Guerrilla Shakespeare: Leave Your Expectations at the Door
If You Only Have 60 Seconds…
- Guerrilla Shakespeare is the brainchild of Crystal Stewart and Micah Miller
- Their goal is to engage with those who would not typically go to the theatre and break them out of their comfort zones.
- They plan on subverting expectations by trying to instill empathy and inspiring “light bulb moments” for their viewers.
Upon first sitting down outside of a Starbucks, there is something readily apparent about Crystal Stewart. She is passionate about her beliefs and about using her talents to spark change. It radiates off of her. After spending some time with Crystal, there is no doubt she has a deep love for the stage, and it is hard not to be swept up in that love, even if you aren’t familiar with theater.
An Anderson University graduate, Crystal knew that she really wanted to pursue acting in the Upstate. So, she headed to Greenville where the theater community is growing rapidly. Her skills aren’t limited to acting; she has experience behind the scenes as well. “I actually have ‘back- stage fright. If I am on stage and mess up, I know it’s my fault.” From this statement, you can glean that Crystal really cares about those who are part of the productions with which she is associated. This compassion led her to the creation of Guerrilla Shakespeare.
Thou’s, Thine’s & Thy’s
Most people are familiar with the works of Shakespeare. Who doesn’t remember having to read Macbeth, Hamlet, or Romeo and Juliet in school? That being said, Shakespeare isn’t always the easiest to understand with thou’s, thine’s, and thy’s. This was the jumping off point for Crystal. “Micah (Miller, Crystal’s co-founder) and I realized there are so many ways to do Shakespeare. So we wanted to do plays for people who don’t typically go to the theater.” This meant taking a more fluid approach to the productions.
Romeo and Juliet is undoubtedly one of the most iconic Shakespeare plays, and Crystal and Micah wanted to subvert the viewer’s expectations. When casting their production, they had the intention of being color blind and introducing an LGBT approach to Shakespeare and that started with the leads. Two women play the roles of Romeo and Juliet. In fact, this is a theme throughout the casting of the play. Almost all of the roles are filled by women and non-conforming individuals.
Crystal’s goal isn’t to shock people. “I want to encourage a dialogue.” At its core, Romeo and Juliet is a play about ideological differences. “It’s a reality of how life is.” The emotion in Crystal’s voice becomes deep and saddened. She speaks about kids committing suicide because they are made to feel bad about themselves, or told that what they want is wrong. “As a teenager, the worst thing that has happened to you is now. We can teach them to be better because of it. Things are so overwhelming for a teenager, they think ‘why should I try?’ They can’t have hope if they don’t know what’s coming is better, and no one is there to validate their feelings.”
This vision of Shakespeare is completely in-line with what the immortal bard would have wanted. “Shakespeare himself was pretty radical.” He included a diverse cast of characters in his works: there were women, men, men playing women, and even men playing women who were pretending to be men. “People get lost in the boring aspects,” Crystal expounds on how the message of Shakespeare can be muddled in old language and exposition. “A really good production can change someone’s outlook on theater.” The Guerrilla Shakespeare production of Romeo and Juliet promises not only to be “really good,” but also thought provoking.
“People are fighting even if they aren’t exactly sure what they are fighting for.”
“People are fighting, even if they aren’t exactly sure what they are fighting for,” Crystal speaks this phrase as not only a commentary on the Montagues and Capulets but on the state of the world in general. She has a feeling that some people in the audience might be uncomfortable while watching this production of Romeo and Juliet, but that is not her intent. “We actually want people to be comfortable. We’re not trying to be edgy. The only reason someone will be uncomfortable is if they [see something on stage and] confront a part of themselves or the world they hadn’t thought about.”
In A Way You Never Expected
At the end of the day, Crystal and Micah are setting out to give the “others” a voice. If Romeo and Juliet goes well, they plan on adapting even more of Shakespeare’s works. The fun doesn’t stop there. “We want to re-work more classic works with modern conflict, works that people think they already know everything about.” As they look towards the future, Crystal won’t lose sight of her mission. She sums up Guerrilla Shakespeare as, “people you have probably never seen before, performing a play you think you know, in a way you never expected.”
Guerrilla Shakespeare will be moving across Greenville to different venues. No matter where you catch Romeo and Juliet, Crystal wants you to “come with open hearts and open minds, and stay to talk.” She encourages the audience to stay after the show if they have questions or want to discuss the show. There will also be mental health resources available for guests to look over and take home with them. The show runs September 7th – 17th.