What If? Racial Diversity in “Romeo and Juliet”

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.

Romeo and Juliet Act 2 Scene II

Photo Credit: Happy Medium Theatre

Director: Paula Plum
Dance Choreographer: Kiki Samko
Fight Choreographer: Angie Jepson

Happy Medium Theatre Company
Happy Medium Theatre Co. Facebook Page

Exposé by Kitty Drexel

(Boston) Happy Medium Theatre (HMT) took a risk: it cast a black Romeo against a white Juliet (who had excellent chemistry by the by). Bravo HMT for having the chutzpah for casting biracially! Bravo for making your audience ask “what if?” What if Romeo had been a Moore like Othello? What if Juliet had fallen in love with her Romeo and the resulting drama was a result over their family names and not the color of their skin? What if their love was measured against all other loves and found to be equal? What if HMT’s version of Romeo and Juliet was the version that had been performed for centuries rather than the typical all White cast? Topical questions for 2012: What if, indeed.

In a time when the Supreme Court system cannot make up its mind as to whether marriage is a religious or a civil rights issue, HMT’s production forces us to take a look at the history of love. Just 15 years ago one wouldn’t see a biracial couple on daytime TV much less a reproduction of Shakespeare. It is time for all love to be measured by its inherent worth on the streets. It is also time for the shock to be amputated from love that exists outside the norm on the stage. If it has been acceptable for a 13-year-old girl to marry a 17-year-old boy for hundreds of years then it is certainly time for that couple to reflect its audience members.

As artists, we have an obligation to entertain and educate our audience, an obligation to leave our audience in better condition after the show than before it starts. It is our privilege as enthusiasts to create theater with our community. Thank you Happy Medium Theater Company for taking the opportunity to be poignant and to pose difficult questions. Thank you for being brave. Bravi tutti!

Performances ran August 10-25, 2012 at the Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts,
537 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116

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