Branda Lock shares her experience directing ‘Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending’

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“Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending” poster courtesy of Little Fish Theatre

No doubt anyone who has read or seen a production of Shakespeare’s tragic love story “Romeo and Juliet” has wished they could change the ending so that the lovers can be reunited rather than separated by death due to a seemingly split-second decision. And now, thanks to Little Fish Theatre and director Branda Lock, you CAN choose to change things around during “Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending” airing online Saturday, July 25 at 6 p.m. and on Sunday, July 26 at 2 p.m. But exactly how will it work? I spoke with the production’s director, Branda Lock, to find out.

Branda Lock (Lock): I’m very excited to be bringing this interactive piece of theatre to people’s homes via Zoom! This play is not only a hilarious take on Shakespeare’s classic, has a ridiculously talented and diverse cast, it is also very near and dear to my heart. I mean, hasn’t everyone wished if only Romeo had gotten the note! Or if only Mercutio and Tybalt had lived! Or what about that other girl Romeo was supposedly in love with when the play begins? Lucky for us, the brother-sister playwriting duo, Shawn and Ann Fraistat, decided to tackle those burning questions many of us Shakespeare lovers have and turned out what I think to be a hilarious and delightful parody called “Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending” 

(Shari): How did your journey take you to Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro to get the play produced, especially now when live theatre is taking a long “intermission” due to COVID-19?

(Lock): Since the play’s publication in 2013, I’ve basically been pitching it to any theatre willing to consider it. And just last year, Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro expressed interest in producing the play for its upcoming season. I excitedly started putting my production dream board together on Pinterest of a vibrant Elizabethan/Clueless/Late 90’s production style mashup—and then COVID-19 hit. Like a lot of theatre artists, I accepted the shutdown, mourned my current and future production loss, and immediately rushed to stop the hemorrhaging theaters were suffering from by offering my assistance in any way I could to help generate donations and keep patrons and subscribers connected to theatre.

(Shari): Tell me a bit more about your vision for the production.

(Lock): My main desire in directing and presenting this version of “Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending” is to reinvigorate that special and unique audience/performer connection by making this as engaging and interactive an experience as possible by using technology not as a hindrance but as an advantage. That way, we can all continue to come together in newer and fresher ways, especially during these COVID-19 times. You see, there are three moments in the play where Romeo will directly address the audience to get their vote so he can decide which path to pursue. Our audience will then have the opportunity to vote via the Zoom, chat, via a poll, and some lucky audience members may even be invited into the Zoom live broadcast to cast their vote with Romeo in “virtual person.”

(Shari): Your cast of ten (Milan Anderson, Samantha Barrios, Ben Campbell, Vonzell Carter, Sri Chilukuri, Daniel Gallai, Brian O’Sullivan, Selena Price, Rodney Rincon and Don Schlossman) will have to be able to think on their feet, so to speak, given how the two performances of “Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending” will, no doubt, turn out very differently. How can audience members register and tune in this weekend on Saturday, July 25 at 6 p.m. and/or Sunday, July 26 at 2 p.m.? 

(Lock): Because this is a published play, this is a password protected live event and no recordings will be made of the performances. Tickets are free but limited in number, so those interested MUST RSVP to suzanne@littlefishtheatre.org and include “R&J” in the subject line for the Zoom link and password to be sent to them. In addition, if audience members would like to make a ticket donation, they may do so at  https://bit.ly/DonateWYC  Donation suggestion is $20 since paying the actors and licensing fees is only made possible through these donations.