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Shakespeare on the Green reinvents Bard’s play

‘Music of the Night’ explores movement-based acting in immersive, accessible theatre

“Music of the Night,” Shakespeare on the Green’s winter show, is running  Friday through Sunday. The play combines Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” with “Phantom of the Opera,” but this show is unique. There is minimal talking and singing; instead, the story is expressed predominantly through music and movement.

“We did lots of workshops on movement theater for the whole cast: viewpoints, ballet and waltzing and sword fighting,” said Solomon Goldstein-Rose ’16, the show’s director. “The actors built up repertoires to bring to their own scenes and interact with each other, to act their lines rather than say them.”

The production was inspired by the “Phantom of the Opera” song “Music of the Night,” which Goldstein-Rose described as “the feeling of immersive theater itself.” Given the parallels between “Romeo and Juliet” and “Phantom of the Opera” — intense passion, tragedy, love and lust — he wanted to combine the two plays in an attempt to “break any expectations of a linear narrative and create a dream world.” Goldstein-Rose added that a lot of immersive theater has been done with Shakespeare because of the powerful emotions and actions in his works, which “can be acted without lines.”

The production seeks to “show on the surface all the human emotions that we normally suppress,” Goldstein-Rose said. “These plays are both really filled with all sorts of emotions of joy and love and pain and lust and grief, and push a very raw and physical expression of emotion.”

Goldstein-Rose hopes that the performance evokes feelings audience members have experienced or wanted to experience. Instead of conveying a message, the production seeks to “allow audience members to feel their own emotions and see human life play out in a way we never do in real life,” Goldstein-Rose said.

The show is SotG’s second immersive theater production.

“Shakespeare on the Green’s big thing is that we’re site-specific,” Goldstein-Rose said. “We’re pushing site-specificity to the extreme by taking a building like Sayles that all Brown students are familiar with and making it into a different world.”

Nicole Martinez ’18, who plays Carlotta in the show and is the diversity dramaturge — or theater historian — of SotG, said that the non-speaking format “wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be” to navigate, though the preparations for the production were “intense.”

“So much heart and soul has gone into this production. We want the community to be as proud of the show as we are,” she said, adding that the production includes trigger warnings for particularly sensitive scenes. Anna Stacy ’17, the chair of SotG, added that the show is handicap-accessible, as it only uses the first floor and basement of Sayles Hall. Stacy added that SotG has been working on making Shakespeare more accessible to the Providence and Brown communities, creating the role of director of outreach in addition to the diversity dramaturge position.

In this position, Martinez researches the histories of personal, social and cultural identities that relate to SotG’s shows to determine how to include more diverse actors. “Shakespeare was a white male, and his characters are generally implied to be white,” Martinez said. “We need to acknowledge that this is a white man’s story but still try to expand that, because this is the present day and we want our productions to reflect the Brown student body and not 16th-century England.”

Because SotG conceived of “Music of the Night,” the cast members were able to have input and include their identities in the show, Martinez said.

“I’m Latina, and I worked with the director to incorporate that into my role,” she said, adding that this is the first show in which she has been able to fully explore her identity. “That was very exciting, because I’ve done a lot of Shakespeare plays on campus, and even though I will always be Latina, my characters are traditionally white.”

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