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Parting is such sweet sorrow but Romeo and Juliet is just the beginning

Romeo (Christopher Hartman) and Juliet (Addi Helms) meet during the masquerade ball. Romeo and Juliet represents the start of Addi Helms’ Shakespeare career. (Northern Review photo/Harrison Heinig)

The 2018-2019 season opener is in the books for the Ohio Northern Theatre Department as the cast of Romeo and Juliet completed their rendition of Shakespeare's classic love story.

A tall gray stone wall was the backdrop of the tale of forbidden love in fair Verona. The focal point of an otherwise drab background was a simple balcony, framed by a beautiful stain glass window. Interwoven with bursts of cool and warm colors, the window symbolized the tangled relationship between the feuding houses. The characters had steampunk-inspired outfits in blues if they were a Montague and reds if they were a Capulet.

At floor level there was a platform about half a foot tall in the shape of the capital letter “I”. A stone octagon was the lone prop on the stage and the raised surface hid a track that it could move on. This versatile tool glided upstage, downstage, or even into the stone backdrop depending on what setting the scene required. The octagon served as the centerpiece of the town square during an intense fight sequence or Juliet’s bed where she traded passionate kisses with her lover. Her bed was also where she drank the well-intended but doomed potion that aided in spiraling the already complicated situation out of control.

The artists, designers, and performers involved in Romeo and Juliet spun this masterpiece in their own creative way. A unique element of this play from other productions in Biggs Theatre was that audience members could watch the story from a different perspective; they could sit on stage. There were three rows of seats on both stage left and stage right. Viewers were mere feet from the actors and could see the whites of their eyes as they battled in weapons combat, exclaimed with giddy excitement, and lamented their sorrows.

A post-show discussion with the performers and directors was opened up to the audience after the close of the final performance.

This question and answer session let the true personalities of the cast shine through and helped the audience gain insight about the production. One audience member asked a question regarding how many cast members had never done a Shakespeare production. The percentage of hands raised was an astounding figure over seventy-five percent, which included many of the leads. There were a few audible gasps from audience members because the production was so well pulled off that it did not seem like a first-time experience for many of the cast. This is a testament to the hard work of the individuals in Romeo and Juliet and to Ohio Northern University Theatre Department.

Not only is Romeo and Juliet the beginning of the current theatre arts season but it is also the start of Addi Helms’ Shakespeare career.

Addi Helms, a senior musical theatre major, played the role of Juliet. She was one of the many who had never done a Shakespeare work before but she completely enjoyed the experience. The leading lady reflected, “I think that this process has made me realize that if I had to do Shakespeare for the rest of my life and that’s all I could do I would do it."

"I love it and I really want to keep doing that kind of work.”

To put the process of producing Romeo and Juliet into an outsider’s perspective, the artists auditioned in May, had the summer to look over their work, and only had five weeks after break to rehearse together as a cohesive cast. Addi explained, “Brian [the director] wanted to have three good rehearsals of reading through the play and talking about the language and the big Shakespeare obstacles to overcome that would unlock things for us over the summer.”

One of the difficulties audiences face when watching Shakespeare can be understanding the dialogue. Learning to speak the words are a different story but Addi had taken her director’s Shakespeare class, which helped in her preparation for the role. 

In her words the dialogue process was, "not as hard as I thought because of the class. We worked a long time in the class learning about the language and what things mean. I really loved it from the get-go so I just absorbed all that. When you love to learn something, it sticks in your brain.”

It’s safe to say that Juliet’s line “parting is such sweet sorrow” rang true for Addi Helms as she said goodbye to playing the iconic role.

Romeo and Juliet performances occurred on September 27, 28, 29, and 30 with matinee and evening times at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm in Biggs Theatre. Tickets for upcoming theatre arts productions at the Freed Center may be purchased at the Freed Center Box Office between 12 pm-5 pm Monday through Friday and 10 am-2 pm on Saturdays. Tickets are also available online at https://www.onu.edu/freed or by calling the Box Office at 419-772-1900.

 

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