GLOW Lyric Theatre is thrusting itself into the contentious immigration debate with two stage productions at Furman University’s McAlister Auditorium this month.
Gounod’s opera “Romeo et Juliette” (opening July 27) and Bernstein’s “West Side Story” (opening July 29) will plump decisively for tearing down the walls that divide people and foster suspicion and ethnic hatred, said GLOW artistic director Jenna Tamisiea.
“The aim is to spark a conversation about the challenges that immigrants and refugees face in America,” Tamisiea said.
Tamisiea, who serves as stage director, has updated Gounod’s 1867 French opera to contemporary America.
The two warring families, the Montagues and Capulets, will become symbols of factions in the immigration debate.
“The Montagues are a group of immigrants and refugees who are seeking asylum and protection in America,” Tamisiea said. “The Capulets are a group of people who would force them out of the country.”
The two families will be separated by an actual wall onstage, Tamisiea said.
Tamisiea’s staging was inspired by two election-year controversies: presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump’s call for a wall on the U.S. border and the State of South Carolina’s largely unwelcoming attitude toward Syrian refugees fleeing civil war and terrorism.
“What we’re aiming to do is to have a very poignant conversation via theater about some of the issues that are hitting us close to home in South Carolina,” Tamisiea said.
Both “Romeo et Juliette” and “West Side Story” are based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
“West Side Story,” with its Latin and jazz-infused score, also touches on racial tensions and the immigrant experience as it explores the conflicts between white and Puerto Rican gangs in 1950s New York City, Tamisiea said.
GLOW’s general director Christian Elser will serve as conductor and music director for the performances. “Romeo et Juliette” will be sung in French with projected English subtitles.
GLOW, now in its sixth season, is known for producing work that responds to South Carolina’s social and political climate. Last year, GLOW staged two African-American musicals, “The Hot Mikado” and “The Wiz,” only weeks after a mass shooting in Charleston and the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse.
This year, GLOW is partnering with Hispanic Alliance SC, which will host some special events at selected performances. On July 27 at 7:15 p.m., the Alliance will sponsor a panel discussion before the 8 p.m. “Romeo et Juliette.” At the July 30 evening performance of “West Side Story,” a pre-show reception will feature poetry and art by local Latino artists.
GLOW also will host a “Summer Stars Cabaret” at the intimate Furman Playhouse on July 28 at 8 p.m., featuring a 60-minute program of songs and personal stories from the cast of “West Side Story.”
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YOU CAN GO
What: GLOW Lyric Theatre’s “Romeo et Juliette” by Charles Gounod; and “West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein
When:“Romeo et Juliette”: 8 p.m. July 27 and 2 p.m. July 31; “West Side Story”: 8 p.m. July 29, also 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. July 30,
Where: Furman University’s McAlister Auditorium
Tickets: $35 to $45 for individual tickets; season tickets available for $65 to $85
Information: 864-294-3267 or www.glowlyric.com/tickets