PHOTO COURTESY OF JAMES ARGYROPOULOS
SOUTH FLORIDA — It may seem like an unlikely marriage — Shakespeare and hip hop, tango, spoken word and graffiti arts, but the cast of R&J [romeoandjuliet] A Danced Drama is bringing to the stage divergent art forms to re-tell a timeless classic, Romeo and Juliet.
The Fort Lauderdale-based Grace Arts Center bills its version of the Shakespearean masterpiece as a highly interactive, avant garde theater experience. The creators say R&J’s artists will engage young audiences with performances in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties beginning Friday at the downtown Broward County Public Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave. in Fort Lauderdale.
Romeo and Juliet is a timeless story about two young people who leave behind their neighborhood and trade a future of sorrows to train their beautiful minds. In this version, set in Miami at the turn of 20th century, the couple’s choices change their lives, the course of their families — and their city — forever.
Clare Vickery, the founder and director of Grace Arts Center, has teamed up with Janet Erlick of the Fort Lauderdale Children’s Theater (FLCT) to co-produce R&J. Grace Arts Center is a nonprofit organization that focuses on after-school arts programs, public art festivals, cultural events and recreational classes. The center provides performances in the-tri-county area.
Erlick said the marriage of modern and classic art forms is the inspiration for the project.
“It’s always wonderful to introduce Shakespeare to young audiences as the themes and characters still resonate strongly today,” said Erlick. “This R&J project adapts the story and adds modern influences, music and multiple art forms to make a truly unique theatrical experience.” She added that this past summer, FLCT alumni and students began to explore how to combine hip hop, stage combat, tango and street art to highlight the worlds of the Capulets and Montagues.
“The upcoming performances,” she said, “will take that foundational work and expand upon it.”
Vickery said guests can expect “the blending of two dance styles, classic Shakespeare and spoken word, graffiti arts, current and with retro melodies in a DJ produced soundtrack, with a little bit of South Florida history that punctuates the adaptation of this classic love story. The surprise ending is meant to encourage dialog with the audience about the art forms used and push boundaries in the arts while mastering the foundations.”