Playing Romeo

My afternoon is filled with running lines. Running Romeo’s lines. Yes, that’s right, I am playing Romeo.

The reality hits me over and over again. I am playing Romeo. I am finally playing one of the lovers in the first Shakespeare play I ever read, in the first play I ever loved. I am a part of it.

Of course I assumed when I was 13 I would be playing Juliet. Life has changed my outlook, life has morphed me into a different actor than I anticipated, and for a few years I’ve thought “It would be amazing to play Romeo.”

With the words in front of me, with performance dates looming, I feel this pressure on my shoulders.

It’s always hard to pick up the script of one of these ridiculously famous characters. It’s especially difficult to pick up the script of one of the assumed “whiney and annoying” famous characters. Add on top the fact that Romeo speaks at great lengths in poetry and you have a pretty terrifying undertaking.

This isn’t to say I didn’t want this. This isn’t to say I’m not ecstatic. This is merely to say, the pressure has set in and I find myself nervous in a way I haven’t been in a long time. Any role makes me nervous, but Romeo has me quivering.

I pondered today why this was. Yes, Romeo is ridiculously well-known and that’s scary, but that isn’t the root of the issue. I’ve played other famous characters (Shylock in Merchant of Venice being one of the biggest challenges of my life) and yet this fear is different.

Romeo is this extremely poetical character and yet he’s earnest in everything he says. He is fully committed to his words and feels his emotions with every fiber of his being. He’s learned to feel his emotions and not question them. He’s one of the few characters I’ve seen who knows the validity of what he feels no matter what any other character says. When he loves, he loves with his whole being. When he’s upset, he drags the whole world down with him. He lives the emotion he’s feeling without fail. He doesn’t question his heart.

I realized – I’m not afraid of the famous lines or the ease with which Romeo can become ‘annoying’ – I’m afraid to be as earnest and committed as he is. I think back on my own experiences with love and I realize: I was a lot like Romeo. I’ve loved the idea of love. I’ve been obsessed with falling in love, I’ve committed to love more than once, I’ve jumped in convinced that love always prevails.

And life has knocked me down, as we all know life loves to do. I’m at the point in my life where I’ve learned to be wary, to be cautious, where I’ve worked to protect myself against the pain that comes from a broken-heart or unrequited love.

Now I sit, reading as Romeo, and I realize I have to revisit the part of me I’ve shut down.

This is where the fear lies.

Romeo is in me. I know the character is there because I know I’ve lived love the way he does. I have to return to that place of full commitment, of full trust.

That.
That is the reason I’m so very terrified of this role. The vulnerability needed for this role is out of the this world.

But I am so ready to break down these walls.

Thinking about it all – this world could use a little bit more of Romeo’s commitment. Obviously the guy jumps a bit too far, but we all need the reminder that our emotions are valid and important. That love is worth it. That life is about feeling all of our emotions, not only the ones we find convenient.

There’s a bit of Romeo in us all and I hope to bring that to the stage at the end of the month.

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