An image taken during the media night presentation of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ (Rachael Beardsley/WOUB Public Media)

OU Theater Division Takes Audience to ’80s Berlin Rather Than Verona in ‘Romeo and Juliet’

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Ohio University Theater Division’s final play of the year takes the audience to Berlin rather than Verona with a new take on the classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet.

Director and MFA candidate Jonathan Hetler chose to bring the star-crossed lovers to Berlin in order to make the metaphorical barrier between the Montagues and the Capulets a reality. The families feud from opposite sides of the Berlin wall.

“If we look at this story, we get the message that love in its truest form, its most selfless form, can truly bring change [and] can truly tear down things that separate us,” Hetler said.

An image from the media night presentation of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ (Rachael Beardsley/WOUB Public Media)

Though around a thousand lines of the original script were cut from this production to shorten the length, Hetler said they didn’t change the original story, only added new elements.

“The story is still the same, but we’ve brought it into a little more present day,” Hetler said. “It will be much more punk-infused with modern looks at fashion and setting.”

The most challenging aspect of the production were the fight scenes, said Camilia Benencia Courreges, who plays Juliet. She said they did not want to shy away from the violent aspects of the play, and Hetler agreed. He brought in two broadway fight directors to help stage the battles between the Montagues and the Capulets.

An image of the media night presentation of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ (Rachael Beardsley/WOUB Public Media)

“In order for love to conquer all… in order for that to really have a punch, we need the violence and all of that to be just as much if not more visceral and real and apparent,” Hetler said.

Though the play is violent and tragic, Hetler said it is primarily about hope and overcoming what divides us. He chose to put this version of “Romeo and Juliet” in ’80s Berlin to remind the audience what happens when people build walls to divide.

“When in our history have we said building walls was good?” he said. “You see a classic story 400 years ago told 30 years ago when there was division and hatred and separation with a modern day feel because we’re living it now.”

“Romeo and Juliet” will be performed April 4-6 and April 10-13 at The Forum Theater in the RTV Building. Tickets are free for OU students and $7 for all other students and seniors. Regular admission is $10.