News / Toronto

Gender fluid version of Romeo and Juliet plays out under Toronto stars

The production, by outdoor theatre company Shakespeare in the Ruff, has two female actors as the star-crossed lovers.

Vivien Endicott-Douglas, right, and Kaitlyn Riordan star as Romeo and Juliet in a gender fluid version of the bard’s classic romance produced by outdoor theatre company Shakespeare in the Ruff.

Courtesy Eva Barrie/Shakespeare in the Ruff.

Vivien Endicott-Douglas, right, and Kaitlyn Riordan star as Romeo and Juliet in a gender fluid version of the bard’s classic romance produced by outdoor theatre company Shakespeare in the Ruff.

In a famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet asks "what's Montague? It is nor hand nor foot, nor arm nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man.”

But in an outdoor production of the play being staged by Shakespeare in the Ruff in Toronto, the line gets tweaked: “man” becomes “person.”

It’s one of the few changes being made to the script to reflect that in this version, both the star-crossed lovers are women.

Juliet is still Juliet, but Romeo’s character is portrayed as someone born a woman who identifies as male.

“What I have kind of a fatigue for is the sense of Romeo and Juliet being this perfect Disney prince and princess,” said director Andrea Donaldson.

When it came to casting, Donaldson said she chose the perfect Romeo, regardless of gender.

“I just feel like the truth of this story is about inexplicable love. It’s about love that is the most surprising and unavoidable.”

It’s not the first LGBTQ adaption of the play. A lesbian version entitled Romeo and (her) Juliet was performed at Toronto’s Bloor Street United Church in 2014.

Kaitlyn Riordan, who plays Juliet, said the production has already gotten rave reviews from the audience members, who see themselves and their own relationships reflected in the classic for the first time.

“The beauty of Shakespeare is that there’s room to explore his plays in this way, because we’ve seen it so many times in a traditional way that it almost begs to be reinvented,” she said.

You can catch the play under the stars in Withrow Park every night except Mondays until Sept. 4. Admission is pay what you can.

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