Balcony Scene in Quarantine
By: Ashley Parra
Directed by: Benito Vasquez and David Derringer
TEATRX (Houston, TX) – 2020
Balcony Scene in Quarantine (2020)
by Trevor Boffone
Benito Vasquez, Marissa Castillo, and Jorge Diaz founded TEATRX in 2018 to serve the Houston, Texas community, which despite its high Latinx population, has historically featured a glaring lack of Latinx stories on its stages, not to mention few Latinx creatives and administrators in other positions throughout the city’s robust theatre community. In TEATRX’s brief history, the company has worked in various ways to advance Latinx performing arts and support the city’s Latinx community, its artists, and its stories.
Balcony Scene in Quarantine was TEATRX’s answer to theatre in a digital world during the COVID-19 pandemic in which all in-person productions were postponed and cancelled. As live-streams, Zoom readings and concerts, Instagram Live takeovers, and cast reunions became the norm in the theatre world, TEATRX produced Balcony Scene in Quarantine, a five-episode web series with daily episodes at 8:30 PM CDT from June 22-26, 2020 via Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Balcony Scene in Quarantine responded to our present moment of social isolation and longing for a time when making theatre “the old-fashioned way” was possible. The series documented TEATRX’s journey to make theatre and be creative in a digital world with the use of virtual platforms such as Zoom. Per usual, TEATRX’s work is specific to Houston and, in this case, the company touched on some of the more specific challenges that Houston theatre artists experienced at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This work was influenced by factors outside of TEATRX’s control—namely, COVID-19 and the inability to make theatre the way they had grown accustomed to making theatre.
The five-episode web series followed the TEATRX team as they fully produced a digital live-streamed bilingual adaptation of the famous “Balcony Scene” in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Episode one introduced viewers to TEATRX’s team and touched on the effects that COVID-19 enacted on the Houston theater community. The series continued with digital auditions and interviews with local actors. Audiences then get a chance to witness something they hardly ever get to see—rehearsal. Episode four shed light on real-life stories from people who had been separated by the pandemic. Finally, the Balcony Scene in Quarantine ended with a live-streamed performance of the balcony scene, which was translated and adapted by Ashley Parra, TEATRX’s Production Coordinator. Elissa Cuellar and Matthew Martinez played Juliet and Romeo, respectively.
“Loved ones are being separated by Covid-19 all over the world. Romeo and Juliet, and the balcony scene in particular, personifies the longing people are feeling; the longing to hug a friend they miss or kiss a loved one who is self-isolating,” noted Marissa Castillo, TEATRX’s Marketing and Communications Director, adding, “This web series is an exploration of those themes in the world and in the scene.”
Speaking of translating the classic play into Spanish and contemporary English and adapting the play to life in the coronavirus pandemic, Ashley Parra recognized, “It was important to find a bridge between two different cultures and identity. Me as a first-generation Mexican American and me as a theatre artist. By making space for the Latinx narrative we find that the balcony scene is not just an English story but a story that can be found in multi-generational homes, it is a defiance to the tradition and norms that many of us have experienced.”
As of this writing (April 2022), Balcony Scene in Quarantine remains the only production in TEATRX’s four-year history that uses Shakespeare as a point of departure to explore contemporary themes within the Houston Latinx community.
Trevor Boffone, “Balcony Scene in Quarantine: TEATRX Presents Latinx Shakespeare in a Social Distancing World,” The Theatre Times, 27 June 2020.
 Personal interview with author, June 9, 2020.
 Balcony Scene in Quarantine Press Release, TEATRX, June 9, 2020.