Act I: Fatal lovers use gender-neutral pronouns in modern Shakespeare outdoors
Director Kevin O’Callaghan brings Romeo and Juliet to today’s world, starring two families of opposing political ideologies who are oblivious to the love between their children, including a non-binary Romeo who, like the character, uses the pronouns “she/them.” used by Benvolio.
“It’s going to be unlike any[Romeo and Juliet]she’s seen before,” O’Callaghan said of the audience turning out for this week’s shows. “I hope they can relate to it in a modern, contemporary way that stimulates conversations about what’s happening in our country and in our world.”
The shows will take place June 22-26 at 7:00 p.m. in Lansing Community College’s outdoor amphitheater. Shows are free, but donations to the Theater Grant Fund are always welcome. It is the first performance in the Summer Under the Stars series, which will also include Dance Lansing in late July and Wiley and the Hairy Man in August.
O’Callaghan has cast several women in male roles and made their characters female. An example of this is Laura Nguyen in the role of Tybalt. While gender-neutral cast actors are common in Shakespeare, changing the gender of characters is less common. Part of how LCC production is able to do this is because it’s set in modern times.
The show begins with a protest – the two families take opposite sides. It’s something that O’Callaghan, who is new to LCC, has had to spend a lot of time coordinating with campus security to make sure it’s both safe and that passers-by don’t call the police.
“I hope it makes people think that we don’t have to follow every rule that someone made up a long time ago,” O’Callaghan said. “We should challenge them.”
Directing an outdoor show comes with its challenges, but O’Callaghan said the students, community performers and guest artists all helped make the show a reality.
“The students want to help with everything,” O’Callaghan said. “The whole company came together to make things happen and that’s what I love about this art form.”
He set an example for the actor playing the nurse. He asked her if she could make some protest signs showing current things happening in the world today. She came back the next day with hand-drawn signs, very visual signs that he said blew his mind.
“They all bring something so special and unique to the process,” O’Callaghan said, explaining that while the students learn from him, he learns from them too.
O’Callaghan acknowledges that not everyone will like experimenting with a classic—especially incorporating LGBT+ elements.
“Some people will be upset, but that’s just part of the job,” O’Callaghan said. “You don’t make decisions just to push boundaries, but if the art doesn’t challenge everyone involved, then what do you do?”
Act II: Starlight Theater Stages Outdoor Production of “West Side Story”
This weekend, the Starlight Dinner Theater celebrates a first for its company – taking its performance to the streets of Lansing and presenting the classic musical “West Side Story” outdoors.
The show takes place on the Wolverine Parking Lot, 316 S. Grand Avenue in Lansing, allowing Starlight to use some of the building’s envelope to set the stage for the show about two rival gangs – one white, one Latino – and the boys prepare husband and wife from both sides to fall in love.
Edge Partnerships provided use of their buildings and Witte Law Offices, PLLC loaned their fire escape for the iconic scenes that take place there.
Often referred to as a musical version of Romeo and Juliet, Starlight’s West Side Story is directed by Linda Granger. Alexander Cousins plays Tony and Kayal Muthuraman plays Maria, the two hapless lovers.
While Starlight has traditionally served meals — or at least desserts — before their shows, this time they’ve partnered with nearby restaurants, who have agreed to stay open until 8:30 p.m., when the Starlight shows begin. It’s an opportunity to support local businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Audiences are encouraged to bring their own blankets and chairs, and reservations are for the show, not a seat.
If it rains, the replacement date is Monday 27 June. Tickets cost $22.
●The Music and the Garden series continues this Sunday with Percussion and Nature. Family-friendly activities are at 1:00 p.m., the concert is at 2:00 p.m., and gardening tips follow. The concert is free and takes place at the WJ Beal Botanical Gardens on campus.
● Wednesday July 6th is the next performance of the Summer Carillon Concert Series. The audience takes place at 18:00 and the audience is welcome to bring a picnic, chair or blanket to sit on the premises while Carlo van Ulft carillon arrangements of Eine Kleine Nactmusik by Mozart, “Gitanerias” by Ernesto Lecuona and “Hungarian Dances” by Brahms, “Beautiful Dreamer Variations” by Adolph Baumbach and “Aquarium Miniatures” by Gerard Boedijn.