By Fiona Roy
For The Diamondback

Maryland Shakespeare Players celebrated its opening night showcase at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on Friday with a mythical rendition of the classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet.

Club members reimagined the original play to turn the Montagues into werewolves and the Capulets into a family of vampires, according to Liam O’Donoghue, a junior mechanical engineering major and co-director of the Maryland Shakespeare Players.

“It’s definitely a really interesting step for us as a club, doing a thing that’s exciting and new and weird in a really, really cool way,” O’Donoghue said.

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Each semester, club directors pick a Shakespeare play to produce. Club members then pitch and vote on an additional theme to apply to the production, said Andy Hindenach, a senior psychology major and co-director with O’Donoghue.

The club has a long history of doing decade-themed Shakespeare plays, but has recently begun expanding its repertoire by breaking away from time-based themes, Hindenach said.

Themes make it easier for the audience to understand the centuries-old content of Shakespeare, O’Donoghue said.

Jacob Pelzman-Kern, a senior theatre major who played the role of Romeo, said the club had been joking about doing a vampire and werewolf-themed version of Romeo and Juliet since his freshman year.

“Now we’re actually doing it, and we’re taking it very, very seriously,” Pelzman-Kern said.

Props, costumes and makeup reveal subtle allusions to the mythical theme with a slight gothic twist, according to Claire Nelson, a senior early childhood and early childhood special education major who was the show’s props master and makeup artist.

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Pelzman-Kern said the club has a lot of freedom in what it chooses to do with both costuming and theme choices.

“This is the best way to do Shakespeare, where you’re just kind of having fun,” Pelzman-Kern said. “In having fun you end up having a better performance.”

The club is composed of members from various backgrounds, majors and acting experience levels, according to Hindenach. For this production in particular, there are 19 actors working with a 10 person production team.

“This club is very unifying for non-theater majors that want to perform and do theater without fully committing to it as a major,” Nelson said. “They found this club as a way to kind of express that creativity that they have, but don’t normally have the chance to explore in their daily lives.”

O’Donoghue said the club has been his chance on campus to pursue something that is not his major and be involved with a group of people that aren’t just like him.

“It’s an environment of love,” Pelzman-Kern said. “I just can’t get enough of this stuff.”

Mikey Howerton, a senior environmental science and policy major who played Juliet, said the club explores more than just the inner workings of Shakespeare. It works to explore varying expressions of sexuality and love, Howerton said.

“It is very affirming to see gay love put on a pedestal in this way, and showcased in something timeless,” Howerton said. “Especially because this would not have been cool in the 1600s, and it really wouldn’t have been cool 70 years ago.”