The Grassroots Shakespeare Company’s Romeo and Juliet is likely different from any Shakespeare performance its audiences have seen before. This troupe is composed of thirteen actors and that’s all. There’s no director, no stage manager, no costume designer.
“The greatest part of Grassroots Shakespeare is that there is no one director,” says company member Jessamyn Svensson, who is performing with Grassroots for the first time this summer. “We all just kind of take turns filling that role, which can be a challenge, but also is what makes the performances so great.”
These actors are responsible for their own costumes and their own blocking, in addition to administrative duties such as booking performances. Even the casting process is done democratically, with the actors auditioning and voting amongst themselves.
The Grassroots Shakespeare Company began last summer, when their touring company put on Much Ado About Nothing. During the school year, the company then hosted various workshops wherein actors would meet each other and begin rehearsal mere hours before the performance. Lines were to be memorized and ideas come up with in advance.
This year’s touring company is hoping to continue in the tradition of excellence set forth by last year’s team. The actors were each required to research some aspect of “original practice,” the concept of keeping rehearsals and performances close to how they would have been done in Shakespeare’s time.
When asked why people should come see this particular production of Romeo and Juliet, founding member Alex Ungerman said, “Have you ever seen someone get stabbed in the park? What about a stabbing accompanied by live music? Or a first kiss followed by a rousing jig?”
Ungerman points out that the performance would be a perfect date, consisting of “showing up with a picnic basket and front row seats for Romeo and Juliet.”
“It’s really wonderful to collaborate with all the other actors and put on a show without … rules,” says Erin Crabtree, who portrays Lady Capulet. “It’s super fun to see what comes out of the process.”
The show is set to tour around the state performing Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays from now until July 5th. Performances are free, though a $3 donation is suggested to help cover the cost of the set and travel expenses. Performance locations and other information is available at www.GrassrootsShakespeare.com.