Preventing a Tragedy

“Romeo and Juliet: Choose your own Ending”, is just how it sounds. For those Shakespeare (or non-Shakespeare) fans, this was a play at Masuk High School that was an interactive type of entertainment.

The play was presented from March 9 to March 11 in the Masuk auditorium.

Sana Sarr as Romeo, Maile Booth as Mercutio, and Jonathan Fontana as Benvolio

Written by siblings Ann and Shawn Fraistat, “Romeo and Juliet: Choose your own Ending” transforms the tragedy into a comedy.

The production was directed by Tom Simonetti, who has been a part of Masuk Drama for three years and six shows.

Having directed this play before in his company of Shakespeare, Simonetti was confident in organizing this production and introducing it to Masuk. 

“We showed it at the Shakespeare Valley Festival and it was a big, huge hit for us! So I figured? Why not bring it here?” stated Simonetti. “Not gonna lie, Romeo and Juliet is the worst play ever of Shakespeare; as someone who loves Shakespeare and represents Shakespeare, I do think that it never gets done correctly or taught correctly. So I was really excited to bring this version to get kids/students to get excited about Shakespeare again…I also really did have the cast for it and the crew for it, because I knew this cast, especially seniors, would have the chops for it, the comedy chops.”

Sophia Kellogg as Juliet
Romeo(Sana Sarr) with Juliet(Sophia Kellogg)

On the nights of the performance, the cast and crew would dress in modern clothing, sporting shirts that were Shakespeare themed, but adding a bit of flair to their stage attire with the classic 1500s ruffled collar.

The classic started as the simple story of Romeo and Juliet would have started. However, when Romeo (Sana Sarr) reached a split decision on whether to be with Rosaline (Jamie Grosso) or Juliet (Sophia Kellogg), he asked the audience for assistance, for a vote. 

Whatever was voted led to one of the eight endings, and with the help of the audience, Romeo was either going to die with his crew, or happily get married. Throughout the show, Romeo (Sana Sarr) questions the audience and asks for advice on what he should do next. 

“What’s so fun about this play is that it brings me back to my childhood with all those choose your own adventure books and then you’d have to go back a bunch of pages,” explained Simonetti. “This play, what happens is it starts off, and then they get to vote on does he go to Juliet or to his love that he has originally, Rosaline. Then it just gets crazier and crazier. 

We rehearsed first with the original endings, it does go to the original ending but it’s not as fun if you don’t do the other ones.”

  It is a show designed for Shakespeare and non-Shakespeare fans with its take on comedy, and the use of Elizabethan language. 

“Everybody I feel [is going to like this kind of show] it’s comedy… Even if you hate theater you’re going to love it…” said Director Simonetti.

The cast of the production includes: Romeo – Sana Sarr, Juliet – Sophia Kellogg, Rosalind – Jamie Grosso, The Friar – Vibhuti Jani, Mercutio – Maile Booth, Benvolio – Jonathan Fontana, Tybalt/Paris – Keegan Simons, The Prince/Prologue – Muriel Bailey, Friar John/The Lady – Marissa Eichler, The Nurse – Izzy Tiska, Lord Capulet – Aaron Persico, Lord Montague – Gray Haughney, and Prologue – Sinead O’Leary.

Keegan Simons as Paris
Mercutio(Maile Booth) with the Prince(Muriel Bailey)

As well as Stage Manager Chris Tierney, Assistant Stage Manager Julia Kinahan, Producer Sharon Bartek, Technical Director Michael Panza, Lighting Director Robert Primorac, Sound Director Robert Bachman, and Director/Designer Tom Simonetti.

All three nights were successful, yet not without their challenges. 

“The biggest challenge probably is that it’s like eight different plays have to happen,” explained Simonetti. “Also we do sword fighting in it and kissing. So it’s making sure everyone is feeling safe on stage and everyone’s feeling supported, but also eight different endings! It’s like directing eight plays at once.”

Keegan Simons as Tibalt
The fight between Romeo(Sana Sarr) and Tibalt(Keegan Simons)

Yet despite hardships Director Tom Simonetti successfully put on a production that turned a heartbreaking story into one where people could laugh and feel included.

“I want [the viewers] to know that Shakespeare was not written to be performed without the audience interaction, that’s a big part of Shakespeare’s work, he talked to the audience…this play brings back the original intent of Shakespeare.”

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