On Friday night I went to go see the school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. My roommate Jenna is the stage manager so I was excited to go. Before going, I had known that the two leads were female in this version, a lesbian relationship. Originally I had thought that this was because of a casting issue. In my experience with theatre it is not uncommon for a large number of girls and a small number of boys. But as I had found out this was a casting choice not based on that.
Many of the characters in this show were gender-swapped or had different sexualities. I was not even aware of how many characters were swapped till after the show. What I really liked and felt was so powerful was that the changes were not extremely noticeable, that it was easy enough for the audience to not focus on that the entire show and just enjoy the performances. Some of the cast had mentioned that in their excitement about having queer characters that was one of the key points they would tell outsiders. It would go along the lines of, “We’re doing Romeo and Juliet but we have two girls as the lead roles”. Depending on whom this was said to, it could really alter their views. One of the issues they had mentioned was by making it a point to tell people this, it took away from the actual performance, that it seemed like the fact that they were gay mattered above all. On a general basis this goes back to how to approach “normalizing” queer roles in the arts or media, that the fact that a character is gay or trans is only one part of them, it doesn’t define who they are or their work.
Another aspect spoken about was the tour group that had come and watched during the rehearsal. Romeo and Juliet does have intimate kissing scenes, which had made some parents uncomfortable. The actors mentioned how after the first kiss scene of the rehearsal some families left. After the second kiss scene more families left. This kind of behavior is common when it comes to the LGBTQ. Unfortunately, they could not focus on the acting or hard work the students were putting in, rather the fact that two girls falling in love and kissing made them uncomfortable. This can say a lot about someone’s character and their political viewpoints.
Overall the cast did a fantastic job with this play, beyond even having queer characters. Their hard work and devotion to this show was visible. I personally loved that characters were gender-swapped; it gave a new element to the show. By doing this the theatre group the LGBTQ community on campus much representation, which I believe is very powerful.