Drama’s R&J Runs to SETC

February 27, 2014


This March in Mobile, Alabama, “R&J” will compete in the Southeastern Theatre Conference after participating in the Virginia Theatre Association competition in Oct. and winning runner up.

“Shakespeare’s R&J” stole the spotlight at the Virginia Theatre Association while “Steel Magnolias” showed at Albemarle.

At VTA, “it meant a lot to me that not just the judges, but the audiences, received it so well,” director Fay Cunningham said.

“This was my third VTA,” senior Joey Wharton said. “This one was without a doubt the best one that I’ve been a part of. This show was seriously difficult to put together, but so worth it. People would stop me and tell me that “R&J” changed their lives, and compliments like that are once in a lifetime moments.”

“Shakespeare’s R&J” is about a group of four boys at catholic school who had always stuck to the routine until they found a Romeo and Juliet script and through its reenacting, found their individualism.

Cunningham picked “R&J” as the competition show because “It’s a show I had always wanted to do since the late 1990s when I saw it at Live Arts,” she said. “I was just so impressed with the script and so impressed with the play that I thought ‘oh my goodness, one day I just have to do this show”.

And this fall she got the opportunity.

With such a small cast and with all characters being lead roles, auditions were competitive.

“R&J” had only four spots going out with nine auditioning for them.

Even though some students weren’t able to get involved with acting, they still found a way to be a part of the show,through hair and makeup, being a member of the stage or tech crew or by assistant directing.

“R&J’s” assistant director was junior Claiborne Earles.

“Claiborne Earles for R&J was magnificent. She had vision, she really worked with these boys, and let me tell you, these boys listened to her,” Cunningham said.

“Boys are so simple and they’re wonderful. They’re basically my brothers and so they listen to me and respect me and we have a great time, we don’t have any problems ever,” Earles said.

Earles had been in several productions before directing R&J, but she said, “I can help with the whole show, and help direct where the show will go, rather than just be involved in my character.”

The cast has been rehearsing once a week since competition, and they hope to make the show different from what VTA and the school saw.

“We’re going to be modifying the play to make it fresh and new and different,” Cunningham said. “It’s going to be the same title of a show, it’s going to be the play that we did, but it will feel very differently from what we took to state championship.”

Wharton said, “ As for making it new, there are a few ideas that we’re pondering, but one of them is that we don’t have the stage restrictions that we had at VTA. He have a lot more room to work and mess around with, which could change a lot of things.”

Cunningham hopes to do well this spring, but says that in the end, it’s really up to the judges and how the message of the play will be received further south.

As for Wharton, “Well, I hope that the audience can appreciate art. This show is art. That is the only way I can describe it. There comes a point in the show where people can’t tell that it’s two men acting this out. The way that we do it is also how it was done traditionally in Shakespearian times. So, if they have an issue with it, blame Shakespeare, not us.”

“Way down south, in Mobile, Alabama, our production might be a little too risky. People have to be very open-minded to understand this play and to accept this play,” Cunningham said. “If we end up with very open-minded judges, we probably will do quite well. If we end up with close-minded judges, we’ll just have a good time.”

The cast will perform a last send-off show on Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m in Albemarle’s auditorium as a benefit event to raise money for the SETC competition in Mobile, Alabama.




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