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Shakespeare wrote Romeo & Juliet in the mid-1590s.  Based on writings of the time, to him it was a rather recent tale.  So understandably, Shakespeare’s story is often “updated” now-a-days. For instance, it was set in upper west side Manhattan for the 1957 musical West Side Story, and a very modern place called “Verona Beach” by Baz Luhrmann in his 1996 film with Leonardo DiCaprio.  However, the tragic romance of forbidden love is a universal and ancient story.  Consider the legend of Shanbo and Yingtai from the Jin dynasty in China (265-420 AD) or Layla and Majnun from 5th Century Arabia. (Interestingly, Shakespeare uses the word “ancient” nine times in the play.) With these thoughts in mind, we have set our story in a place of both historic significance and modern gravity – the Levant.  The Levant has historically referred to the lands of the eastern Mediterranean – the point of the rising sun; it is the earth of the Fertile Crescent and the dawn of human civilization.  (The word “levant” derives from the same Latin root as “leavening,” leva, which means to rise.)  To our eyes, the Levant is a place that has for “millennia been a mosaic of faiths and ethnicities…that…might now be shattered beyond repair.” (Fordam, NPR News 11/15/15)   It is in this light that we ask you to view our world.  We have not changed Shakespeare’s text to perform his play.  All the words are his.  But the tragedy, unfortunately, is owned by all of us.

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