Romeo and Juliet Meet In Pittsburgh Parks

Aug 20, 2013

Romeo or Juliet: which would you choose?

One Pittsburgh theater group is adding a new spin to arguably the most famous love story of all time by asking the audience pick a side.

Jennifer Tober, founder and artistic director of Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks, said their production this year puts a twist on "Romeo and Juliet."

“The stories of Romeo and Juliet will be told simultaneously,” she said, “so that people will choose either to follow the Capulets, which is Juliet’s side, or the Montagues, which is Romeo’s side, and then they will come back together for their scenes together.”

Audience members will be asked on arrival which character’s story they want to follow and will be taken to opposite ends of the park. The audience can either sit or follow the actors as Romeo and Juliet come together. Tober encourages spectators to view the show twice to get the full experience.

Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks will kick off its ninth season of free outdoor theater on Aug. 31 in Frick Park.

Tober said the outdoor performance adds an extra level of intimacy to the production.

“We don’t have a set,” she said, “and it’s really just about the relationship of the actors and the audience and the language is very physicalized as well. And I think that makes us a little bit different from other theater companies.”

Tober said the actors won’t be dressed in the traditional Shakespearean wardrobe. Instead, the performers will be dressed in more “utilitarian” clothing to bring a modern feel to the classic story.

In 2012, the group’s production of "The Temptest" brought in more than 1,000 audience members over four weekends in September, and Tober is expecting the same for this year’s production.

“We call ourselves ‘rough and tumble’ because we have a lot of really active fight scenes, people will be running about, jumping around, and we get the audience involved too,” Tober said. “We do encourage people to get off their blankets or get out of their chairs and get as close to the action as possible.”

All shows start at 2 p.m. and last one hour and 20 minutes.

Shows will continue every weekend through September:

  • Aug. 31 – Sept.1: Frick Park, Blue Slide Playground, Squirrel Hill
  • Sept. 7 – 8: Allegheny Commons, North Side
  • Sept. 14 – 15: Arsenal Park, Lawrenceville
  • Sept. 21 – 22: Frick Park, Blue Slide Playground, Squirrel Hill