Gamm Theatre’s Tony Estrella on bringing Shakespeare to life in words and movement

Tony Estrella
Dramaturgist, “Romeo & Juliet”
Artistic Director, Gamm Theatre

When you’re an actor, there are many, many great plays and then there is Shakespeare. The rich, poetic verse, the twisting plots, the masterful characterization and fathomless psychological depth makes the Bard’s work stand out in the wonderfully diverse history of the theater.

That’s why the last few months have been such an adventure for me, both as an artist and a lover of Shakespeare. I have been working alongside choreographer Ilya Kozadayev and the dancers of Festival Ballet to bring to life a brand new adaptation of Romeo & Juliet which pays homage to both the spirit and the text of Shakespeare’s most famous story.

The idea came from Misha Djuric, who wanted to bring actors into the production, speaking live on stage, to become part of the story. The result is a multisensory experience blending movement, music, and words. It is truly remarkable.

Jeanine Kane (left) and Richard Noble

I enlisted two wonderful actors Jeanine Kane and Richard Noble, both experienced Shakespeareans and familiar faces in the local theater scene. Throughout the course of the ballet each of them play multiple roles, from the Chorus (narrators) to Friar Laurence and Juliet’s Nurse. Weaving in and out of the action for much of the ballet, they bring the music of Shakespeare’s verse to bear on Prokofiev’s gorgeous, powerful score. In one powerful tableau, Jeanine delivers Lady Capulet’s impassioned plea for vengeance as the raw agony of a kinsman’s death consumes her. It is a stunning, breathtaking, synthesis of three languages, Shakespeare’s words, Prokofiev’s music, and Kozadayev’s transcendent choreography. 

Jeanine Kane (behind), Marissa Parmenter (center), Alex Lantz (front)

The greatest gift of Shakespeare is, of course, the poetic verse that flows through his tangled stories, showing us the true power and beauty of the English language. When performed live, Shakespeare is a delicious combination of phrasing and melody; his words do not just sing, they also dance.

I can’t wait for you to experience this beautiful new work of dance and theater. It truly is a remarkable accomplishment and I feel humbled and privileged to have helped bring it to life. Don’t miss it!

Tony Estrella is Artistic Director of Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre

See Romeo & Juliet at The Vets Feburary 10-12, 2017. Click here for tickets.

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Choreographer Ilya Kozadayev on creating a new Romeo & Juliet

Ilya Kozadayev Choreographer, Romeo & Juliet

Romeo & Juliet! One of the great ballets of our time and one of the most iconic stories in all of literature.

When you’re a dancer there’s something special about performing Romeo & Juliet. The sword fighting, the passion and romance, and, yes, the death and despair, combine to tell a story that is unlike anything else in the canon of classical ballet. I performed this ballet many times and every time you step on stage, a fresh sense of energy washes over you.

With my performing career (mostly) behind me, I have the privilege to approach this ballet as a choreographer and director, bringing this complex and tragic story to life with a new perspective. Misha Djuric approached me almost a year ago with a creative vision for a new, collaborative production of Romeo & Juliet. He wanted to bring actors into the production to be part of the story and to perform Shakespeare’s magnificent text live.

I was immediately intrigued.

Misha connected me with a lion in the local theater scene: Tony Estrella, artistic director of the Gamm Theatre, whose experience with Shakespeare is downright impressive. It has been a fascinating process for both of us working on this project, learning from each other, and bringing this story to life.

This ballet is hard. The pas de deux scenes are long and passionate, overflowing with power and romance. The fight scenes are a complex balance of swordsmanship and showmanship. But ultimately storytelling and characterization are the most important challenges and I enjoy tackling them. The characters are complex and deep, each flawed in their own ways. Bringing that out in the dancers in an authentic way has been one of the great privileges of working on this new ballet.

I hope you will join us Valentine’s Day Weekend February 10-12 for an evening of passion, romance, and Shakespeare! I am sure you will agree this ballet is a powerful retelling of a truly iconic story.

See you at the theater!

P.S. Check out my interview for the FBP Series “Locker Room Talk” below!

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