Romeo and Juliet -

Syosset High School

 Director's Notes 

                  It comes
                 Only but a lifetime
                 And I can't wait for heaven's call
                 For I've been waiting all my life
                 It's in your eyes, in your eyes”
                     "Paroles de Fate" - Schiller


   One of the greatest joys of being a director at Syosset High School is seeing the wonderful changes that occur in students from their first tentative steps in the halls as ninth grade students to the confident strides they make across the stage as graduating seniors. It always strikes me how much I have been blessed by fate to have had these young people as my charges even if it is for only a brief time. 

    In approaching Romeo and Juliet, we are visiting what is arguably the most celebrated couple in Western literature. It’s part of the ninth grade curriculum in schools across the country so it always strikes me as interesting that everyone feels they completely know this play. The most famous example of this being the line ‘Wherefore art thou, Romeo?’ which many people often think means ‘Where are you?’ but of course it means ‘Why are you?’ What Juliet is actually saying is, why do you have to be called Romeo?  Of all the boys in Verona, why did you have to be a Montague?
   This particular play been performed thousands of times over the centuries by countless actors, we've even produced it here twice before - nine and nineteen years ago. With this production we wanted the characters to be genuine and authentic, not just archetypes sculpted over time. Our actors have brought their own creativity, experiences and imagination to this incredible story. It’s a play that is structured around opposites, contradictions, contrasts and antitheses at every level: the play begins with the word ‘two’; you have Montague versus Capulet; you have Romeo and Juliet; Romeo has two father figures – Montague and, and to an extent, Mercutio; Juliet has two mother figures – Nurse and Lady Capulet.
     Then there are scenes in the play which pair with each other, for example there are two scenes where Nurse comes in with news – the first time is really good news where Juliet is going to get married, then it’s the really bad news that Tybalt is dead.  Another is when Romeo meets Juliet at Sister Laurenza's cell and then she later meets Paris in the same locale.
     The plot throughout the play is actually really flimsy if you try to analyze it too closely. When my children were younger, my family and I used to have a “what if” game we would play in which we try to see how soon we can end a play or musical – for instance, what happens if Jean Valjean doesn’t steal the bread in Les Miserables?  I got drawn to the idea that if Romeo turned up ten minutes late to the tomb, it would have all been fine and Juliet would have been awake (let’s just forget about Paris for a minute). It’s not like that particular Scottish play where the titular character kills the king and pays the consequences of that action. From about Act II it’s fairly clear that he is on the downward turn of the wheel of fate.

     Romeo and Juliet is not like that – even down to the fact when the Montague boys go to the party where Romeo meets Juliet, it’s to make a comparison – to go and look at other girls, to ‘weigh in the scales of your eyes’. They only go because Lord Capulet has happened to give the list of invites to someone who cannot read (another what if) and who has to ask Romeo for help.
     Culturally, we see the play through the words of the Prologue that the play is about fate and they’re already doomed from the start. However, if you really look at the story, another huge theme Shakespeare seems to be interested in is the influence of coincidence. As a playwright he always looked at both sides of the coin – which is the one of the most amazing, and consequently lasting, things about his plays.

   Through the years, we’ve had alumni of many of our past productions go on to make a career as classical actors in venues across the world.  This is due in part because fate (or coincidence?) brought them to us in order that the words of the bard could strike a chord within them and they had the chance to begin playing those chords upon this very stage.  It was my dream twenty-six years ago that we could continue to bring Shakespeare to the SHS stage year after year.  Today the joy these actors take in their accomplishment of their work has been my reward and I can’t wait to see what the next generation brings to this stage and the world at large – and to see where fate (or coincidence?) takes them.  To help them (even if only a little) on their journey has been the fulfillment of my dream.

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