This fall, the UMass Boston Performing Arts department is putting on a production of "Romeo and Juliet". There will be five performances of the play occurring over two weeks in the University Hall Theatre. Several COVID precautions will be taken.
According to Bill Doncaster, the Outreach Coordinator for the Performing Arts department at UMass Boston, this is the department’s first onstage show in two years due to COVID.
“We’ve done some plays on Zoom the last couple of semesters, which was good experience for our actors,” said Doncaster via Zoom. “[ . . .] Is it as good as seeing a play live? No, it’s not. No one ever pretended it was. So we’re thrilled to be back onstage.”
According to Doncaster, due to COVID restrictions, cast members will be masked.
Doncaster also stated that each performance will only allow 53 audience members in a theatre that can typically hold 250 people. All audience members must be masked, and they must be UMass Boston students, staff or faculty.
Phaedra Ferrini, who has worked in the costume shop and on painting set designs in this production, commented on this via email.
“On one hand, that means that it will be safe, only members of our community will be there,” wrote Ferrini. “On the other hand, that means friends and family can't come, so please come see the show! Everyone is working so hard from sunrise past sunset to make sure this production is the best that it can be.”
The UMass Boston News website describes the show as being a modern twist on the Shakespearean classic. The production is under the direction of Robert Lublin, a UMass Boston professor of Theater Arts.
“Shakespeare's classic love story is set in a modern age, 15 years from now amidist an ongoing pandemic,” reads the website. “Lublin's direction explores love among the ruins, where the love between two members of feuding families is set in a world in tatters.”
Zoa Archer, who will be portraying Juliet, commented on this aspect of the show.
“Essentially, the two feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues, have basically secured vaccines for all of their servants, and that is how they have gained loyalty,” said Archer via Zoom.
Olivia Thornton, who will be portraying Juliet’s nurse, also commented via Zoom.
“'Romeo and Juliet' is actually Shakespeare’s only play—and he wrote like 40 or something—that actually mentions the plague,” said Thornton. “And it’s not a huge deal, but we’re having fun playing with the idea that certain characters have the vaccine, and some don’t.”
When asked what she wanted the UMass Boston community—specifically students—to know about the production, Archer said: “They don’t have to be scared of Shakespeare, they will be able to understand it. Shakespearean text is so wonderful because it was written to be performed.”
“We’re at UMass Boston, and the theater productions we do are very often someone’s very first experience seeing a live play,” said Doncaster. “This is something we take very seriously.”
Performances will occur Friday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $10.50, and will very likely be available for purchase via PayPal this week. Doncaster encourages the UMass Boston community to look for the posters that will be up around campus this week for information regarding how to purchase tickets. Thornton urges: “Buy your tickets now, because we might sell out!”