November 07, 2006

Playwright to attend SIUC production of his work

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Award-winning New York playwright Joe Calarco will visit Southern Illinois University Carbondale in December to watch the University's production of his play "Shakespeare's R & J."

The SIUC theater department, part of the College of Liberal Arts, is sponsoring the event. Directed by Assistant Professor J. Thomas Kidd, "Shakespeare's R & J" will run Tuesday, Nov. 28, through Sunday, Dec. 3, in Christian H. Moe Laboratory Theater in the SIUC Communications Building. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. for the Tuesday through Saturday shows and 2 p.m. shows on Saturday and Sunday.

After meeting with faculty and students, Calarco will attend the play on Dec. 1 and 2. A reception for Calarco will follow the Dec. 1 performance.

"Shakespeare's R & J" puts a new spin on Shakespeare's masterpiece "Romeo and Juliet." Four Catholic schoolboys meet secretly to act out the tragic tale of "Romeo and Juliet." They become swept away, and the rigidity of their daily lives begins to parallel the lives of the characters in distant Verona. Roles in the family, roles in society and the roles played by men and women seem to make all the sense in the world, but then suddenly make no sense at all. The boys' perception and understanding turn upside down as universal truths emerge.

"This is not a typical theatrical experience," said Mark K. Varns, chair of SIUC's theater department. "It's a new way not only for our students but for our audiences to connect with a classic piece of literature. Recognizing that it's two young men playing the roles of Romeo and Juliet heightens the theme of forbidden love."

Varns is especially pleased that Calarco will teach a master class during his visit to SIUC. "It will be a great opportunity for our theater students," Varns said.

"Shakespeare's R & J" ran for a year in New York and earned Calarco a Lucille Lortel Award. Calarco also directed the play's premieres in Chicago (5 Jeff Award nominations including Best Play and Best Director) and Washington, D.C. (Helen Hayes Award nominations for Best Play and Best Director).

"R & J" also completed a celebrated run in London's West End in late 2003, and Calarco received honorable mention from the Evening Standard Awards committee for his direction.

Calarco earned a bachelor of fine arts from Ithaca College.

Ticket prices for "Shakespeare's R & J" are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $6 for children and students. Box office hours are noon to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and an hour before each performance. Patrons also can purchase tickets over the phone at 618/453-3001. For more information, contact marketing coordinator Vincent Rhomberg at or 618/453-7589.

Leading in research, scholarly and creative activities is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.