Actor Spotlight: John Steel Jr.

"Part, fools!
Put up your swords! You know not what you do!"

Meet John Steele Jr. as Benvolio!
(He's also a playwright and fervent tea enthusiast!)

Q: Describe We Players in four words.
A: Challenging, engaging, immersive, enlightening.

Q: How has working with We Players changed your perspective of theater, or of the world at large?
A: I have really reconnected with nature during this rehearsal process. I'm a city boy by choice, but I have never felt so at ease and at home in the elements as I have delving into Romeo and Juliet. Also, I have always been a fan of theater that doesn't occur in an actual theatre, but the idea of using the art form to bring awareness to the stories that are already a part of our cultural history is exciting. And having performed in a few state parks before, I am so proud to be working with a company that makes it their mission to bring attention to those natural gems that our country must continue to protect and value.

Q: Any funny or memorable We Players moments, anecdotes, quotes/metaphors you'd like to share?
A: One night when hopping from studio to studio [at our Romeo & Juliet Montalvo artist residency], a few of us began singing a basic choral chant in the round, but it slowly evolved into a bizarre choral chant version of the Sir Mix-A-Lot classic "Baby Got Back." We all took it so seriously, and sang through our little version, and once we had finished and we fully registered what we had created, we burst into hysterics.

Q: Share with us something about your process for creating your character thus far.
A: One of my favorite things about finding Benvolio has been discovering what a skilled fighter he is and has to be. Verona is a place where everything is in turmoil. Benvolio doesn't enjoy violence, but he understands the need for self-protection so he has learned how to fight with the best of them. Our brilliant fight choreographer approached the fighting styles in the play as a means of understanding the character, so I got to have a lot of input into what makes the way Benvolio blocks an attack different than how Tybalt or Mercutio would do it.

Q: Anything fun you'd like to tell us about yourself? Something that your audiences might never get the chance to ask about?
A: I have a red-nose clown persona named Scooter who has a panic disorder. But he tries his best, bless his heart, and he's usually okay if he has his safety goggles. When I was young I learned how to do balloon animals and basic juggling, so of course Scooter learned too. It's quite a process though. It usually takes him a few (maybe more than a few) tries to get it right.

Romeo & Juliet rehearsal photos by Lauren Matley

Actor Spotlight: Rush Rehm

Here's Romeo & Juliet actor spotlight #3!

Rush is an actor, the artistic director of Stanford Repertory Theater, a professor of Theater & Performance Studies and Classics at Stanford, and a published author in the areas of Greek tragedy and contemporary politics (phew!)-you’ll meet Rush in Romeo & Juliet as Friar Laurence.

 Q: Describe We Players in four words.
 A: Fun, Intimate, Engaged, Ava! 

 Q:How has working with We Players changed your perspective of theater, or of the world at large?
 A: I’ve lived too long and seen too many things for anything in the theater to change my view of the world. As for the theater, there are many ways to make it, and many of them are valid, rewarding, and effective. We Players is one such way.

 Q: What’s your hometown? How has it shaped you? 
A: No hometown, I traveled as a child. I like Greece, Paris (duh), Australia, New Zealand, Cuba, Berlin, London, Istanbul, I could go on. 

 Q: What would you be if you weren’t an actor? 
A: Few people (me included) are just “an actor.” What /who else would I be? Depends on the day. 

 Q: Tell us about some new favorite of yours, whether it’s a lunch dish, a singer, movie, color, or something else entirely. What is it about this new thing that’s rocking your world? 
 A:  Joseph Conrad. 

Photos by Tina Case Photography

Building ROMEO & JULIET at Montalvo Arts Center

We Players were blessed with a spring residency at Montalvo Arts Center this past May, and Montalvo's Lori Wood wrote this exciting article about the experience of having us on site!

Maria Leigh (Juliet), Libby Oberlin (Capulet), John Steele (Benvolio), and Stage Manager Britt Lauer at work building this year's Romeo & Juliet! Photo by Tina Case.

Maria Leigh (Juliet), Libby Oberlin (Capulet), John Steele (Benvolio), and Stage Manager Britt Lauer at work building this year's Romeo & Juliet! Photo by Tina Case.

"As We Players developed these experiences at Montalvo, the villa and its gardens rang with new sounds: the clash of swords on the front lawn, the calls of the characters’ spirit-animals, the music of a rueda on the villa’s front terrace, and the loudest artist dinner ever held in the Lucas Artists Program Commons. One Thursday night, the full cast of Romeo and Juliet came to dinner in character, each armed with secret instructions designed by director Ava Roy to build insight into their character—instructions that also served to create maximum drama, hubbub and happy consternation. A night of hilarity and chaos ensued, the windows shook, and culinary artist Andrea Blum and lone novelist Lynn Freed leapt for cover as the We Players brought their characters to life at full throttle."

Check out the full article at the Lucas Arts Program blog, Open Access!

Actor Spotlight: Courtney Walsh

We can’t believe week two of rehearsals at Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park is coming to a close. As we learn more and more about each other as fellow cast members of Romeo & Juliet, we will share those insights with you here in our Actor Spotlights!

Meet Courtney Walsh, our Mercutio!

Photo: Lauren Matley

Photo: Lauren Matley


WE: Describe We Players in four words…

CW: Adventurous, smart, committed, fun.

WE: How has working with We Players changed your perspective of theater, or of the world at large?

CW: Performance outside the black box removes inhibition. No room for self-consciousness at play or at large.

WE: Any funny or memorable We Players moments, anecdotes, quotes/metaphors you’d like to share?

CW: You can have a whole conversation between two people using just my character’s name:
…Etc :)

WE: Tell us a little sumthin’ about you:

CW: I have four children, ages 12-23, and have been married 25 years. I have a horse and do competitive dressage. I also took several years off of acting to be a lawyer representing abused children. I have argued in the California Supreme Court.

WE: What is it about this new thing that’s rocking your world?

CW: Girls never get to sword fight - but now I do!