Romeo & Juliet at Villa Montalvo featured!

We're in the September edition of Modern Luxury Silicon Valley!

The article is a little difficult to read online as it's overlaid upon an image of Juliet, so we're sharing a copy of it here in plain text.



On a sprawling 175-acre landmark estate, a classic Shakespeare play is given an interactive twist. 

By Kate Evans

IN A FORTHCOMING production of Romeo and Juliet, Montalvo Arts Center promises to take the concept of audience participation to another level. A series of performances by We Players, the innovative theater troupe formed by Ava Roy at Stanford University in 2000, will capitalize on the magnificent setting in Saratoga: theatergoers will follow the Shakespeare characters throughout the grounds, immersing themselves in the scenery and storylines— from donning masquerade masks at the Capulet's ball held in the Italianate mansion Villa Montalvo to surrounding the sword-fighting action that takes place on the Great Lawn to witnessing the heartbreak in the Love Temple, where Juliet's tomb will be on view. 

"The first time I saw Villa Montalvo, it was talking to me— screaming at me," recalls Roy, whose company famously presented an islandwide staging of Hamlet on Alcatraz in 2010. "I'd been looking for a home for Romeo and Juliet for years. I had to get out of the fog and mist of San Francisco and, here in the South Bay, I found Italy." Nestled within acres of wildwood and sculptured gardens, Villa Montalvo— built in 1912 as a country home for former U. S. Senator and San Francisco Mayor James D. Phelan— sits on a gentle hill, overlooking the Great Lawn, which stretches down a slope to the cypress tree-lined formal garden below. "Because we create depth of perspective and a larger sphere of performance," Roy continues, "the audience is encouraged to look around them at all of the multidimensional elements: what other characters are doing over on that hill, or watching a servant set up for the ball." 

According to Angela McConnell, Montalvo's executive director, "[this] is is unlike anything we've ever staged here," she says. A production that involves open-air sets, as We Players' does, comes with its challenges— including seemingly simple logistics such as where to store costumes and props— as well as its rewards. "We will experience this classic in a new and intimate way," McConnell adds. "Where we, as the audience, are usually removed, here we will see every expression, share experiences and feel a connection to the artists." 

Oct. 6-16, Thu.-Sun., tickets $40-$80, 15400 Montalvo Road, Saratoga,408. 961.5858,

ACTING OUT In We Players' site-integrated production of Romeo and Juliet, Maria Leigh portrays the title female protagonist. 

ACTING OUT In We Players' site-integrated production of Romeo and Juliet, Maria Leigh portrays the title female protagonist. 

a life long love affair...

“The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet”

This is the show that began my love affair with Shakespeare... I played Juliet my freshman year of high school. Changed everything. Sports turned into iambic pentameter in an instant.

Flash forward! Spring of 2000, freshman year in college, We Players is born with a beautiful, ragtag array of friends in all the roles - actors-cum-doctors, engineers, scientists, social anthropologists in training - playing all the parts in, you guessed it, Romeo & Juliet.

It was set sprawling across the campus from the student union, through pedestrian thoroughfares, under archways, across courtyards, and finally arriving at a collection of iconic sculptures - Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais. We bit our thumbs and brawled in the cafeteria at high noon, were married in front of the stunning facade of Stanford’s Memorial Church, fought to the death in the center of the quad and were buried, by way of red ribbons that tied the dead bodies to the sculptures. The audience followed along, growing bigger, a great parade, and the fire-eyed fury and soaring love story of Juliet and her Romeo swept us along throughout the landscape. The concept and practice of We Players - this transforming of public space into immersive performance venues - was ignited.

Zoom into the future once more! Here we are, the summer of 2016. 16 years since the first We Players’ performance, our patchwork garb now converted to costumes dyed with the native plants of the land, our homemade cookies transformed into fine organic cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, our shopping cart full of props is now become a team of talented designers and devoted production crew members, our studious friends respectfully replaced with some of the finest actors in the Bay Area, and our impromptu takeover of public spaces grown into a unique and very special partnership with both our State and National Parks. 

It is with great honor, humility, and joy that I share this production with you, dear audience members! This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The works are as vital and relevant as they ever have been. It has been a great pleasure to delve back into this familiar story to be nothing less than astonished with the multitude of new perspectives and discoveries packed into this year’s exploration of it. 

Of course, this is always one of the great joys of the rehearsal process: the discovery, the breathing of life into it, the responses to what the actors bring, the questions asked, and then even more questions, the flashes of insight, and then back on the trail, searching again…

I hope that when you join us on this performance adventure - at this historic adobe, immersed in this stunning slice of northern California landscape - that you will be rewarded for paying attention, that your senses will be activated, and that you will find something in the story and the place to carry with you in the years to follow.

-Ava Roy
Artistic Director