Imagine “Romeo & Juliet” crossed with “Wonder Woman,” and you’ve got this weekend’s performance of the Shakespearean classic.
You can see Fluidity Theatre’s second show ever, an all-female rendition of “Romeo & Juliet” in Carnegie on Saturday and Sunday.
“Fluidity Theatre wants to look at how we do theater and see what can we do maybe a little differently, a little better to give people who don’t traditionally get lead roles to have an opportunity to play those roles. So for instance, doing an all-female ‘Romeo & Juliet’ allows for women to play parts that they would not normally be cast in,” company founder April Ohms said.
“My goal is to be inclusive of people who are trans and non-binary, people of color and anybody who really feels like the arts, specifically the theater, is not very inclusive for them. I would like to create an inclusive space for them.”
Ohms, a long-time actor, directed this performance and tweaked the script to read “her and she” instead of “he and him.” She’ll perform as Mother Laurence, an adaptation of the Shakespearean Friar Laurence character. All the major themes remain from the original love story in this version, except it’s trimmed down a bit for the comfort of audiences at the outdoor amphitheater.
She also considered how the story might change if the Montagues and Capulets were all women: How would the families interact? How would they fight?
Would they use swords? No.
Instead, the characters will fight using long staffs. Drawing inspiration from “Wonder Woman,” they’ll wear leather corsets, armor, boots, and chainmail.
“It’s kind of militarized look, but it’s definitely still feminine,” Ohms said. “They’re wearing skirts, most of them, and you can definitely tell that they’re women.”
Performing the role of Juliet has been a longtime dream for Melissa Lingsch, who plays the lead role alongside Romeo, a.k.a. Peri Walker.
“I’m a straight woman, but I have no problem getting into character,” Lingsch said. “When I see people that are in love, they’re in love. I didn’t come with a stigma attached.”
So what might the Bard think about this all-women adaptation?
“I think he would find it quite amusing and probably quite fantastic. Only men could perform in these plays. Women were not allowed on stage, so I think he would be really excited to see even the female characters played by actual women,” Ohms said, referring to English laws that banned women from the stage, meaning all roles were played by men. “How the tide has turned.”
Fluidity, which seeks to challenge and examine theater traditions, performed a different, all-female “Romeo & Juliet” adaptation in the wintertime and heard positive feedback from the audience.
“I had a few people say to me, ‘I just stopped thinking of you as women or men, you were just the characters,'” she said. “‘The show was the show, and it didn’t make a difference what the gender of the people were.”
After this performance, Ohms hopes to secure the outdoor theater for another performance next year. In the meantime, she plans to launch a theater reading group for those not traditionally represented in the performing arts, and asks anybody interested to contact her.
With a cast of women, Fluidity Theatre will present the classic "Romeo & Juliet." Shows begin at 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. A portion of the proceeds with benefit The Carnegie Historical Society, the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh, and the South Hills Players.
Where: Carnegie Municipal Building Outdoor Ampitheatre at 1 Veterans Way, Carnegie
When: August 25, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. to August 26, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.
How much: $5 suggested donation
For those hesitant to see this weekend’s show, Ohms highlights the humor in the play (yes, Shakespeare can actually be funny) and the dynamic fight scenes.
“I think you’ll be transported into the story and it will not be a distraction for you — the gender of the people,” she said. “It’ll be an interesting side-note, ‘I saw ‘Romeo & Juliet,’ and they all happened to be women.”
The show features everything from drama to love to adventure, Lingsch said, and though it’s a classic, it’s a very new spin.
“The show has been done hundreds of thousands of times before, and I can promise that you’ve never seen ‘Romeo & Juliet’ done like this before.”