Tag Archives: Romeo and Juliet

Talking With Brandon G. Green

Award Winning Actor To Play
Benvolio In Commonwealth Shakespeare’s
Romeo and Juliet

by Bobby Franklin

For its 22nd season Commonwealth Shakespeare Company will be presenting Romeo and Juliet on the Boston Common. The production, which is free to the public, will run from July 19th through August 6th.

Brandon G. Green

Brandon G. Green, will be taking on the role of Benvolio, Romeo’s cousin and friend. Brandon grew up in Selma, Alabama and earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Alabama State University. He moved to the Boston area to attend Brandeis University where he received his MFA. He now teaches at Brandeis.

Most recently he was seen on a Boston stage in the part of Mr. Tambo in the critically acclaimed SpeakEasy Stage production of The Scottsboro Boys. He also won the 2016 Elliot Norton Best Actor Award for his role in the Company One/Arts Emerson production of An Octoroon.

I had a chance to speak with Brandon before rehearsal at the Sorenson Center for the Arts at Babson College in Wellesley.

When we began our conversation I was struck by his rich, deep voice. I could immediately imagine Brandon in the role of the peacemaker Benvolio. His tone would convey both a calming effect and a command that would certainly enable his message to be heard and understood. Accepting that message will prove to be another thing.

Brandon Green grew up in Selma, Alabama. I asked him if there was much opportunity there for a student to pursue acting. “I went to a school that was very much about the arts when I was in the 6th grade, the School of Discovery. I got the bug there. Well, I actually had the bug before then.”

When I asked about what he used as an outlet in his younger, pre 6th grade days, he responded “Yes, I had the bug way before then. I would take part in school assemblies, Christmas Plays, as well as at church.” Was he a class clown? “No, actually, I was really quiet, very quiet. In high school I was in the marching band and choir. There wasn’t a lot, but what they did have helped me out.”

He recalls his time at Alabama State University in Montgomery fondly, “It was a really amazing program. I would argue it is one of the best undergraduate programs in the country.”

“I kind of feel like I’m playing a bit of myself…”

Our conversation turns to his latest project, playing Benvolio for CSC. “I kind of feel like I’m playing a bit of myself. The peacemaker almost reluctantly taking care of his cousin. Benvolio has his own things but he is definitely there for Romeo, and definitely the peacemaker. I was very much that in my friend circles. I was also the one people would come to for counsel in a way. I found myself there a lot of times, and there were times I was in need of a Benvolio in my life.”

Kai Tshikosi (Tybalt) and Brandon Green (Benvolio)

When I ask about Benvolio being a voice of calm and reason in a play where so many characters are irrational, Brandon gives some insight. “Benvolio means good will, well wisher, peacemaker. I feel like the straight man to a lot of the chaos that goes on. He is the cool head that is trying to prevail and survive in a way.” Why is Benvolio no longer in the play after Act I? “The peacemaker in this world has decided go away. He’s not there and that dims the lights a bit.”

Brandon tells me he has always loved Shakespeare. At Selma High while in the 10th grade he took a theatre arts class. He remembers, “LeBaron Mack taught us the Scottish Play (MacBeth). It was my first way into it and I fell in love with it there. When I got to Alabama State I saw Othello. It was amazing.” Brandon would go on to the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in 2010 and then to Brandeis where he got more training in classical theatre. Two years ago he played Oswald in the CSC production of King Lear.

Fight Director Angie Jepson, Kai Tshikosi, and Brandon Green.

Does he have a dream role? “I kind of already played it and that was in An Octoroon. I could not have dreamt up that role. It scared me. That was the perfect storm. A role that called on all my facilities as a performer. It was fun. It was challenging to myself and the audience. I got to let loose in a way I wanted to, or that I didn’t know I wanted to. I will carry that with me forever.”

As our conversation winds down I ask Brandon why people should see the CSC production of Romeo and Juliet on the Boston Common. “It is a magical experience. I truly believe that. Also, seeing a cast this diverse telling the story is incredible. There is nothing like this, it is transformative. You are out there with thousands of people. It’s crazy and it’s beautiful. A very unique experience.” His enthusiasm is contagious.

“Theatre is a collaborative between the audience and the performers..”

In closing I ask Brandon what he would like to say to the audience. I found his comments very thoughtful, sincere, and important. “Theatre is a collaborative between the audience and the performers, so please, we need your energy as much as you need ours. It’s reciprocal.”

Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage.” Well, you have a wonderful opportunity to share that stage this summer with a very talented and committed actor. Join Brandon Green and the rest of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company on the Common for what will surely be a great experience.

Romeo and Juliet
Boston Common
July 19 through August 6

Photos by Bobby Franklin

A Captivating Romeo and Juliet At The Hartford Stage


by Bobby Franklin

“O Romeo, Romeo! – wherefore art thou Romeo?”

In answer to that question, Romeo, Juliet, and all of the Capulets and Montagues are on the Hartford Stage under the very fine direction of Darko Tresnjak.

This Romeo and Juliet is nothing short of superb.

This Romeo and Juliet is nothing short of superb. Written over 400 years ago, the Hartford’s production of Shakespeare’s work is fresh and alive. The beautifully talented Kaliswa Brewster in her “dream role” as Juliet couldn’t be more perfect in the role as the young Ms

Juliet (Kaliswa Brewster)
Juliet (Kaliswa Brewster)

Capulet who is taken with the handsome Romeo played by the equally talented Chris Ghaffari. The two are lovely to watch as their forbidden love blossoms. They perform their parts with much playful humor (the famous balcony scene is among the best and most original I have ever seen) on a versatile set inspired by the work of Italian neorealist cinema, think Rossellini and Visconti.

Romeo (Chris Ghaffari) and Juliet (Kaliswa Brewster)
Romeo (Chris Ghaffari) and Juliet (Kaliswa Brewster)

The first half of this beautiful play is joyful and light. It makes the audience relax and share in the excitement of the title characters as they become more and more enthralled with each other. We laugh and share in their joy. Of course, we are made well aware of the tension that exists between the two families, but some how we feel things will work out just fine. Yes, even knowing the story, our emotions follow that arc. It is the magic director Tresnjak is able to make happen on stage. It is not the first time I have seen him do this.

Mercutio (Wyatt Fenner) and Tybalt (Jonathan Louis Dent)
Mercutio (Wyatt Fenner) and Tybalt (Jonathan Louis Dent)

Mercutio (Wyatt Fenner) is unlike any you have seen before. He is intense and, well, mercurial. And it is when he meets his end that our joyful mood takes a sudden and very real turn. “A plague on both your houses!” Again, it is that Darko magic at work. I observed laughter turn to tears in the audience as things descended into darkness because of the petty hatreds of the two families.

Friar Laurence (Charles Janasz)
Friar Laurence (Charles Janasz)

Charles Janasz brings wisdom and warmth to the part of Friar Laurence, and Kandis Chappell as Juliet’s nurse joins him in the failed and finally tragic attempt to reconcile things for the lovers and families. Our hearts break for them as well.

Everyone in the large cast is terrific, the set, with a balcony that extends and recedes from a wall designed after an Italian cemetery wall, and lighting are to the usual high standards of the Hartford. This production is a joy for all of the senses. Within minutes of the opening the theatergoers feel they are a part of all that is happening on the stage.

If you have seen Romeo and Juliet before do not miss this one as it is unlike any before. If you have never experienced it, there is no better time than now to see it for the first time, though I must warn you it may spoil you for future productions.

Juliet (Kaliswa Brewster) and Nurse (Kandis Chappell)
Juliet (Kaliswa Brewster) and Nurse (Kandis Chappell)

I have now attended enough Shakespeare productions directed by Darko Tresnjak at the Hartford to say his are by far the best in New England.

I urge you to take the short run down to Hartford to see this play. You’ll be sorry if you miss it.

Romeo and Juliet at The Hartford Stage through March 20th.

Info at www.hartfordstage.org Box Office 860-520-7114

The Hartford Stage Presents Romeo and Juliet

Kaliswa Brewster and Chris Ghaffari Lead Cast

Directed by Darko Tresnjak

Chris Ghaffari and Kaliswa BrewsterHartford Stage Artistic Director Darko Tresnik will be bringing his magic to William Shakespeare’s most popular play Romeo and Juliet beginning on February 11th and playing through March 20th.

Kaliswa Brewster and Chris Ghaffari will play the archetypal young lovers. Brewster’s credits include Hartford Stage’s La Dispute and Macbeth and Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Under Milk Wood, all three directed by Tresnjak; the new Showtime series “Billions,” which stars Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti and debuts next month; and the Off-Broadway premieres of Emotional Creature and Soldier X. Ghaffari is in his final year of the MFA program at the Yale School of Drama, where he has performed in Coriolanus, King John and Paradise Lost. His resume also includes King Lear for The Public’s Shakespeare in the Park and As You Like It and Julius Caesar at Shakespeare on the Sound.

Tresnjak said, “Romeo & Juliet is a play of seemingly infinite possibilities, reinvented from generation to generation for over 400 years, a symbol of romantic love infused with iconic imagery and unforgettable language that has become a part of the vernacular. We look forward to exploring this eternally modern play with a company of great stage veterans and rising stars.”

Having seen Darko perform his magic on MacBeth and Hamlet I am very much looking forward to seeing what he does with Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet contains some of Shakespeare’s best known lines including “A plague on both your houses.”, “Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow, that i shall say good night till it be morrow.”, and “What’s on a name? That which we call a rose by any bother name would smell as sweet.”

For more information go to: www.harfordstage.org or call 860-527-5151