Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Ballad for Balthasar: How Artes de la Rosa's Michael Diego is changing the sounds of Shakespeare through the Universal Language

Passion, fervency, intensity: all words used to describe Shakespeare's  Romeo and Juliet. The story of this famous work is known by all; the tragic and iconic  death of two young lovers, kept apart by unrelenting family households.

Although a large majority of people would be able to recite a general summary of the plot, it is ironic in the sense that many struggle understanding the text of the story. And that is not to say that people are not intelligent enough to understand each and every line that Shakespeare wrote; it is mainly due to the fact that spoken English at the time was vastly different. It was common place to speak in an almost "poetic" style, exaggerating thoughts and observations. Spoken English today, however, is "simplified:" we communicate with one another trying to use the least amount of complicated words to get our point across. One major element in Artes de la Rosa's production of Romeo and Juliet which connects old and modern speech in an attempt to sever the fear of understanding Shakespeare is music.

"Music is universal." What makes music so fascinating? Is it that it can be understood regardless of language, style, or genre? Or the incredible amount of variety to pick and choose from? We as human beings can listen to music that sounds so foreign, yet correctly interpret what the overall meaning of the song is. It brings people together, and ultimately makes us express our emotions.

What is fascinating to me is how easily the music selected for the show fits so easily within the play. Each song is plugged into the text with utter perfection, feeling almost as though Shakespeare had originally included it himself.

However, including live, performed music brings a tricky and challenging task for me. The music of the show is extremely varied: jazz, pop, even classical art songs! Switching back and forth between Shakespearean text to modern day song lyrics is difficult. Half of my brain is working furiously to make sure I am using correct technique, but also seeing how I can make the song Balthasar's own. The other half is focusing on the interpretation, making sure that not only I, but the audience as well, are understanding the events unfolding before them. Plus the nerve-racking position of having to make everything seamless.

Aside from the anxiety I feel preparing for this role, it has been a blessing as well. It's so nice not having to sing JUST classical music or show tunes.

I've enjoyed my experience thus far. The cast is talented, production team is awesome. It's been nice to do a play for a change (even if I am singing 80% of my role). Besides, now I can cross-off "Perform a Ricky Martin song while gyrating in front of an audience" off of my bucket-list. Again. :)
-Michael Diego Alonzo
"Balthasar" - Artes de la Rosa's Romeo & Juliet
September 13 - October 6
Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 3:00 pm
The world’s most famous story of an impossible ‘star-crossed’ love told against a scene of violence in the streets of Havana, 1958. It is the story about a place for pleasure, power, and passion wrapped in the loving words of the world’s greatest poet, William Shakespeare. Behind this dazzling world of nightlife, glamour, and romance, the country is fraught with corruption. Feel the heat and desire from the winds in Havana, Fall in love with the passion of Romeo & Juliet.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Finding The Essence of Romeo & Juliet: Adam Adolfo Defies the Stars to Believe in Love

Finding The Essence of

Adam Adolfo on Directing Shakespeare’s Classic Play

By the time the curtain rises on opening night, September 13th at the Rose Marine Theater, a director has already spent months – maybe even years – building the production. He must carefully study the script, audition the actors, and work with the creative team to design the set, costumes, sound, and lights – all before ever stepping foot into a rehaearsal room. Director Adam Adolfo has been spending a lot of time with Shakespeare in recent years having directed productions of A Midsummer Nights Dream and Much Ado About Nothing for OnStage In Bedford and Henry V for Stolen Shakespeare Guild.  Late last week, Adam took time out of his busy schedule to talk about his thoughts on the play, and the process of creating this production of Romeo & Juliet.

Question: When did you first read Romeo & Juliet?

Adam Adolfo: Oh it seems like centuries ago! I actually came to Shakespeare early. I was in 5th grade and happened upon a “Stories of Shakespeare” book and really enjoyed it. The actual formal text came much later. I think I was in 9th grade and was ‘forced’ to read it for my English class. I do remember I didn’t like it. I’m being honest. I in fact hated it! I was bored out of my mind reading it. I then got to see the Zeferelli film and still was ‘unimpressed’. It wasn’t until Baz Lurhman’s modern take with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Daines did I suddenly get it. “OH! THIS IS A STORY ABOUT PEOPLE LIKE ME!” That was a big revelation for me. Several years late, I got to study at the Texas Shakespeare Festival and fell in love so deeply with Shakespeare. The impact on me as a teen then has had career length ramifications. Now years later, I am forced to remember that for most of us, we already know who Romeo & Juliet are long before we ever read the play or see an adaptation. These two characters are now icons of “true love”.

Q: How is the play different from that popular idea we all have of the “true love” Romeo & Juliet? 

AA: In Shakespeare’s plays, the prologue, often delivered by the chorus, but in ours delivered by our amazing singer Michael Alonzo, describes the popular idea of the plays protagonist, but the play itself shows it’s truth about that character. We learn that these 2 feuding families will help push our ‘star-crossed lovers’ to take their own lives! That’s a lot of information to handle in the first 45 seconds of a play. Talk about having a ‘killer tweet’. In 140 characters we could pretty much sum up Romeo and Juliet. 

A pair of star-crossed lovers
Photo by Mark Mayr
Q: What makes your Romeo & Juliet different than the ones we’ve seen in the past?

AA: To be honest – JULIA ROBERTS. (Laughs) No seriously. I started thinking about this story and all I could think was ‘Why does everyone always make the show ‘sooo serious?!’ Sure there’s murder, and drugs, and suicide, but that is not where the show starts! In the beginning - there’s fun, love, and laughs - If you stop and think about it – until the moment Romeo leave’s Juliet because of his banishment – it’s a romantic comedy! Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. So when the actors and I are working with the script, especially the first half of the show, I keep screaming at them “STOP DOING SHAKESPEARE! THIS IS A JULIA ROBERTS MOVIE!” In the first half of the show I feel we have more fun and joy, laughter and love, than traditional staging’s of Romeo and Juliet. This makes it more tragic when the bad stuff happens. 

That coupled with the ethnic feud of Cubans and Americans, makes our show quite different. Ethnically speaking we simply have to create two culturally polar opposite families to achieve the story. So, in staging Romeo’s family as part of the wealthy and frequently mob associated sect of 1958 Havana Cuba. Pairing that with Juliet’s family, rich Americans who like many of the time included Sinatra, Kennedy, Hemingway, and Errol Flynn, saw Havana as a tropical playground of the Caribbean full of sun, sand, and sin. These two things put together create a chemical reaction that is as volatile as Shakespeare’s young lovers.

At the end of the day, we're doing best as actor's, directors, and designers to 'defy the stars' and believe in love. The show's power lies in its willingness to fight the odds for love. So we're doing the same!

Q: You are working on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Where do you start when creating your own interpretation of such a well-known piece?

 AA: Oh my… that’s hard to say. It’s different every time. Shakespeare can be doubly hard and intimidating. The first Shakespeare I ever directed was Hamlet and I remember thinking, “The producer must be nuts to trust ME with Shakespeare!” But it ended up being an extremely exciting experience. The terrors wear off, but it never really goes away. In recent years, I’ve managed to do A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and Henry V so Shakespeare is more like an old friend that every few years I re-meet to “catch up” with. There’s a familiarity now, so I think that helps deal with much of the butterflies. Honestly, each project I direct, Shakespeare or otherwise, is conceived by other art. It’s sometimes a painting, sometimes a film, sometimes a photo. With Romeo and Juliet, it was a song. I am not a fan of “concept for concept’s sake” when it comes to Shakespeare. That’s how you get shows like “Hamlet in Hawaii”. But when the concept can illuminate the story, rather than be a gaudy bauble you hand around its neck - you have a really exciting project on your hands. For Romeo and Juliet, I kept trying to figure out what the feuding cultures would be and while driving one day, I was listening to music from singer and actress Linda Eder when a song about what it was like in Havana in the 1950’s came on my CD player. I immediately was intrigued. I’ve always had a great interest with Cuba. In fact, my first show at Artes, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, was inspired by Cuban culture. Knowing the country’s history, it was interesting to see how the events of late 1958, early 1959 mirrored the events of Shakespeare’s world (i.e. the civil unrest, the power struggle of warring factions). Seeing Romeo and Juliet set in that world wasn’t a hard leap…

Artes de la Rosa Artistic Director
Adam Adolfo
Q: How do you think about the characters of Romeo & Juliet as your audition actors for the roles?

AA: Auditions are an exciting time. “YOU NEVER KNOW.” Sometimes they are full of familiar faces, and sometimes they are bright-eyed newbies looking to take the stage. This cast is a great mixture of both. Several of them are “veterans” of Artes de la Rosa, some which most recently have been seen in our production of In The Heights. No less than five of those musical actors are returning to Romeo and Juliet and all of them are making their Shakespeare debut. For some people, the cast may seem surprisingly young - and it’s true, but the energy of a younger cast lends itself to the urgency and impulsiveness of these characters. Shakespeare was telling a very young story… it’s almost comical now to go back and see the 1936 film with Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer. They are “long in the tooth” and short in the power, which is exactly what I was looking for in a young cast: POWER. For example, Romeo… He makes a dramatic transformation; he changes from a boy who’s in love with the idea of love – namely in the infatuation of Rosaline, to an extraordinary young man, after his meeting with Juliet at the masquerade ball. He finds love with her and his language changes. We see his vivid imagination in the poetry. Then when he faces Tybalt, we his capacity for violence, rage, and destruction. We are all capable of that kind of emotional range – but as an audience that’s a lot to receive in 2 hours.  The same can be said of Juliet who at times is a school girl but mere moments later a strong woman.

Q: As you work with your scenic, costume, sound and lighting team to create this production what have you done to make “Verona” come alive for us?

AA: Well this production doesn’t take place in Verona. For us it’s Havana in 1958. This is an exciting time in Cuba’s history and made for an appropriate substitution for Elizabethan Verona.  It’s exciting, exotic, and tempting – which is pretty much how Shakespeare saw Verona. It was the ‘big city’ in a foreign land. I imagine it’s the way some people still think of Paris or Venice. Our goal was to turn the Rose Marine Theatre into a living nightclub casino from Havana’s heyday. So we treat the entire space as “The Rose Club” complete with a Master of Ceremonies, showgirls, and gambling! This means it provided the staging a lot of opportunity to make it very theatrical. We have a grand red curtain, a set of beautiful show girls, a choreographer, a mob boss who’s running the casino.  The idea was to make the audience feel like they are in a place where they could see these things happening in the world around them. We have dance sequences that are very physical and beautiful but surprisingly support the text very fluidly – almost as if Shakespeare had always intended for us to ‘dance out the answer’ (one of my favorite quotes from Much Ado About Nothing). That ability to embrace the theatrical has made it possible to bring new looks, interpretations, and sounds to the show! We’re very excited.

Q: You mentioned new sounds? Can you be more specific?

Balthasar the Balladeer
Played by Michael Diego Alonzo
AA: Well, I don’t want to say what we’re doing is a musicalization of Romeo and Juliet, but there is A LOT of music in the show. Shakespeare pulled music from the streets, from court dancing, from liturgical services. He was extremely aware of the world outside and wanted to bring it in – so in many ways, we’ve made the choice to operate under the same circumstances. We have a brilliant young actor, Michael Alonzo, who was one of the stars of In the Heights, playing the Emcee in this production. He sings about 6 songs in the production and they range in style from pop to opera to liturgical and are in 5 languages! He sings in Latin, English, French, Spanish, and Italian! Some of the music will be very familiar and some will be very traditional – but all of it will surprise you in how well it fits in the story!

Q: Do you want to share any song choices with us?

AA: Let’s just say that you’ll hear J-Lo, Michael Buble, Marc Anthony, Pavarotti, Josh Groban and even Ricky Martin! Be prepared to dance!

Q: What advice would you give someone who’s seeing Shakespeare performed in the theatre for the first time?

AA: Shakespeare is one of the greatest – IF NOT THE GREATEST – storyteller of all time! This is something you just have to go and ‘receive’ like a present. The actors on stage are extremely talented and they will make sure you ‘understand’ this poetry. It is meant to be beautiful, poetic and theatrical. There is something to be expected for everyone! There’s dancing, singing, romance, violence, sadness, joy… basically it’s a Stephen Speilberg film!  Sometimes there is an expection when it comes to Shakespear that you have to really ‘work’ to understand everything. We promise you, just understand the emotions and the words become very easy to understand! Just be present and ‘accept’ all the beautiful things coming at you on a very personal human level.  Shakespeare’s audiences hadn’t read the script in advance – they just experienced it. So I encourage you to come out to the Rose Marine Theatre and experience Shakespeare.

Romeo & Juliet - Photo by Mark Mayr

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Romeo & Juliet's APOTHECARY gets up and close with us. INSIDE ADLR

Name: Lorens Portalatin
Character Name: Apothecary

Lorens with cast members of DORA THE EXPLORER
including Clyde Berry in the center who plays
Father Laurence in Romeo & Juliet
  • Born & Raised:   Born in Puerto Rico and raised there for 5 years until I moved to Texas
  • Education:  In progress!
  • Zodiac Sign: Sagittarius!!
  • Any Siblings: One younger sister – by 10 years!!!
  • Audition Monologue:   UHHHH..Help!
  • First Play/Musical You Ever Saw: Les Mis at Keller High School
  • Something you’re REALLY bad at: mathematics
  • Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations when first starting out? Adam Adolfo & Kristin Spires
  • Must See TV Show:  Tattoo Nightmares
  • Why you work in theatre:  Because of its escape

  • First Role:  Ronette in Little Shop of Horrors
  • Favorite Play: Haven’t found it yet
  • Pop Culture Guilty Pleasure: Hashtags #seriously #hashtagintervention #sorry #notsorry
  • Favorite sport/team/player: The New Orleans Saints
  • First Stage Kiss: Lucy in 13! My senior year of high school
  • Pre Show Rituals: Listen to music to pump myself up & as much rest as I can possibly get
  • Special Skills: Face painting & Hula hooping ;)
  • MAC or PC: Mac
  • "I'll never understand why…" : people choose to stay so ignorant
  • Worst Costume Ever: Giant puppet bodysuits…
  • Favorite Post Show Meal: Whataburger
  • Favorite liquid refreshment (adult or other): Chocolate Milk
  • Favorite ice cream : Vanilla! With a warm brownie underneath and hot fudge on top! YUM.
  • Biggest On Stage Mishap:  If I have one then I must’ve blocked it from my memory..
  • How I was Introduced to Shakespeare: High school
  • Something you are incredibly proud of: Getting a new job as an Assistant Wedding/Event Coordinator J
  • Words of advice for aspiring performers: Don’t think you’re ever right, cause that’s when you’re wrong and... don’t suck.
  • Three things you can't live without: my dog, Princess Leia; my family; & happiness
  • Best way to beat the North Texas Heat :. Please refer to my favorite ice cream treat above
  • Best thing about Fort Worth & the North Side: The small hole in the wall restaurants and shops. There’s always something to do!
  • Why people will love Romeo & Juliet: 1) Because it’s an Adam Adolfo production. 2) Who doesn’t love a classic story of a pair of star-crossed lovers?!!!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

A New Face for Lady Capulet

When Adam Adolfo first asked me to play Lady Capulet, I was unsure. I knew I wasn’t quite old enough to have a 17-year-old daughter quite yet. But I had loved reading for her at auditions so much that I threw caution to the wind and accepted. She has always been a Shakespearean dream role for me along with Lady M, Kate from Shrew and most of the other proclaimed ‘Bad Girls’ of Shakespeare. 

I have always been a great Shakespeare lover and purest. So when Adam and I started talking about the changes to the script I was hesitant (i.e. no more Lord Capulet). But I was also excited to get to play this powerful woman who is now the head of the Capulet family. Shakespeare’s text can support a lot of interpretations, which is part of the reason it has endured the test of time. 
The 1950’s atmosphere of Havana, Cuba gives my power-hungry (and lustful) Lady C the perfect place to thrive. Having lost her husband, Lord Capulet, a few years before Lady C is left to her own devises with a 17-year-old step-daughter (See? We found a way around it!) and a lovely piece of arm candy (her nephew by marriage, Tybalt) with which she passes her time. Lady C is biding her time happily, running the family business (poorly, I might add) and spending as much money on parties and clothes and general extravagance as she can. 

I am excited to see where this rehearsal process takes my character and the show. It’s definitely going to be something you will not want to miss. So mark your calendars for September 13 and come visit us at the exclusive Rose Club in Havana, Cuba. 
Playing September 13 through October 6th at the Rose Marine Theatre in Fort Worth, TX.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Jacob Harris plays the handsome
and powerful Paris in Romeo & Juliet
Today JACOB HARRIS, who plays the dashing "Kennedy"-inspired Paris in Artes de la Rosa's Romeo and Juliet answers our fun survey! Get to know Jake!
· Born & Raised:   North Richland Hills
· Education:   Richland High School and the University of North Texas
· Degree: Bachelor or Arts in Theatre Performance
· Zodiac Sign: Leo
· Any Siblings: Two Sisters
· Audition Song:   "I Need To Know" from Jekyll and Hyde
· Audition Monologue:    Twelfth Night
· Something you're REALLY bad at: English
· Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations when first starting out? My youth minister really inspired me because he gave me a way to do what I love and still honor God.
· Must See TV Show:   F.R.I.E.N.D.S.
· Why you work in theatre:   I like putting smiles on people's faces and being a completely different person.
· First Role:   Hero in "Fireflies" in Middle School
· Favorite Play:" Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead"
· Pop Culture Guilty Pleasure: Rap, I like Eminem
"Happy Halloween!"

· Favorite sport/team/player: Hockey, Stars
· First Stage Kiss: As Hamlet in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" to Ophelia
· Pre Show Rituals: Listen to my Music on my pandora...and get my head around my character.
· Special Skills: I'm an Eagle Scout
· MAC or PC: PC
· "I'll never understand why…" : someone won't like Bacon.
· Favorite Post Show Meal:   Whataburger
· Favorite liquid refreshment (adult or other): I like Jaeger or Rootbeer!
WORLDS COLLIDE: Jake a cast member for
Romeo & Juliet and Rashard a cast member
from Artes de la Rosa's In the Heights!
· Favorite ice cream : Oreo Cheesecake
· Biggest On Stage Mishap:   I forgot an entire line and said sh@! on stage.
· Worst job you ever had: I worked in a Marble Slab and my managers were horrible.
· How I was Introduced to Shakespeare: Movies
· Last Good Movie You Saw: The Great Gatsby.
· Something you are incredibly proud of: I earned my Eagle Scout!
· Words of advice for aspiring performers: Don't lose faith, Just keep auditioning!
· Career you would want if not a performer: Firefighter
· Three things you can't live without: Music, Family, Food
· Best way to beat the North Texas Heat : Waterpark
· Why people will love Romeo & Juliet: It's is a new version of the story, and it doesn't get to be long and boring like it normally is.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Mystery of Romeo - Take Time with Kevin Acosta to Find it Out

When In The Heights closed, almost 2 months ago, it was heart wrenching and bittersweet to go through - seeing as we as a cast had bonded and truly become a familia.  No one was left out or forgotten in our bond - from our techs to the ensemble to the leads; a truly, beautiful experience.  Even for someone who has been consistently been doing show after show for almost 2 years straight, I knew this show would leave a mark on my heart and life in general, as it has.  So of course it could and would cause one to become depressed not being able to the  see the people you had spent every minute of everyday for the past 3 months with.  In the theatre world, when we go through a break up like this there is only one thing you can do... Audition for another show.  Except this one would be completely different from anything I had ever done before.

For one, up to this point, I had exclusively been in musicals.  Not a shocker since I've never had an acting class or anything of the sort and had been in choir since I was in sixth grade; so it just made  sense.  And not only was this Romeo and Juliet, the most famous love story of all time, but for me it was SHAKESPEARE!  I don't know if I've ever been as nervous as I was for this audition.  I was  taking a leap of faith on this one.  Right before I went to my audition I had a in-depth conversation with my best friend about who I wanted to be as an entertainer and how this show just felt right to me.  I am  always trying to push myself as an individual and a performer and this was the step in the direction that I wanted for myself.
I'd be lying if didn't say that Romeo wasn't similar to the other roles I have played (Link Larkin in Hairspray, Ren McCormick in Footloose, etc), but there is just so much more to Romeo.  He is complex - More than just face value  to him.  And I think that's why this was the role I wanted.  As an actor and a person, I want people to take me seriously and not just see me, but to truly see me.  The undertone of Romeo is present throughout the whole play.  You know there is something more to him, almost like he is hiding something from you.  The mystery that is Romeo.

But when I think about it, that's the whole reason I love theatre and acting in general.  The ability to be someone you aren't.  To breath and give life to a complete and separate individual from yourself.  For me, I have truly been blessed to have been in the shows that I have been in.  I have had the amazing journey of finding myself through my characters.  I learn a little about myself every time I am someone else.

I am beyond words to express how excited I am to start this journey with Director Adam Adolfo, my darling Juliet, Courtney Harris, and the rest of this amazing cast.  From the self-proclaimed Domingo of Washington Heights, I grow once more and find myself as the highly acclaimed Romeo of Havana.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

JUST JULIET: A few minutes with Courtney Harris

When a show that was really special to you closes you go into what seasoned professionals call “post show depression”. This was definitely a reality when my dream show, In The Heights, had its final performance on June 9th and suddenly I was practically familia-less and purposeless.

Knowing that this was the only possible antidote for my feelings of incompleteness, and also knowing I was going to be out of town for the Romeo and Juliet auditions, I essentially begged Adam Adolfo, ADLR's Artistic Director, to let me come in and audition early.
I was completely completely terrified. Every audition I had ever done before has been a musical theatre audition, so where normally I would just prepare 16 bars of my usual stuff and be set, I instead had to prepare an entire Shakespearean monologue. 
Even though I’ve done Shakespeare monologue competitions at my school and even a vignette style one act, I have never been in a real full length play (let alone in iambic pentameter). But after some frantic searching online for an age appropriate monologue I settled on the Jailer’s Daughter from Two Noble Kinsmen and just hoped for the best.
I know some actors shy away from Shakespeare, but for someone who is used to expressing herself musically, I love it and it makes sense to me. So to be cast in Romeo & Juliet was a dream come true, but to be cast as Juliet is still unfathomable. 
Within the realm of musical theatre I usually fall into what I call the “the brat, the rat, and the weirdo” type where I usually play the brat or rat, most recently - the witch (in Into The Woods), or the weirdo (roles admittedly very Kristin-Wiig-esque). Thus the classic romantic ingĂ©nue (because really, what’s more classic and romantic than Romeo and Juliet?) is very much uncharted territory for me- a challenge I am not going to take lightly or passively. 
But I identify with Juliet, as most teenage girls do, in a sense that she is in that critical time of her life where she is no longer a child but not yet has the freedoms of an adult. Juliet is not frail and passive, but resilient and passionate and true to her convictions. The courage she has to risk and leave behind everything for what she believes in (love) is why I’m beyond excited about this opportunity to try my hand at playing her.
And that's the beauty of being a performing artist: apart from having the ability to share a story or character with an audience, you are capable of unlocking an element of your identity. You get to use your imagination to find yourself in someone you maybe thought wasn't like you. Even offstage, that is an experience that broadens your mind and opens up your perspective of other people as human beings. 
And on top of all that, I’m exceedingly lucky that in my first play I get to share the stage with this immensely talented cast and my first stage kiss ever with the amazing Kevin Acosta, all under the direction of the brilliant Adam Adolfo at Artes de la Rosa - which is a theatre that will always hold a very special place in my heart.