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latinx theatre, latinx plays, latinx Shakespeares, borderlands theatre, bilingual theatre, bilingual shakespeares

 

Romeo and Juliet

Director: Joe Goscinski

The Classic Theatre of San Antonio (San Antonio, TX) - 2019

 

 

Romeo and Juliet (2019)

by John Milam

 

 

San Antonio’s The Classic Theatre, nestled unassumingly into the architecture of the city’s Deco District, a historically Latinx neighborhood along the Fredericksburg corridor near Woodlawn Lake, began its 2019 season with Joe Goscinski’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Goscinski, a dramatist with the Stella Adler Studio in Astoria, New York, previously collaborated with the Classic Theatre to direct his highly lauded 2018 adaption of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.[1]  Kelly Hilliard Roush, Executive and Artistic Director at The Classic Theatre, motivated by the success of Midsummer, invited Goscinski back to kick off the theater’s twelfth season with his contemporary, borderlands-inspired vision of Shakespeare’s celebrated tragedy. 

 

Roush explains that she makes her decision about what performances to pursue based on how she understands San Antonio’s relationship to the larger structures of national and global politics, and she cites communal anxiety about walls and Goscisnki’s experience with living “in a relationship separated by a wall, separated by countries” for not just encouraging her choice of Goscinski’s adaptation as the season opener but informing the direction the entire season would take.[2] In an interview with ArtScene SA, Goscinski reveals that this production dramatizes the emotional reality of the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as envisioned by former U.S. President Donald Trump.[3]

 

Goscinski’s adaption, while remaining faithful to Shakespeare’s English, compellingly employed imagery to evoke the aura of San Antonio’s westside, a traditionally working class Latinx area. The two families represent national identities: the Montagues present as white Anglos, while the Capulets display their Mexican heritage. National flags are employed as markers of these identities, which ultimately creates a sense of warring national identities in a fraught, claustrophobic, walled space. While the performance received positive reviews from San Antonio newspapers and culture magazines, others contend that Groscinski’s adaption “reflected South Texas’s Latinx communities somewhat imprecisely” in a way that “obscures the cultural and racial hybridity of the border region, not to mention the United States broadly.”[4]

 

Beyond the stage, the performance made use of para-performance spaces to bring the audience into the performance. In the entryway to the theater, a chalk wall was setup and audience members were encouraged to express themselves by adding to this “graffiti wall”. According to Goscinski, the idea came from the way some New Yorkers reacted to the election of Donald Trump. They began writing their feelings on Post-It Notes which they displayed in Union Square. The goal of the performance’s “graffiti wall” was, then, was to generate similar discourse with the community as they are entering or leaving the theater space in hopes of fostering “a common dialogue.”[5]

 

The Classic Theatre of San Antonio remains and integral part of San Antonio cultural arts scene, and the general success of Goscinski’s two Shakespeare adaptations[6] proves that San Antonio audiences enjoy Shakespeare, especially when inventive directors take the plays in directions relevant to a contemporary, diverse, urban audience. The Classic Theatre has an ongoing history with Stratford-upon-Avon’s most famous fellow and will almost certainly offer new adaptations of his plays in the future.

 

SEPTEMBER 2022

 

[1] Deborah Martin, “‘Romeo and Juliet’ separated by a wall at Classic Theatre,” The San Antonio Express News. 29 August 2019. Web.

[2] Nicholas Frank, “Five Classics, Five Families, Timeless Issues for Classic Theatre’s 12th Season,” San Antonio Report. 6 September 2019. Web.

[3] Kurt Gardner, “Interview: The Director and Leads of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Classic Theatre,” ArtScene SA. 29 August 2019. Web.

[4] Katherine Gillen and Adrianna M. Santos, “Romeo and Juliet (review),” Shakespeare Bulletin 38, no. 2 (2020): 289.

[5] Gardner, “Interview”.

[6] Deborah Martin lauded the production. Deborah Martin, “Romeo and Juliet;” Nicholas Frank, “Five Classics;” and Georgie Riggs, “Classic Theatre of San Antonio Presents Shakespearean Favorite Romeo and Juliet All Month Long,” San Antonio Current. 4 September 2019. Web.

All images courtesy of Classic Theatre of San Antonio
Photography by: Siggi Ragnar
Romeo and Juliet at Classic Theatre of San Antonio (2019)
Romeo and Juliet at Classic Theatre of San Antonio (2019)
Romeo and Juliet at Classic Theatre of San Antonio (2019)
Romeo and Juliet at Classic Theatre of San Antonio (2019)
Romeo and Juliet at Classic Theatre of San Antonio (2019)
Romeo and Juliet at Classic Theatre of San Antonio (2019)
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