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New adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” at SLU juggles the classic’s time element

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CANTON — A new adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” that will be staged at St. Lawrence University alters the time element of the Elizabethan-era classic.

The adaptation is by Charles M. Pepiton, visiting assistant professor at St. Lawrence University’s department of communication arts.

“I’m curious about time and the way our classics change, or don’t change, given the progression of years, the repetition of history and the unreliability of memory,” Mr. Pepiton writes in the foreword to his “Romeo and Juliet Redux” play.

His work transforms the audience’s preconceived notions of time in the tale of the two lovers who fall in love, are torn apart by their warring families and commit suicide. It will be staged at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday (April 5) at SLU’s Gulic Theatre.

“We’re playing with the nature of time,” Mr. Pepiton says in a news release. “The final scene is the first, and we move backward and forward throughout the play until we get to the climax, which is really when Juliet professes her love for Romeo.”

According to Mr. Pepiton, Juliet makes a conscious decision when she declares her love to Romeo. It is at that moment, he says, that she sacrifices herself to bury the strife that has existed for generations between the Capulet and Montague families.

“We’re still learning from this play 400 years later,” Mr. Pepiton said. “It’s amazing how moving and relevant this play remains to us today.”

Mr. Pepiton’s play also toys visually with notions of time, as characters move from Elizabethan vestments to costumes that look like they came out of the movie “The Matrix.”

“This is not your usual Romeo and Juliet,” says Selina French, supervisor of the college’s costume shop, in a news release. “We have put shoulder pads on the outside of the blazer, or colored the lapels of a jacket. It’s enough that people notice but not so strong that it takes people’s focus off of the play.”

St. Lawrence University students acting in the play, many of whom are not performing arts majors, had the opportunity to work closely with three members of Studio Matejka, a dance theater company from Poland that staged a nine-day residency and performed on campus in February. Mr. Pepiton worked alongside members of Studio Matejka in Poland last summer as part of a physical theater residency in association with the Grotowski Institute.

The Details
WHAT: “Romeo and Juliet Redux” — an adaptation by Charles M. Pepiton performed by students at St. Lawrence University
WHEN/WHERE: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and next Saturday at SLU’s Gulick Theatre
COST: The free performances are open to the public
OF NOTE: Parental guidance is suggested
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