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Bilingual 'Romeo y Juliet' production focuses on love and inclusivity

Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' gets a Pride makeover in Orinda
Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' gets a Pride makeover in Orinda 03:43

ORINDA -- The words of Shakespeare have stood the test of time, but imagine hearing these stories told in a new and different way. That's exactly what's happening in Orinda, in Cal Shakes' adaptation of Shakespeare's most well-known love story, Romeo and Juliet.

This version is set in the Bay Area in 1848 which back then was known as Alta California. It also features Romeo as a woman, who falls in love with Juliet. Actress Sarita Ocon who stars as Romeo says they are bringing to life a story where no matter how it's told love is love.

"Tapping into this role I think we hear the play differently I think I bring a level of a kind of human universal storytelling to an experience, love is love," Ocon said.

Director K.J. Sanchez says the idea to tell the story this way couldn't be a more natural fit.

"A theme of this play is what is natural, and Romeo and Juliet by nature need to be together and it's society that is pulling them apart," Sanchez, said.

The Cal Shakes Theatre in Orinda is nestled on a hillside and surrounded by beautiful landscapes and trees, the perfect backdrop to help bring that theme to life.

"It feels like the most incredible ritual to do theatre out here in this space because it's COVID safe, because we are outside, and we are in this incredible natural setting," Sanchez said. "As we were rehearsing we were serenaded by coyotes howling in the distance, and wild turkeys singing along with the songs that we were playing during interludes."

1848 was also a time when English and Spanish were equally spoken in the Bay Area. So they decided to add another layer to this version of Romeo and Juliet, by doing a bilingual version.

"I feel like a lot of the times with theatre were doing the Latino play or the queer play, it's not often you see these things at the same time, so I'm really grateful and on top of that in Spanish and English," said Vero Maynez, who plays Juliet.

Throughout the play, the words are intermixed in both languages, and no matter if you speak English or Spanish the theme of love and inclusion is alive and understood through the passion and performance of the actors.

"It started with Karan Zacarias who wrote the script and she was really interested in marrying Spanish and English, and that marrying a play about marrying two people that some of society don't want to be together, but it's a natural fit, just felt really perfect," said Sanchez.

Ocon says she hopes this version is an opportunity to bring people together.

"Shakspere, the canon itself, has had such an impact on our storytelling for centuries that I think this is an opportunity for us to actually vision beyond that and to be able to be more expansive and inclusive," Ocon said.

Romeo y Juliet runs through June 19th at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda. You can get tickets and more information at calshakes.org 

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