The Shakespearian classic Romeo and Juliet will be coming to Merced and Yosemite National Park for the upcoming Earth Day weekend, April 20-23.
Set not so long ago in Fair Yosemite, Romeo and Juliet will face their feuding families and live to tell the tale. The mixture of the stunning setting, addition of fun modern music, and the time-tested tale of star-crossed lovers results in a great time for the whole family.
The shows are free and open to everyone.
- Thursday, April 20, 6 p.m. — Wallace-Dutra Amphitheater, UC Merced (free parking in Bellevue Lot)
- Friday, April 21, 5 p.m. — Curry Village Amphitheater, Yosemite
- Saturday, April 22 (Earth Day), noon and 5 p.m. — Curry Village Amphitheater, Yosemite
- Sunday, April 23 (Shakespeare’s birthday), noon — Curry Village Amphitheater, Yosemite
In case of inclement weather, Yosemite performances will be moved to the indoor Yosemite Theatre, which is behind the Valley Visitor’s Center in Yosemite Village.
“We have taken Shakespeare’s characters and a lot of the plot elements of Romeo and Juliet, and have lightly updated some of the beautiful language to make it more understandable,” says Dr. Kathrine Brokaw, the director and founder of Shakespeare in Yosemite. “Then we’ve created something totally new with those raw materials: a story about Gen Z in California, about the challenges and wonders of Yosemite at the moment, about the red-legged frog and its re-introduction to its native Sierras habitat.
“I hope that people who love the play can delight in some of the iconic moments and lines that we have preserved, and also find joy and inspiration in the ways we have changed the story. And the show is FULL of wonderful music, arranged fabulously by Tonatiuh Newbold and sung gorgeously by our cast — that should be a real treat for everyone, regardless of their feelings about Shakespeare. Species need to adapt to survive, and so does Shakespeare. Our adaptation, we hope, urges collective action on preserving the natural world for all of Earth’s inhabitants, human and non-human.”
One key theme that is emphasized and reinforced across all Shakespeare in Yosemite productions, and is a foundational aspect of the entire company, is conservation and ecological awareness. If you pay close attention throughout the show, you will notice that there are points in the play where you have a chance to learn some fun (and other not-so fun) information about the history and biology of Yosemite as well as methods to help preserve and heal it.
“I encourage everyone to look more into environmental theater,” says Sal Lopez, who plays Benvolio. “I took a class with Katie about it, and it broadened my perspective of how theater can be used. We’ve been hearing about climate change our whole life and people are tired of it. So, incorporating theater is a great way to get people to listen again.”
Madelynn Lara, who is cast as Juliet, says the show is special because it is written with Yosemite in mind.
“So as you’re in Yosemite watching the show,” she says, “there are references to a lot of the things that you can experience in the park. … It’s a real community effort and team effort. It’s not just one person writing and adapting the script. There are all the cast members essentially, who have made their own contributions, and it’s really made it a personal experience.”
Musical director and Mercutio actor, Tonatiuh Newbold, says the whole experience with Shakespeare in the Park has been healthy and rewarding.
“You get to be in such a beautiful place, surrounded by people that you get to know really well, and you have just like a few days set aside to just be there as a whole person—like a whole human being,” Newbold says. “I feel like a lot of times people don’t get to do that, and as a cast having an objective goal that you can peacefully accomplish in such a beautiful place is really nice. It’s a nice confidence boost it’s a nice a beautiful thing you’re creating. I feel like there is not much better for the soul than seeing healthy creation all the way through.”
Dr. Brokaw agrees, saying the entire cast and crew have been inspiring to work with.
“Tonatiuh Newbold has been absolutely indispensable to the creative process this year, and we couldn’t do any of this without the unceasing support of Ranger Scott Gediman in Yosemite,” Brokaw says.
As for Romeo, played by Moximo Hamright: “I feel like everyone’s really working together and everyone’s really pleasant to be around and to be on stage with — which I think is what you need for an eco show. I feel like the vibe is important, and the vibe has been well-curated.”
For those interested in more information you can visit their website, yosemiteshakes.ucmerced.edu or follow their Instagram and/or TikTok @yosemiteshakes. Additionally, you can find films of previous Shakespeare in Yosemite productions on their YouTube account of the same name.