Romeo and Juliet

Hockey13

Senior Member
AmEnglish/German
I wonder if anyone has seen this play done well using American English. I'm performing in it for my University Theater in the Spring, and I wonder what the consensus is in the U.S. playing this English play (set in Verona :) ). Surely if Fences is performed in London, they use American accents.
 
  • foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    If you staged Romeo and Juliet in AE you may end up with a good production, but it wouldn't really be Romeo and Juliet. It would be a version or retelling of the play, or it would be based on the play-- like West Side Story.

    Similarly, My Fair Lady is described as a musical version of Pygmalion. I think to call a restaging or remake of any play the musical (or modernized) version would be a mistake. After all, after you've done your AE reworking of the Shakespearean play, someone else might come along and stage one that wasn't quite as injurious to the original.
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    Iona

    Senior Member
    English England
    I attended one of the RSC 's performances of Romeo and Juliette at the Globe theatre in London in 2004 when the actor playing Juliette was Scottish .This did not detract from the presentation at all ;it's true that I have Scottish origins but the people in the group I was with were English and it didn't bother anybody .Naturally we noticed it ,but no more than if she'd had a regional accent . Personally I don't think an American accent would detract from plot at all ;it would just be a little different and perhaps add an edge to the story. The play was set in Verona anyway, which is a long way from Stratford or London .Best of luck with your production .
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I attended one of the RSC 's performances of Romeo and Juliette at the Globe theatre in London in 2004 when the actor playing Juliette was Scottish .This did not detract from the presentation at all ;it's true that I have Scottish origins but the people in the group I was with were English and it didn't bother anybody .Naturally we noticed it ,but no more than if she'd had a regional accent . Personally I don't think an American accent would detract from plot at all ;it would just be a little different and perhaps add an edge to the story. The play was set in Verona anyway, which is a long way from Stratford or London .Best of luck with your production .
    I agree with you-- but I didn't think the original post asked about American accents. My reply had to do with a translation into American English (obviously a late-modern variant) from Elizabethan English. The process would be analogous to any of the "everyday-English" versions/translations of the King James Version of the Bible.

    I'd love to do the Porter's scene in MacBeth with my own accent, slightly Dixie-fried-- but I'm sure I'd be forever at irremediable loggerheads with the production manager over the staging of it. And the people in the front row seats might disrupt the performance with their loud objections, and demands for a full refund.
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    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Actors who try to use accents in the interests if authenticity rarely get it right or sustain it for the whole show! I think it is generally less intrusive if they just use their own accent, whatever it is!

    On the other hand - I am not familiar the play Fences, but do know Miller's work, and think his attention to voice is so acute that one can hardly read it aloud without slipping into a US-twang !

    Shakepspeare, on the other hand is a far more artificial thing, and even English actors would not sound as they did when it was first performed.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I wonder if anyone has seen this play done well using American English.
    What do you mean by 'using American English'? Are you talking about a translation into modern (American) English, or are you talking about applying modern (American) phonology to the 16th / 17th century text?

    Translations of Shakespeare into modern language are generally easier to understand if the audience doesn't know the play inside out, but I think they also tend to miss out on some of the poetry of the original, as well as losing some of the resonance of canonical words and phrases.

    Neither modern British productions nor modern American productions usually attempt to reproduce the phonology of the 16th or 17th century: it is hard enough trying to keep up with the vocabulary and cultural references.
     

    Hockey13

    Senior Member
    AmEnglish/German
    I agree with you-- but I didn't think the original post asked about American accents. My reply had to do with a translation into American English (obviously a late-modern variant) from Elizabethan English. The process would be analogous to any of the "everyday-English" versions/translations of the King James Version of the Bible.

    I'd love to do the Porter's scene in MacBeth with my own accent, slightly Dixie-fried-- but I'm sure I'd be forever at irremediable loggerheads with the production manager over the staging of it. And the people in the front row seats might disrupt the performance with their loud objections, and demands for a full refund.
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    No, no. I meant American accent. Sorry for being ambiguous. I'm not a big fan of reworkings of Shakespearean theater since the originals are so great.
     

    Iona

    Senior Member
    English England
    I wonder if anyone has seen this play done well using American English. I'm performing in it for my University Theater in the Spring, and I wonder what the consensus is in the U.S. playing this English play (set in Verona :) ). Surely if Fences is performed in London, they use American accents.
    Hello Hockey. In response to your latest message. It was clear to me at least that you were talking about accents.
     

    Kevman

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Maybe this can be considered evidence that the accent isn't all that important, but for many of the productions of Romeo and Juliet that I've seen I can't even remember which particular accent was used!

    Most Shakespearean actors I know are trained in a dialect known as "Standard Stage," which I think shares similarities with a British accent (whatever that is!) but is not quite the same. I think most of the productions I've seen employed this (although I'm fairly certain that the 1996 Baz Luhrman film was all in American accents).

    Given that a modern British accent is as far removed from Elizabethan speech as a modern American one I don't think the work should suffer any more in authenticity. The wonderful thing about Shakespeare is that all the beauty is contained in the text. I think a Shakespeare play is like a Bach piece: it's beautiful no matter what instrument it is played on.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I've seen a TV programme which said that that the accents used in parts of the East coast of USA are far closer to Elizabethan sounds than the ones currently spoken in modern London.
     
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