Classic and contemporary come to life this summer at the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival. A production of Romeo and Juliet is opening the festival and featuring a cast of Interlochen Arts alumni and faculty. Circle Mirror Transformation, a contemporary play written by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Annie Baker, will also be featured at the festival as part of Interlochen’s ‘Young Americans’ program.

MyNorth Media entertainment writer Ross Boissoneau gives a look into this Northern Michigan stage event.

On Tap

Romeo and Juliet, arguably the world’s most famous play, opens the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival.

How it Got its Start

Interlochen’s Artistic Director William Church decided this ninth year of the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival was the perfect time to stage the Bard’s most famous work. “This is the greatest love story ever told and one that our audiences will know quite well,” Church says. “Our goal with this production is not to reinterpret the text in some new and drastic way, but to reveal the core of the story so clearly that the play feels as though it is being heard for the first time.”

Quite a trick, as virtually everyone knows the plot. Church said that is part of the reason to do it. “In a successful production of Romeo & Juliet, the audience can feel the hope and potential of this beautiful young couple so clearly that the ending comes as a devastating yet inevitable surprise. And then I ask myself the following questions: if this play is so famous, why have we not learned from it? Why does love still fall victim to hate? Doesn’t this amazing piece of writing still have more to teach us? The answer to that last question is most certainly yes. Perhaps all of us need more time to consider the lessons of this vital work and look beyond the surface to see how it can inform our daily lives.”

While the main characters perish, Romeo and Juliet lives on. Companies around the world perform the play, and it has been filmed numerous times, having been reinterpreted in a variety of settings. It inspired the similarly immortal West Side Story, hugely successful as both a film and a play, as well as a lush ballet with music by Prokofiev.


Typically most of the cast members have a connection to Interlochen, and this year is no exception. Romeo is being played by Harry Thornton, who attended Interlochen Arts Camp and appeared last summer in As You Like It. He is currently studying at Carnegie Mellon. Ema Horvath, an alumna of both Interlochen Arts Camp and Interlochen Arts Academy who just graduated from Harvard University, is portraying Juliet. Returning to the company as Friar Laurence is long-time Interlochen faculty member David Montee, who recently received an Honorable Mention for the Tony Excellence in Education Award. Anne Cooper, a long-time Interlochen Arts Camp faculty member, is returning from Los Angeles to play the Nurse. Local actors Noah Durham (Interlochen Arts Academy alumnus) and Laura Mittelstaedt (Interlochen Arts Academy Theatre faculty member) play Mercutio and Lady Capulet. The rest of the cast is a mix of Interlochen alumni and faculty.

Additional Background

For the first time this year, a second play will be part of the proceedings. “Well, we are a festival, after all, which really does imply more than one offering,” said Church. Circle Mirror Transformation is a contemporary play. Church noted that many of the top Shakespeare Festivals around the world offer a mix of classical and contemporary programming to their audiences, and with Interlochen’s “Young Americans” theme informing much of the programming this summer, he found it a felicitous choice. “Circle Mirror Transformation was written by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Annie Baker. She is most definitely a ‘Young American’ and someone whose career is off to a remarkable start,” Church said. It is being directed by Krista Williams, an Interlochen alum who works with young playwrights in New York and helps them to develop and advance their work.


“Colloquially known as ‘the balcony scene,’ it contains Romeo and Juliet‘s most quoted lines, which are so closely associated with the balcony that they’re frequently repeated by non-actors who seize upon any real-life balcony, porch, landing, or veranda to reenact the moment. There’s only one problem: There is no balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet.” – The Atlantic

“Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 movie version of Romeo and Juliet is … high-minded and lively, with heartbreakingly beautiful actors on show, and all shot in a kind of honeycomb-sunglow light.” – Iowa State Daily


Upton-Morley Pavilion (Romeo and Juliet), Harvey Theatre (Circle Mirror Transformation), Interlochen Center for the Arts

Date & Time

Romeo and Juliet: July 1, 2, 8, 9

Circle Mirror Transformation: July 5, 6, 7

All at 8 p.m.

Ticket information

Tickets are $32. Go to

For more

More Northern Michigan Stage

#2016 #Grand_Traverse #Interlochen #Events #Stage

Photo(s) by Interlochen Center for the Arts