Karin Gomez :
ROMEO AND JULIET
Dramaturg Intern Karina Gomez blogs about ROMEO AND JULIET
Karina Gomez, your faithful dramaturge associate here, to give
you the word on what's going on here in the making of Marin Shakespeare's
Romeo and Juliet. As a recent undergraduate from UC Berkeley with
a BA in English and a minor in theater, I am really excited for
this chance to act as an associate dramaturgy for this production.
I really hope to enrich your experience in seeing this production,
by telling you about some of the interesting post production being
done in preparation for the show. Having access to the inner workings
of this production, from attending the table read to watching the
run of rehearsals, I’ll take you behind the scenes to all
the drama as we work our magic to bring Shakespeare's Romeo and
Juliet to life!
3: Words…Words…Oh Look More Words!
the earlier stages of production, there was a great concentration
on the play’s text to give actors a better idea on how to
speak the written word to pay homage to the work’s origin.
Learning such things may appear tedious and maybe even boring, but
listening in on our dramaturge’s insight on Shakespeare’s
use of prose in the play was actually quite interesting. Interesting
enough that I wanted to share some of what I learned, and how the
actors themselves can possibly be utilizing this information for
their own parts. Perfect teachings for the production’s intent
of emphasizing the heat of passion, because what better way to do
this then to put some focus on the performance of arguably some
of the most beautiful love prose ever written by Shakespeare’s
Shakespeare’s Poetic Scribbles
1593 the theater world took a bit of a hiatus to prevent further
spread of infection due to the plague, meaning a lot of writing
time for our playwright. This is why I say “scribbles”
for surely this was a time Shakespeare experimented and played with
his writing, especially dabbling with poetry. After all it was around
this time that he published some of his most famous sonnets including
“Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece”,
featuring his ever famous use of iambic pentameter. Naturally he
began to incorporate these techniques into his plays, including
“rhyme verse” in Romeo and Juliet. You’ll
notice yourself that a lot of the dialogue rhymes, especially in
the most heated of moments whether in love or hate.
Ironically, in addition to the lyrical use of rhyme Shakespeare
incorporated the use of “blank verse”, unrhymed iambic
pentameter. The use of blank verse in a play was fairly new and
Shakespeare (along with his contemporary Marlowe) were one of the
first to do so during his time.
Random Fun Fact: Shakespeare’s supernatural characters’
(such as the witches in “Macbeth”, the fairies in “Midsummer
Night’s Dream” etc.) dialogue is always written in rhythm
verse, except for ghosts since they’re technically still human.
Have You Tried Arguing in Rhymed Verse?
professing your love in rhymed verse? Really it’s quite exhilarating!
Okay so I haven’t actually applied this in my real life endeavors,
but you get a feel for it if you pick up a Shakespeare play and
read some rhymed verse passages out loud.
There is something about rhyme that simply appeals to our natural
speech pattern. You can see this with children, learning the alphabet
through song or those nursery rhymes they could still remember as
adults. This rhyme creates a kind of flow that allows for expression
to come out with conviction, especially with rhymes that have a
Our director expressed to us that it was important for the actors
to embrace the written form of the text, due to its original intent
of emphasizing the inherited passion of the words themselves. Whether
it be those words of love that Romeo first speaks to Juliet:
“If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.” (Act 1, Scene
Or words of hate spewed by Tybalt amongst the brawl between the
rivaling Montagues and Capulets:
“What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word,
As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee:
Have at thee, coward!” (Act 1, Scene 1)
of these moments of feuding between these families, one of the actors
made an interesting observation. Characters who are essentially
smarter or higher class, are the ones who tend to rhyme most and
speak with more conviction, as if proving that they have a wide
enough vocabulary in their ability to come up with what they say,
and clever enough to compose such lyrical dialogue. Keeping this
in mind for these scenes of clout, actors can utilize this idea
in the delivery of their lines, speaking as though they are engaging
in a “battle of wits” and words.
Another issue brought to mind was the fact that some rhymes are
outdated. For the way English was spoken back then is different
from the way it’s spoken now. So some lines of dialogue spoken
in our accent won’t rhyme as well as it did back then. When
such a line appears, the actor must make the decision to change
his pronunciation for the sake of keeping the original rhythm.
How Could Parting Be “Sweet” and “Sorrow”?
This is reference to Juliet’s goodbye after agreeing to wed
Romeo at her balcony:
“Sweet, so would I:
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! parting is such
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.” (Act 2, Scene
This is an example of an “oxymoron”, two subjects used
to describe something that are essentially opposite of each other,
and this play is filled with them! In this passage alone I could
identify a few: “kill thee with much cherishing” and
“parting is such sweet sorrow”. Being that the subject
matter is about loving an enemy, the passion of hate and love, extreme
opposites the coincide in a single plot, it’s only natural
for so many oxymorons to appear. Our two main lovers are always
at odds with their feelings and need to express themselves with
duel meaning terminologies.
As mentioned before in my previous post regarding the color scheme
of black and white, this is a play about opposites. This is a reoccurring
feature apparent in its themes of love and hate, these uses of the
oxymoron, the rhyme scheme being both lyrical and blank verse, and
several references made in the dialogue itself such as the Friar’s
herbs that can kill and heal, Romeo and Juliet deciding whether
it be the morning lark or the night gale the morning after their
wedding, the list is simply endless!
Being that this quality of duality is so prevalent in the play,
our director has made a sufficient effort to have the cast and crew
recognize this. As a result we have come up with this brilliant
color scheme, embrace the fact that the dialogue has double meaning
therefore allowing the actors to explore their motives in the delivery
of their lines whilst identifying the use of rhyme in their dialogue,
thus embracing the intended passionate quality this text was meant
to be expressed. (I swear all the rhyming in this last paragraph
Post 2: Reading, Prodding, and Dramaturgy(ing)
Reading, Prodding, and Dramaturgy(ing)
Sitting with the crew's two more experienced dramaturges, we discussed
the "woes" of communicating to others of what we do as crew members
in a theatrical production. As put by my fellow dramaturge, other
theatrical positions are more easily defined. He then proceeded
to demonstrate this by listing off various lines of work accordingly
"actors act, writers write, directors direct, " showing that the
verb of what these people do are within their tittles. "Dramaturgies,"
he continued listing, letting this title hang in the air unable
to name a verb from its name, I interjected "dramaturge!" Of course
that hardly sheds any light on what we actually do, thus proving
Entering our second day of production, our work consisted of prodding
the recently read script with the cast, with the expertise of our
appointed dramaturges—including myself being an associate
A Few Words on the "Dramaturgy"
If you were to look up the word "Dramaturgy" on the google search
engine you’d receive the definition "the theory and practice
of dramatic composition." A very vague definition if you ask me.
I bring this up because it's a question I’m commonly asked,
especially outside the theater world, so I’m taking this moment
to clarifying its meaning. In short: The director has a vision and
the dramaturge assists with the creation of this vision. We consider
the smallest of details and connect them to the broad spectrum of
Based off my experience as a dramaturge, my duties have ranged
from editing scripts (such as cutting lines for the sake of shaping
the play within a set time frame, being careful not to leave out
anything vital from the plot or misconstrue the story) to research.
The research consists of gathering information concerning the context
of the play, including: the time period its set and written in,
the locational setting, the play's written form, and other information
that aids the cast and crew to make the production as authentic
to its content as possible. On rare occasions I’ve participated
with the consulting of actors who’d bring in their lines,
read them out, and then discuss with them the contextual information
involved in their parts and clear out any questions regarding factual
aspects of the character they were playing. Of course much more
could be said on this line of work, but this is merely my take based
off my own experience.
Day #2 of Production Work on Romeo and Juliet
Our small group of dramaturgies played a vital part on this day
of production, offering their expertise regarding the contextual
information surrounding Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
But before diving into the analysis of the play, our director Lesley
Currier asked each of us to turn to the person next to us and discuss
something we’re very passionate about. Around the table we
spoke to our companions with evident enthusiasm. Even as the exercise
came to a close, it took some time for people to quiet down their
discussion. We then recounted the feelings and sensations felt during
the exercise: excitement, eagerness, this odd need to propel forth
and stand up, just to name a few. We experienced the sensation of
passion, which as mentioned in the previous post, that this is the
running theme our director wants to emphasize. We reinstated the
vision of this play through the exercise to carry this feeling with
us as a reminder of what passion is, to work it into every aspect
of the show as we continue our individual work in the production..
The Actor Packet
I was then prompt to take center stage. At Lesley's request, I
myself had prepared a small presentation for the cast and crew.
Earlier before production had even started, I had taken the time
to do some length of research and put together what we call "actor
packets". It's essentially information packets for the cast and
crews’ use, that can cover certain aspects of the play that
the dramaturge deems fit to accentuate. For my actor packet, I decided
to cover three aspects (apart from the play's synopsis and background
information on the author):
- Societal Disturbances in Sixteenth Century England
- Italian Ideals in Dueling and Insults
- Italian Masque Balls and their influence on English Masque Balls
Knowing beforehand of the director's intent to emphasize "passion",
I focused my research on these areas because I felt they were some
of the contextual sources featured within the plot that inspired
this feeling. Talking about the societal disturbances surrounding
Shakespeare's first production of Romeo and Juliet, hints
to a possible source of inspiration of the instilled passion within
the play, for England was enduring a world of turmoil ranging from
disease to political tension.
Italian ideals of dueling and insult is meant to illustrate the
Italian's outmost importance of honor and how they went about protecting
it through these dangerous means of dueling—as demonstrated
throughout in the feud between the Capulets and Montagues in the
play. While the instructing of Masque Balls’ ambiance of discretion,
festivity, and freedom was to demonstrate the significance of this
setting where Romeo and Juliet's first meeting.
For the presentation, I gave a summarized version of all this information,
with flashcards in hand to keep my thoughts in order. It felt like
a school presentation on my part, educating the cast and crew on
my findings. The actor's packet itself, was available for them to
peruse at their leisure if they choose to do so.
Some Final Words
Putting together these packets was actually quite interesting,
because after all my choices of research were based off my own curiosities,
I certainly learned a lot. I hope my enthusiasm showed forth and
that I was able to teach the cast and crew something new, perhaps
contributing a bit to their own individual work within the production.
In the end, that's all I hope for. I’m a humble servant to
the inner workings of this production, and being granted the space
to help through these means of an associate dramaturgy makes it
Post 1: Attending the First Production Meeting of
Romeo and Juliet
Give Me Passion!
script in hand, I headed to the first production meeting where all
the cast and crew were at attendance to hear of the director's vision
for the show, see the design concept, and engage in the table read
of the whole script by the cast. Warmly greeted by director Lesley
Currier, I slipped right into the action, taking a place at the
table and listening in on the brilliant ideas.
As discussion commenced, the word that stuck out most was "passion",
the all too knowing theme in this tragic romance of a play such
as Romeo and Juliet. In this modern world of order and
the routine of day to day conduct that we tend to live by, we find
that this intense feeling of passion has become a rarity, something
not really relished when it actually occurs. This play wants to
go back to a time when such a feeling was abundant and people so
readily indulged in. We want the audience to acknowledge this natural
part of ourselves through the play's exploration of it, for it's
essentially the essence of feeling alive.
It's clear that this concept of passion has been integrated into
the overall design of the production. Taking a good look at the
costume sketches and the 3-D model of the set, Currier gave an interesting
explanation for the color palette. I want to delve into these ideas
a little further, there is a great significance in the use of color
here that should be acknowledged, for it brilliantly demonstrates
our production's focus on the theme of passion.
White and Black. Some Gray. Red!
Lesley Currier has adopted a brilliant color pallet to emphasize
these concepts of duality between the feuding families, their neutral
counterparts, and the raging passion that rips through these orderly
White and black are the defining hues of the two families at odds,
the Capulets and the Montagues. Though these two colors are commonly
paired as the outmost contrasting shades, one being the darkest
color and the other the lightest, their only difference lies in
their hue, similar to the description of the two feuding families
given in the chorus "two households, both alike in dignity" but
indifferent due to an "ancient grudge". Identifying these two groups
in these commonly contrasting colors also makes them more clearly
defined as enemies. There is also something very orderly in how
cleanly divided these groups are, and decking them out in these
colors presses on this all the more.
Grays shall be fashioned by those who aren't personally involved
in the feud, the supporting characters that can seamlessly move
between the two families. This includes characters such as Friar
Lawrence, Nurse, the Prince, and even the young Paris. The metaphor
is clear, gray being the mix of both opposing colors black and white,
would naturally be a fitting hue to those who aren't personally
involved in the feud.
Red, naturally alarming in nature and the very hue that personifies
the blush of human passion will make sudden appearances throughout
the play, in moments of passion whether it be that of anger or lust.
Such a bright color it will stand out against the other hues of
black and white, staining their mundane methodical appearance to
further prove that passion thrives despite our efforts to keep things
Hearing in on the actor's read of the script was quite a treat.
Seeing the actor's play around with their lines had me quite engaged,
from stifling a laugh at those moments of humor to falling somber
by the intensity of those more serious instances. I could see the
actor's harmoniously connecting with their fellow cast mates, which
is nice to see so early in production as well as assuring, considering
the intimacy of the content. I have high hopes for this production
and can't wait to see how it progresses as post production work