Red Hook Theater Group Highlights Gentrification Through 'Romeo and Juliet'
RED HOOK — A Red Hook production of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” will portray issues of class, race and privilege facing the “rapidly gentrifying neighborhood” this summer.
From the streets of Verona in Italy to Verona Street in Red Hook, Falconworks Artists Group, a local theater company, will adapt the tale of two star-crossed lovers to make it “as relevant as possible to Red Hook residents,” said Reg Flowers, the group’s founder.
The play will highlight some of the conflicts tackled in the community, from rapid real estate development to aggressive police policies and even a nod to a new expensive private school that recently sparked controversy in the neighborhood.
Signs of Red Hook’s gentrification can be seen when residents, who have lived in the area for years, are marginalized or displaced as a result of development or an economic shift, Flowers explained.
“It’s really when it happens to the detriment of people who’ve been there for a long time,” he said.
The tragic love story of "Romeo and Juliet" portrays a clash between two families, the Capulets and the Montagues, who will have their own Red Hook significance in Falconworks’ production. The Capulets will represent a wealthy real estate family, while the Montagues' interests lie with rebellion and social transformation.
Coincidentally, Red Hook’s Verona Street, which bears the same name as the Italian city where the play was originally set, perfectly represented the neighborhood’s varying interests, with upscale apartments, industrial spaces and public housing located within the area, Flowers said.
While the play’s language will stay mostly true to the original text, scenes will be based in Red Hook and established through the use of video.
The Shakespearean drama features both professional and amateur actors, with two high school students in the roles of Romeo and Juliet, said Flowers, who will direct the play.
He also hopes to dispel some misconceptions about the so-called divisions that exist between residents of the Red Hook Houses — Brooklyn’s largest public housing complex — newcomers and locals who’ve lived in the neighborhood for decades.
“It’s not that simple,” he said. “It’s not so clearly drawn.”