Endowment brings Shakespeare to campus

“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” Juliet can find Romeo at Norton Auditorium Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.

The Aquila Theatre Company is performing their version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” at UNA for the second time.

“Romeo and Juliet” is a Shakespearean play about two “star-cross’d lovers.” The play follows a young couple as they try to overcome the feud between their families, the Montagues and Capulets.

“The Aquila Theatre Company is a highly trained troupe of actors,” said Events Coordinator Jayne Jackson. “Most of the actors that participate are either from New York or London.”

The company has been coming to UNA for 16 years, said Director of University Events Bret Jennings.

Jackson said the Albert S. Johnston Endowment provides money which allows the troupe to come to UNA.

The endowment honors the memory of Albert S. Johnston Jr., a previous Shakespeare professor and department chair of English at UNA, according to UNA Pressroom.

“The endowment requires us to do one Shakespeare thing a year,” Jennings said. “It’s very expensive to bring them, so they only come once a year.”

Jackson said they loved the group’s acting and dynamic after watching a performance.

“We used to have the Alabama Shakespeare Festival,” she said. “This was when they had a touring show, but they stopped touring. That’s why we went looking for a company that does Shakespeare. We found them, and we’ve been working with them ever since.”

Graduate student Amy Goodman said she is anticipating this production.

“They performed a version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ once before, and it’s the only performance of theirs I’ve missed since I started going to see them at UNA, so I really want to see this one,” she said.

Jackson said the group puts an interesting twist on the plays by changing the setting, but not the language.

Goodman said watching the group is an amazing experience.

“Aquila also does an amazing job of tying their set changes into the play itself,” she said. “I felt emotional connections to the characters that I hadn’t felt before.”

Jackson said they rotate Shakespeare’s plays.

“They cycle through the better-known works,” she said. “They have done ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and others.”

Senior Bethany Pierce said the play interests her.

“I haven’t been to an Aquila Theatre Company’s play before, but I am looking forward to seeing their interpretation of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” she said.

Jennings said this provides students the opportunity to experience a professional production at a cheap price.

“If you go to one of the bigger cities to see a play, you’ll be charged $40 or $50,” he said. “We’re only charging students $5 to see this Shakespeare production. The endowment allows us to sell these tickets at these low prices.”

Jackson said students will have their minds changed about Shakespeare.

“It will be understandable, it will be exciting and it will be riveting,” she said. “The approach that they take to their performances is innovative and utterly brilliant.”