And it's not just Romeo. "My daughter's of a pretty age", her mother says. "Thou wast the prettiest babe that e'er I nursed" says her nurse. Even the friar. "The roses in thy lips and cheeks..." Everyone seems to know that Juliet is pretty. (Or, perhaps this is Shakespeare's way of repeatedly reminding his Elizabethan audience that the boy playing Juliet is supposed to be a gorgeous young woman, just in case they forgot between scene changes.)
I found this to be the most intimidating part of the role. I frequently made jokes throughout rehearsals at my own insecurity - "Guys, I'm SO pretty" I'd sarcastically declare with a hair flip. I know that if someone is referred to as "pretty" at least 3 times, the audience is checking out that actress to see if she really lives up to it. I'm first of all a 28 year old playing a 13 year old - a fact that made me have some interesting dreams about my hair turning gray, and had me studying the lines on my face in the mirror. In life, am PROUD of the laugh lines I have earned and look forward to deepening the crows feet by my eyes. I don't think these things make someone un-beautiful. But to serve a story where I need to play a convincing child... I might have gotten a little nervous.
Plus, the quintessential Juliet we've all seen in English class looks like Olivia Hussey, and there's just no living up to that.
Here's a whole paragraph that came out of today's review of our Romeo and Juliet:
Yeah... remember how I said I don't take stock in reviews?
This one hit home and made my heart sing.
There is no substance if you play "tone" and "poise" - I have no interest in playing "pretty." I decided early on to let the text say "pretty" a bunch of times, and I'll just act like Juliet. (Same approach to Laura in the Glass Menagerie. When our director said "I don't want a powder puff or a dish cloth," I said "Well, good, cuz you cast ME.")
If I get type cast FOREVER as "the actress who makes audiences realize the pretty roles have brains first", I will be eternally happy.
I feel so vindicated.
And rully full of myself for geeking out about it.
But I worked hard on that wit.
On to perform another...