Taking a closer look at Madison theater
Jul 10, 2014
09:56 AM
Stage Write

Stage Right/Stage Wrong: Melisa Pereyra's Tale of Two Romeo and Juliets

Stage Right/Stage Wrong: Melisa Pereyra's Tale of Two Romeo and Juliets

PHOTO BY CARISSA DIXON

Pereyra's had more than a few adventures appearing in Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet.'

As anyone in the theater universe can tell you, there are times when everything on stage goes just perfectly: The audience is thrilled and a unique and memorable magic is created.  

And then there are the times when the line gets dropped, the prop falls over or the actor suffers a Jennifer Lawrence-at-the-Oscars-level stumble.

Most actors, directors and designers have the grace and style to appreciate and/or survive both types of moments, but it’s the really confident ones who are willing to relive and share them with us. Melisa Pereyra, who’s spending her first summer season at American Players Theatre rocking the Capulet vibe as the doomed heroine in director Jim DeVita’s Romeo and Juliet, had a few gems to share. And they both just happen to pertain to the play in which she’s currently starring.

STAGE RIGHT: Opening night is always pretty magical, but June 20’s opening show of R&J held a little extra pixie dust for Pereyra. Not only was it her first appearance on APT’s outdoor space, but she also got a hefty assist from some shifts in the weather and humidity.

It started with the first act. “The play begins on the hot and steamy streets of Verona, and there’s the audience in the hot, steamy theater,” recalls Pereyra.”There wasn’t much to have to imagine.”

As the play progressed, ominous clouds began to gather in the Spring Green skies. By the time Juliet quaffs the poision, dies and is discovered by her distraught parents, rain had begun, as if the heavens were weeping at Shakespeare’s tragedy.

Pereyra felt the vibe strongly. “It was terrifying to be out there, alone, speaking and experiencing Shakespeare’s dark language,” she says. “We were definitely christened by nature that night.”

STAGE WRONG: APT’s version of Romeo and Juliet isn’t the first time Pereyra has been in the cast of this particular play. She played several minor roles in the Illinois Shakespeare Festival's 2011 production, including the apothecary, a patient and one of the watchmen who carries a lantern onstage in the play’s final, doomstruck scene. One of Pereyra’s actor friends—she’s opting to withhold his name to protect the innocent and/or tongue-tied—was playing the role of the Prince, who discovers the lovers’ bodies. He was supposed to deliver the play’s final, oft-quoted couplet: For never was a story of more woe/ Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

The actor, unfortunately, transposed the final line to “Than this of Romeo and her Juliet.” Knowing there was no turning back, the actor grimaced and held character as Pereyra and the rest of the cast, including the prone corpses of the star-cross'd lovers, desperately tried not to crack up.

"Nobody could keep it together,” Pereyra says. “It was the longest fade to black I’ve ever experienced. Everyone was like, ‘Please go down, lights, please go down.’”

Pereyra appears as Juliet Up the Hill through October 4. You can also catch her in a smaller role in George Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma (opening October 7) and in the Touchstone as the title character in Alcestis, opening October 10.

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About This Blog

Once upon a time—okay, it was the mid-'80s—a boy saw a performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the annual summer Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, and a spark was ignited. Decades later, that spark’s only grown stronger, burning brightly every time the lights go up and the actors begin to tread the stage.

I’ve spent a long time—okay, more than 15 years—watching and writing about Madison’s theater scene. Now, more than ever, it’s clear our bustling burgh is packed with vibrant theater companies doing important, cutting-edge work, whether it’s original and daring content, stunning musicals or thought-provoking stagings of modern and classic plays. Stage Write is a place where we’ll talk about those plays and the people who make them happen, maybe look behind the curtain a little and gain some new perspective on how and why it all comes together. Theater has the power to transform, to educate, to show us who we are and where we’re going in a way no other medium can. Hey, look: The curtain’s rising.

– Aaron R. Conklin
Follow Aaron on Twitter @arconklin

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