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Shakespeare Festival St. Louis returns to Forest Park, takes modern approach to ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Elena Araoz and Tom Ridgely joined host Don Marsh to talk about this year's Shakespeare Festival St. Louis production.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The tragedy of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet is a timeless tale and one of English playwright William Shakespeare’s most popular works.

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis is bringing the classic play back to Forest Park June 1 to 24.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about the production with Elena Araoz, the director of “Romeo and Juliet,” and Tom Ridgely, the new executive producer of the organization.

“Why this play for right now?” is a question Araoz asked herself when considering how to bring the more than 400-year-old play to life. “I feel like this is a big story that needs to be told right now across the country,” she said.

That story, she said, is one of a divided city that’s divided by generations of hate, themes of which run through St. Louis and many other cities.

“I would say that what I’m really leaning into is what Shakespeare is trying to do, [that] is to give us an allegory,” Araoz said, mentioning that the story she’s trying to tell is more invested in character and plot as opposed to where Shakespeare set the play, in Verona, Italy.

The play also takes a modern approach. The costumes, music and set are present-day but there are some traditional touches such as the use of swords.

“They’ll still have swords because swords are really cool,” Araoz said.

Just a few hours into his first day on the job as Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ executive producer, Tom Ridgely, said he’s excited to be in St. Louis.

“I was really looking into an organization that is woven into the fabric of a city,” he said, pointing to activities the nonprofit conducts in schools and in the streets.

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis is also launching a fourth initiative this fall called “In the Works,” that will showcase three original stories by American playwrights who use Shakespeare as their inspiration.

Related Event

What: Shakespeare Festival St. Louis Presents "Romeo and Juliet"
When: 8 p.m. nightly except Tuesdays, June 1 - 24, 2018
Where: Shakespeare Glen, Fine Arts Drive east of the Art Museum in Forest Park
More information

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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