Finding Romeo and Juliet

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The theatre is dimly lit and intimate, almost like a secret closet hidden in the old school building. The worn, faded seats are empty except for the director, brimming with enthusiasm as she waits for the student on stage to recite her lines from her favorite playwright.

It’s the first of three days for auditions of the one-act performance of Romeo and Juliet directed by Deborah Taylor Clapp in the Little Theatre in C106. If the table out front didn’t have stacks of papers under the heading of characters being handed out by assistant director Tricia Bann, you would likely never see the door and walk on by.

A small crowd of students begins to gather outside the door. Some reciting lines, some visiting with their friends from acting class and others are signing-in for the auditions that will go from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. that Monday. Most of the students auditioning are theater students, but auditions are open to all PCC students.

“The more innocent they are, the better they are because they really don’t know Shakespeare. They already have what Shakespeare wants: youth. Because this play is about youth,” said Clapp. Clapp explained she’s looking for passion and innocence and students who can rehearse at night.

The student on stage is Emma Hair, a 20-year-old communications major, and she is reading for the nurse. When she finishes, Clapp asks he if she will read for Juliet. Hair obliges and decides to move to the other side of the stage—she doesn’t want to feel like the nurse when she reads. Clapp reassures her that a lot of theater people do that. Hair takes a deep breath and after some suggestions, reads the lines for Juliet. Clapp, excited by the performance, is thrilled to find out Hair has a car and is free on evenings.

“I was surprised to read for Juliet. I find myself a more comedic character,” said Hair. Although not a theatre student at PCC, she did take opera last semester and she’s familiar with Shakespeare. “I hang around the music building a lot,” said Hair, which is how she learned of the auditions.

Clapp picks out the speeches the students will read for the characters. The students can pick up the scripts ahead of time just like real-life auditions. They have time to work on the texts but Clapp does not require they memorize them for the auditions.

“Don’t worry if it’s wrong or right, don’t edit yourself,” said Clapp. “You want someone who just commits to it. That’s the secret of a good audition. Just commit.”

Clapp had just auditioned a student that never acted before but his commitment to his portrayal is what she wanted. She’s not looking for preconceived ideas. She’ll make suggestion and ask them to try again.

Clapp teaches beginning acting and Shakespeare is her love with its heightened language. She encourages all of her students to audition.

“It’s good for them. It’s part of the process,” said Clapp. She knows who her good actors are but keeps an open mind for the roles. “Sometimes that ‘whoa, who are you?’ person might walk in.”.

Bann introduces Benjamin LaFarge, a 25-year-old international business major. He is tall and brooding with a strong French accent, reading for Romeo. Clapp immediately recognizes LaFarge—he took an acting class last semester at PCC. Aside from the movie, LaFarge is unfamiliar with Shakespeare. He did research before the audition and practiced.

“It’s really deep. I read 10 times just to get meaning,” said LaFarge. He’s hoping to take any role and looks forward to more auditions.

Ada Lai, a business and legal assisting major, wanted to audition as a way of thanking professors Rydbeck and Keast for teaching her. Lai is a trained chemical engineer.

“I really want to train my articulation in English,” she said. Lai studied Shakespeare in Chinese to get emotion and uses the articulation she learned from Rydbeck. For Lai, “acting is the part to go deep inside and the key to acting.”

A one-act is a shortened or abridged play. The Romeo and Juliet one-act is a published version cut by scholars for the Old Globe Theatre in 1935. Clapp is an associate artist of the Old Globe and she’s performed both the full and cut version.

“I was actually in their touring company and did this cut version,” said Clapp.

Romeo and Juliet opens Dec. 6th and will have three performances in the Little Theatre.

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