Welcome to the final production of our 2017 season, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s a play
that changed my life.
Decades ago, as a young actor in the company of the Guthrie Theater, I was promised the role of
Romeo in a production to be directed by the company’s brilliant artistic director, Michael Langham.
But ultimately the play was dropped from the repertory and replaced by Shakespeare’s dark comedy
Measure for Measure. My heartbreak was leavened by being cast in the scene-stealing role of Lucio,
however, and life—as it must for us theater artists—went on.
Not many years later, at the newly- forming Shakespeare festival in Visalia, California, Michael
asked me to play Mercutio in Romeo and to helm what would have been my first Shakespeare play as
director, The Taming of the Shrew. At the last minute, for personal reasons, Michael had to
withdraw, and he suggested to the festival’s founders that I should replace him. Suddenly I was
conceiving both productions with designers, casting a large repertory acting company for both Romeo
and Shrew, and assuming the mantle of Artistic Director of the lavishly produced new California
I found it easy to channel my love for the character of Romeo into the whole play, and, in
repertory with Shrew, I reveled in finding my feet as a director. It wasn’t easy, but it was
exhilarating and humbling and, due to the magnificence of Shakespeare’s vision and language, soul-
stirring. Directing, unlike acting, enabled
me to draw on many other parts of myself, some I didn’t even know I possessed. Both productions
were successful, yet Romeo became a kind of joyous Parnassus for me, a pinnacle of powerful beauty
that I’ve had the enormous good fortune of revisiting as I’ve matured.
Scholar Harold Bloom calls Romeo and Juliet “the largest and most persuasive celebration of
romantic love in Western literature,” its permanent popularity, “of mythic intensity.” For me, its
power stems from the ability of its protagonists to move from infatuation to passion to the deep
wisdom that only great love brings. Real love is, as Juliet says, “as boundless as the sea.” It
endlessly expands our ability to give ourselves to another. We cannot love the way Juliet and Romeo
love. That’s what gives the play such enduring power. It speaks for us in a language of love that
transcends our capabilities, even as it provides a language for what we truly feel.
Click here to learn more about the renaissance history of "Romeo and Juliet"
Czekaj Artistic Productions
Barbara and John Samuelson
Barbara and John Streicker
Carol and Peter Seldin
CORPORATE PRODUCTION SPONSORS
CORPORATE PRODUCTION PARTNERS
The Graham Foundation of Connecticut, Inc.
EDUCATION INITIATIVE MADE POSSIBLE WITH SUPPORT FROM
The David & Geri Epstein Private Foundation
and the National Endowment for the Arts