Several months ago, I wrote a post about my type. I pointed out how my height lends itself to my unlikelihood to be cast as the ingenue. I quoted Gina Torres, and declared that I look forward to being able to have fun and enjoy playing the non-ingenue roles.
Well, next week, I will be playing Benvolio in a staged reading of an augmented Romeo and Juliet! I talked a little about that last week, but today I want to focus more on my role in this process.
Last night, we rehearsed the fight sequences for our reading on Tuesday. Because the violence is such a central component to this version of Romeo and Juliet, we needed to show it, in order to see how the audience responds. The reading on Tuesday is a sort of “Public Exploration,” wherein we will present these characters and this story as we’ve developed them so far, and gauge the audience’s response via a Q&A session afterwards.
In my exploration of the original text, I was really drawn to the character of Benvolio, as the sort of friend/voice of reason to Romeo and Mercutio. As we started exploring further, we started thinking about, ‘OK, well, what does it mean if Benvolio IS a woman, trained in combat, surrounded by men, and unable (or unwilling) to marry any of them?’ And we discovered that Benvolio is a really skilled swords…woman? And is an equal match to any of the men. She enjoys the fighting, as long as A) she doesn’t get caught starting the fight, and B) nobody on the Montague side gets seriously injured. She’s a sort of Ladybro to Romeo and Mercutio, and has a deep, familial bond with Romeo, which affects every decision she makes–some of which you won’t be expecting.
So last night, those of us who will be handling weapons got some excellent training from Greg Pragel, who, coincidentally, will also be taking on the role of Tybalt. He spent an hour with us, showing us the basic things we needed to know in order to execute the fight choreography safely and believably. Then he gave us weapons, and taught us the choreography. Although my fights are not nearly as elaborate as some of the others, I think I still get some good hits in.
I definitely still have some practicing to do, but I am excited to step into this skilled-fighter role. Through this exploration, I’ve come to fall in love with this story (or at least, the version we’re telling), and I’m so thrilled to take what you THINK you know about Romeo and Juliet, and completely turn it on its head.
I hope you’ll come to our Public Exploration Reading on Tuesday, April 23, at 7:00 PM at El Barrio’s Artspace, 215 E 99th St. Admission is free, so reserve your tickets here!