Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet is playing at Nimbus Arts Center through October 22nd. For information on showtimes and tickets, go here
AM: Why stage Romeo & Juliet now, in 2023? Is there anything about the zeitgeist that makes it relevant?
Hagerty: In this production we really focus on the inter-generational divides. The young vs the old. New movements vs old establishments. That’s a story that’s always relevant but particularly now I feel.
AM: What is the beef between the Montagues and Capulets all about anyway?
Hagerty: Haha. We don’t really know do we? Shakespeare gives us nothing to offer any clues as to why. But this has been a boon to directors and actors allowing all kinds of interpretations and the opportunity to tell a story they feel strongly about.
AM: Did you consider reimagining the play, perhaps swapping out the Montagues and Capulets for the Gambinos and Genoveses and setting it in Verona New Jersey?
Hagerty: I have to admit it did not, at least in that very specific example. But I felt that story of rival gangs or mafioso-style families had been told before, and told well, and we wanted to do something different.
AM: You’ve set it in the Jazz Age. Is there something about that era reminiscent of renaissance Italy?
Hagerty: Not necessarily. Our reasons for setting it at the dawn of the Jazz Age were really to focus on the themes I talked about earlier. It was an important inflection point in society where you had a real youth movement that permeated all aspects of society. From art and music to the New Woman movement, etc. There was a real sense of liberation and freedom. And the older generations were scared of that. The fact that the Great War had just ended and the Spanish Flu was rampant in addition to everything else just seemed the ideal setting for our story.
AM: What advice do you have for people who might be intimidated by all the poetry and Shakespearean English?
Hagerty: I believe that sense of intimidation comes from how we teach Shakespeare in this country. If you’re like me, somewhere around middle school you’re sat down at your desk and given Romeo & Juliet or perhaps Julius Caesar and told to read it. That’s like asking someone who doesn’t play an instrument to appreciate Beethoven by handing them the sheet music. Shakespeare is meant to be heard and to be seen. When you have great actors speaking great language, you’ll find not only does it make sense, but it’s dramatic and moving, inspiring, subversive, and laugh out loud funny.