‘Romeo Y Julieta’ teaches power of communication across cultures

Maximillian Wright and Rachel Leishman play Romeo and Julieta in BYU’s production of “Romeo Y Julieta.” The multilingual show is touring to local elementary schools. (BYU Arts)

William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is a widely known tragedy, but BYU’s latest rendition adds a bit of Spanish speaking and Latino culture to create “Romeo Y Julieta.”

The show’s director, Julia Ashworth, has been interested in multilingual and multicultural theatre productions for a few years and jumped at the opportunity of directing one at BYU.

“They (multilingual productions) provide an opportunity for a more diverse and inclusive theatre experience,” Ashworth said.

Ashworth said the story focuses more on miscommunication than on the romance between two star-crossed lovers.

Ashworth said the incorporation of the Spanish language into the production was done mostly by the actors themselves and their own Latino backgrounds.

“I tried to let them drive this as much as possible,” Ashworth said. ” If an actor had Mexican heritage, we tried to find ways to represent that in their character, language or costume.”

Rachel Leishman, the actress starring as Julieta, said her mother is from Mexico and her father served an LDS mission in the same country. She has been speaking Spanish since she was young.

Leishman said “Romeo Y Julieta” highlights miscommunication between cultures as well as parents and children.

I think that’s what makes our show so different,” she said. “All these variations of miscommunication can happen across different cultures.”

Rachel Leishman stars in “Romeo Y Julieta” as Julieta. She has been acting since she was in elementary school. (BYU Arts)

The production of “Romeo Y Julieta” is touring to local elementary schools for the last half of the semester. Leishman said the show is trying to help children understand the importance of communication, empathy and understanding between cultures. She said she loves having such a focused message to share.

I want people to know that the show has changed my life,” Leishman said. “It’s something that has affected me personally.”

She hopes the show can affect audience members in a similar way and help them see what they can do to communicate better with the people around them.

For more information about “Romeo Y Julieta,” visit the BYU Arts website.

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