On Sept. 14, “Romeo and Juliet” will take the stage at the Givens Performing Arts Center. This is a onenight-only performance directed by Jonathan Drahos and performed by a professional cast. “Romeo and Juliet” has seen many adaptations before, and it will be reimagined again on the GPAC stage.
“I am setting it in the 1950s,” Drahos said. “I’m doing this because I want it to resonate with the post- World War II ethos in America. That was the last bastion, last decade of innocence in America. It was pre60s and 70s where we had scandals and political factions. The feeling of the 50s in urban areas had issues with immigrants and factions becoming territorial. Families have consternation based on ethnic divisions and cultural differences that were very real. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ resonates with the xenophobic aspect that we are perhaps seeing today as well.“
Drahos’ love for Shakespeare began when he was 16. He played a soldier with a single line in a production of “Richard the II,” and that was enough to inspire him to make Shakespeare his life’s work. He loved the language and its rhythm.
“In the modern age we are starting to devalue language, and it is important to elevate and celebrate language,” he said. “When we devalue language, we devalue communication. The danger is that when we devalue communication, we may start to devalue each other. Shakespeare elevates language and challenges people to communicate creatively.”
While Shakespeare is a mainstay in English classes, it can still be intimidating to study his work. However, watching a live Shakespeare play is an entirely different experience. Drahos explained: “Ninety-five percent of the words that Shakespeare used we still use today. It’s the way that they are put together that makes them what I call a rhetorical scramble. Our job as artists is to unscramble them.” Drahos and the cast constantly question whether their work transforms the unfamiliar language into familiar problems and emotions.
“We have the opportunity at GPAC to offer Southeast North Carolina a professional production of a modern interpretation of Shakespeare,” Drahos said. “I implore people to think of that as important to our community and our culture. I implore people to come out and support it.”
This year’s season at GPAC is full of a variety of high-quality productions. September will feature “Extreme Illusions & Escapes” and the musical group Derik Nelson & Family. October has martial artists and acrobats of Tianjin and “Who’s Bad: A Tribute to Michael Jackson.” In November, GPAC hosts “Cirque Dreams Holidaze.” December brings the 9th Annual Holiday Extravaganza. January features Well-Strung, a string quartet. March brings “Amazing Grace: The Musical” and “Wizard of Oz: The Musical.”
There is something for everyone this year. Call (910) 521-6000 for tickets and more information.