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