Ten Questions with
of Romeo and Juliet
1. Where were you born / raised?
I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and lived just a few blocks from the Wolverines’ stadium. I grew up in Northfield, Minnesota, home to St. Olaf College, where I went to school.
2. If you weren’t a director, what profession would you be in?
If I were going to switch right now, I’d open a brewpub and work on some really hoppy IPAs.
3. The first opera I was ever in was…
Transatlantic. I sang in the chorus at Minnesota Opera in a little-known opera by George Antiel from the 1930s. It showed me the range of what was possible in opera – a jazz score, social commentary, and an inventive, experimental design and staging – and I was on stage with Sherrill Milnes.
4. My favorite opera is…
The Turn of the Screw. It combines everything opera can be. It tells a psychological story in a way only an opera can. The music and the libretto work together with staging and design choices with each element adding to the overall effect. And it asks for singers who are both great musicians and great actors.
5. My favorite pre-show / post-show meal is…
There are even more good restaurants in Madison than the last time I was here. I’ll get back to you once I’ve been in town a few more days.
6. People would be surprised to know that…
I was a high school state champion swimmer in my youth.
7. A few of my favorite books are…
Snow Falling on Cedars, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Signal and the Noise, The Grapes of Wrath, and for fun – Red Sparrow.
8. What do you like to binge-watch?
Game of Thrones, Sherlock, House of Cards, and West World looks promising.
9. What four people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?
William Shakespeare, Michelle and Barack Obama, and Louis CK.
10. Everyone should see Romeo and Juliet because….
It’s beautiful. That’s really why you should come.
After that, you may think you know the story, but every time you see it, you discover unexpected depth and surprising revelations that you had missed before. This time around, I am discovering that the opera is about love, but it is also about the consequences of hate. We never learn why the Montagues hate the Capulets, only that they are both alike in dignity. We are in the midst of a time where we as a society are caught up in who we hate. We are so certain we have enough good reasons to hate the other side that we lose track of the fact that the hatred itself has consequences. The opera ponders what happens when love fails to break the pattern of entrenched hatred. We will do well to spend a few hours in the theater contemplating the result.
Bonus: One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q: Would you rather work on the play or the opera of Romeo and Juliet?
A: I love them both for different reasons. The opera reveals so clearly the love between Romeo and Juliet. The play is full of beautiful, profound language that allows me to feel our shared humanity more deeply. I’m glad I get to work on both.
Don’t miss the chance to see Doug’s production of Romeo and Juliet, as Shakespeare’s classic work comes to ravishing operatic life. Performances are November 4 and 6 in Overture Hall. Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.