessible," Lawrence said. "I love that we have magic happening in our own park in Norwalk."
This year, the magic unfolds under the watchful eye of Joanna Settle, who returns for the fourth season at the helm of Shakespeare on the Sound. Setting the production in modern times, the play begins at a dinner party enjoyed by close friends who get together annually to break bread, imbibe merrily and act out a dramatic narrative.
This opening scene was written by Stew who, along with Heidi Rodewald, composed "Romeo and Juliet's" music and songs. Shakespeare also frequently uses this play-within-a-play device to tell his story.
With a sense of frivolity, the contemporary characters read the Bard's opening lines using scripts in hand. However, they quickly became immersed in their respective characters words and emotions.
"As they read it, they fall into the play," Settle said. "We start in the daylight in a very public way. The play then descends very deeply into the privacy of the characters as it gets darker outside."
"Romeo and Juliet" is filled with authentic characters and relevant themes.
"Illicit love is all over this play," Settle said. "It's also about having a great love, perhaps the one that got away."
Portrayed by Ali Ahn, Settle's Juliet is an adult married woman who reignites a passion for Romeo, a former beau. Local audiences may remember William Jackson Harper, who plays Romeo, for his critically acclaimed turn last season as the romantic lead in Shakespeare on the Sound's "Much Ado About Nothing." He delivers his lines crisply and with so much feeling that there is no mistaking the meaning of the Elizabethan prose rattling off his tongue.
Children are invited to attend a pre-show performed by Shakespeare on the Sound's apprentices at the education tent located in Pinkney Park. Under the tent, volunteers provide crafts and word-search activities, which relate to Shakespeare and "Romeo and Juliet."
Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and are free with a suggested donation of $20, $10 for students. Bring your blanket or chair. For information, visit www.shakespeareonthesound.org.