Q&A with Niles West’s Very Own Romeo and Juliet

By Gabrielle Abesamis

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In an effort to give readers the inside scoop on this week’s production of  William Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet,” the NWN sat down with Niles West’s very own Romeo and Juliet, senior Surdeep Chauhan and junior Julia Nejman.

NWN: What’s it like working with one another?

Surdeep: We’re both super comfortable with our roles and are friends so all the kissing and love stuff came easy. The kissing was kind of funny because we’d both be sick at different times, we’d have to ask each other every day if we could kiss. She has a really promising future in theatre, and I love acting with her.

Julia: Surdeep and I are good friends, so having to play two characters madly in love is interesting and definitely has it’s humorous moments. You can definitely see the difference between our relationship on stage and off. We’re usually just goofing around or making dumb jokes about one another. He also teaches me so much, like how to say a line or what to think during a scene. It’s very helpful to have him there all the time.

IMG_8954NWN: How do you get in character?

Surdeep: Getting in character isn’t too difficult because I am the age that Shakespeare intended Romeo to be. Most of his thoughts revolve around women and the hardships of being a teenager. So in most cases, I play myself.

Julia: For Juliet it takes so much more for me. She is literally my complete opposite. I like to think about and try to channel that naive seventh-grade girl who doesn’t know the real meaning of love and likes to believe that any boy that gives her attention is her one true love. I relate Juliet to Gabriella from “High School Musical” where she is so excited when she gets noticed by a boy for the first time. As hard as it is, I just try to pull out as much ‘girliness’ as I can.

NWN: What’s your secret to memorizing lines?

Surdeep: Specifically for Shakespeare, I make sense of the line so I know exactly what it means and what my character is trying to say. The biggest part is that I play the emotion of the line. When the line is paired with action and emotion, it suddenly becomes easier to remember.

Julia: A lot of people do some crazy stuff to memorize lines. I really just read over them a couple times, look at myself in the mirror, and try to remember as much as I can. I like to think of memorizing a song. After you listen to it a couple times, you just start to pick it up and know all the words.

NWN: How is this different from any other production of Romeo and Juliet?

Surdeep: The concept of the Montagues and Capulets being political rivals and the teenagers are fighting back [make this different]. The set is industrial, covered in graffiti, and just gives you an eerie vibe. The show is underscored with a lot of raw hip hop. We also worked with a professional fight choreographer to create fight and death sequences. The realism and intensity is unlike any other show we’ve done at Niles West.

Julia: We’re doing our own modern version, there are a few cuts in the script to make our version make more sense. The fighting isn’t with all swords or whatever, it’s real street fighting and I honestly get scared watching it sometimes. Our version will bring a whole new perspective to the play and I know anyone that watches it will be able to relate to some of the characters.

NWN: What’s the most challenging part of the production?

Surdeep: Personally, what’s difficult is the range of emotion I need to have for this show. It isn’t just funny or sad, in many moments, Romeo experiences sadness, fear, guilt, happiness, anger, and love. Channeling all these feelings take a lot out of you and forces you to fully commit yourself and let go of everything else.

Julia: We had such a short amount of time. There’s so much going on in this production — technically and on stage — and there was a lot to get done in just four weeks, but we don’t let that kind of stuff stop us. I can’t wait to see everything come together within these last couple of weeks, and I’m super excited to hear the audience reactions.

NWN: Do you believe in the kind of love Romeo and Juliet have?

Surdeep: Yes. Given the fact that Romeo and Juliet’s relationship was less than stable, I do believe that two people can be madly in love, which might lead them to do stupid things, but sometimes, in love, the juice is worth the squeeze.

Julia: I posted a status a little bit ago just asking myself how someone can be so in love and obsessed to be able to get the the point of wanting to kill yourself. So I guess I don’t really believe it, but I would want to experience that mindset of being so dumb in love that you would do anything to be happy with that person. I’m still working on really trying to get into Juliet’s brain and experiencing her mind set.

The Niles West Theatre Department will present “Romeo and Juliet” Friday, Feb. 21 and Saturday, Feb. 22 at 4:30 and 7 p.m. in the Black Box. The cast will also perform two special performances for the community and freshman English classes Thursday, Feb. 19.