In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which but their children's end naught could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which, if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
Prologue, Romeo & Juliet
On June 1st, Italian soccer star Luca Ceccarelli and his stellar girlfriend Irene Lanforti, both alike in dignity, got married in fair Verona. The mayor officiated at the ceremony in an effort to promote the city's romantic image, as well as a brand new $1300 bargain opportunity for other lovers to follow in Luca & Irene's footsteps (or in Romeo & Juliet's wake, as the case may be - my guess is that the price tag for the latter might be a bit higher, though, as it involves a double ceremony of sorts, so do check with your wedding planner in advance). In fact, they exchanged vows on Juliet's famed balcony, a destination which already receives 1.2 million pilgrims a year.
Only problem is that it's not Juliet's balcony. We jester not (we're no Shakespearean fools), we have this on high authority - that's right, we watch Rick Steves. Apparently, the Cappello family household, supposedly linked to the ancient Capulets, was actually occupied with "misadventur'd piteous overthrows" of another sort... indeed, it is reputed to have served famously as the neighborhood brothel. (Does this earn Luca a red light district card?) The balcony was added to the facade centuries after R&J's legendary tryst, but I wipe my civil hands clean of disparaging it any further.
The point is, by the time we got to Casa di Giulietta ourselves, it was a bit anti-climatic. All of us were jaded by visits to too many sightseeing attractions and - though it was subtle - we discerned that this one was yet another tourist booby trap. The whole idea of seeing Juliet like that rubbed M&K the wrong way, so none of us was disappointed when we arrived after closing time.
But, now, a flashback to the prologue of our own play on Romeo & Juliet:
M&K's Shakespearean melodrama had begun long before we entered Verona 'live and in person.' After several nights spent reading acts of the play aloud for "bedtime stories," we went ahead and scheduled Franco Zeffirelli's version for family movie night. They loved it and, naturally, it provided all manner of new family farcical fodder, like the scene where Romeo finds out Juliet is masquerading as a Capulet - dubbed the "Oh, Crap-ulet!" moment (yo, no disrespect). I very purposefully emphasized how silly R&J were to be so impatient, "doomed" and inclined to moaning - trying to make sure to counteract any over-romanticizing of the love story and its outcome (putting me in direct opposition to the dreamy Mercutio, thousands of English teachers who annually uphold this as the sacred epitome of tragic love, and the millions more afflicted with Sir Walter Scott disease in its many Harlequinesque manifestations). But, since they already knew about that sort of thing from Marc Antony & Cleopatra, I felt relatively assured that they were quite content to scoff at scars & won't be inclined to feel - or purposefully self-inflict - any wounds.
Nevertheless, it did inspire them. We created an abridged script of the balcony scene and M&K began practicing at once... so, May we humbly present Mikaela in the guise of Romeo and Katrianna as a r's rolling, Romeo-relishing Juliet:
And, since there was only one fair way to resolve "the ancient [actress] grudge that threatened to break to new [sibling] mutiny," Mikaela now assumes the role of a be-musing Juliet & Katrianna displays her best Zeffirelli-directed portrayal of the boysterous, love-struck Romeo:
Eventually, after all of this intense theatrical preparation in the states, the girls found themselves performing to wide acclaim across Europe. In nearly every village, town or city, in each & every country we visited, they sought out spare balconies, trespassed their stony limits & winged it to love's lofty heights to answer the summons of Shakespearean schmaltz. As you can imagine, many awe-struck, appreciative aficionados would stop what they were doing to listen (interpreted by M&K as a 'standing O') before resuming their mundane daily tasks, which peculiarly enough usually involved sweeping the dirt off their own balconies so that it cascaded, confetti-like, right onto Romeo & Juliet's upturned, praise-expectant bare heads.
When we finally got to Verona following four months of "touring," our little troupers approached it with all of the enthusiasm of hackneyed actors on their 500th run of an off off-Broadway production. Their namesakes "up in graffiti" outside the gates of the Casa di Giulietta failed to amuse them. But, it was a beautiful, crisply cool night so we merrily romped through the medieval, marble-cobbled streets pretending to be the Montagues & the Capulets (improvising to add the snappy fingers & mandatory dance moves of the Sharks & the Jets, obviously). It was really perfect and oh-so authentic, all except for the fact that Tybalt, aka the Prince of Cat's, aka Chris, refused to change into the tri-colored tights I'd brought along especially for this occasion... clearly, men do not support the arts.
We strolled past Verona's colosseum and through a maze of fashion boutiques to Piazza delle Erbe, the expansive town square lined by herb vendors' carts, gleaming lights and freely flowing fountains of youths imbibing the nightlife. It was quite nice, but then we meandered around a corner and found ourselves in Piazza dei Signori, lorded over by a middle aged, supremo Dante who refused to tell us definitively whether we'd found Paradiso or, could it be, the infernal Cinema Paradiso? - certainly, his mute condescension proved to be a divine comedy at our expense. Once more, we wandered on through an indescript opening in the walls and, magically, we were completely alone in yet another piazza facing the biggest, most imposing staircase and balcony we had ever scene!
That did it. The Sarkar Sisters Theater Company sprang into "Action!" Well, at least they tried to. Turned out that the final, moonlit performance of Romeo & Juliet actually started with the Intermission due to a minor glitch - when, upon inspecting the balcony to ensure its safety for the children, Mom was, at its vertex, suddenly struck with her fear of heights forgotten in all the excitement. No problem, there was only a slight twenty minute delay as Mom took to her hands and knees to crawl back down the 72 steps...
The dénouement of our Verona play date:
Truly, I don't know how I hadn't thought of this before. We always seem to overlook the obvious and what's right in our own backyard, don't we? But, thanks to the newly betrothed Mr. & Mrs. Ceccarelli and the fare-mayor of Verona, I'm adding The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas to our list of worldly, must-see sites. Of course, it's the home of the esteemed classic musical, valid reason enough. However, now I also realize we should be looking ahead and scope it out as an ideal spot for Mikaela's or Katrianna's future nuptials & afterparty. A wonder that it hasn't occurred to the fine, entrepreneurial folks at the La Grange chamber of commerce, ain't it? Just goes to show that we Americans still lag far behind in terms of European sophistication and literary nuance...
A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun for sorrow will not show his head.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished;
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.