“Romeo and Juliet is a story about two really unlikely young people who aren’t drawn to each other because they should be, but because they can’t help it,” says Andrea Donaldson, who’s directing Shakespeare in the Ruff’s upcoming production of one of the English language’s most famous tragedies.
This year, Shakespeare in the Ruff is taking a new approach to the star-crossed lovers: Romeo and Juliet will both be played by women.
Vivien Endicott-Douglas, who was in Coal Mine’s production of Killer Joe this spring, plays Romeo. She stars opposite Kaitlyn Riordan, a founding member of the company who’s played Sylvia in Two Gents and Imogen in Cymbeline’s Reign.
Rounding out the largely female cast is Andrea Davis as the Prince, Wayne Burns as Benvolio/Balthasar, Philippa Domville as Capulet, Richard Lee as Tybalt/Friar, Brendan McMurtry-Howlett as Mercutio/Paris, and Ellora Patnaik as Montague/Nurse.
Set and costume design is by Jenna McCutchen, with lighting designed by Andre du Toit. Rose Napoli is the assistant director.
Donaldson is looking forward to bringing the characters to life in a new and vital way. “There’s an inexplicable force that’s connecting the two of them that doesn’t make sense in their world,” she says. “I think that that’s truly what love is, the force of love, the power of love, and the power of healing that love can have.”
The show will be on Sunday through Tuesday at Withrow Park in Toronto’s East End, from August 16 to September 4. For more information, click here.
Fun facts! Here is the cast’s favourite Shakespeare in the park experience.
I went to see My Co-Mates and Brothers in Exile with my parents and sister in Walter Saunders Memorial Park. The performers engaged the local audience with great energy and it was moving to connect with people as we wandered through the park and witnessed the story unfold. It felt like we were all sharing such a rare community experience!
Every night during Ruff’s first season, in 2012, experiencing the nights getting shorter and the audiences getting bigger as we marvelled at having actually gotten Two Gents off the ground.
Ruff’s Macbeth, hands down.
Performing on the brink of a thunderstorm with wind raging around us as we approached the final scene. It was incredible just to have that ambience surround us.
The sense of awe, gratitude, and occasionally true horror I experienced performing Lady Macbeth’s mad scene with an audience of over a thousand in late August under the stars.
Experiencing Shakespeare with a starry sky above and the warm summer earth beneath. Just need some comfort food and I'm off!
Watching Diane D’Aquila make the earth stand still in Withrow Park with her curse in Richard III (2013). I swear you could hear a pin drop on the Danforth in that moment.
Playing Blanche in King John in Withrow Park and for the first time experiencing Shakespeare’s words carrying my performance like a powerful and invisible guide. It’s a feeling I will never forget.