“Romeo and Juliet in Harlem” will Celebrate Shakespeare’s Genius and Impact

Books & Literature | History | VFH News

Charlottesville, VA — In commemoration of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Virginia Film Festival, Virginia Shakespeare Initiative, Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, and Lifeview Marketing will present Romeo and Juliet in Harlem, a modern film adaptation of Shakespeare’s most popular play. The film is the first adaptation of any Shakespeare play that stays true to the original language and text and has a complete cast of color.

The free screening will take place at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. Doors will open at 6:30 PM. The program will include a post-screening discussion with the director of the film, Aleta Chappelle, in conversation with Theresa Davis, associate professor of cross-cultural performance at UVa, and Ralph Alan Cohen, co-founder of the American Shakespeare Center and professor of Shakespeare and performance at Mary Baldwin College. For more information, visit: http://virginiahumanities.orgevents/romeo-and-juliet-in-harlem/.

“We’re pleased to partner with such excellent organizations to share a unique example of the continued relevance and power of the works of Shakespeare,” said Virginia Foundation for the Humanities president Robert C. Vaughan III. “We look forward to having Ms. Chappelle with us for a dynamic community discussion about the film as part of the Virginia Shakespeare Initiative.”

Chappelle is the first African American woman to direct a Shakespeare feature film. While in Charlottesville, she will meet with film students at Albemarle High School and Light House Studio to discuss the film and her career.

About the Film

Romeo and Juliet in Harlem’s vibrant photography of the dynamic neighborhood of Harlem and passionate performances of the actors brings this universal story alive. In this depiction of Shakespeare’s play, intolerance fuels the feud between Harlem’s two most successful families—the Capulets (African American) and the Montagues (Latino)—turning the tender love story of Juliet and her Romeo into a tragedy.

About the Director

Aleta Chappelle is a casting director, film director, film producer, and screenwriter. After attending the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, she followed her passion for Shakespeare first on the nationally touring New Shakespeare Company of San Francisco and later as a company member of the Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival. She began her career in film working with Francis Coppola at Zoetrope Studios in the casting department. As a casting director, she worked on many successful films such as Drumline, Nutty Professor, Godfather 3, and Sister Act 2. Her feature film directing credits include Goosed, starring Jennifer Tilly, Damon Wayans, and Joan Rivers, which premiered on Showtime. Ms. Chappelle casts independent and studio films, and works on several projects through her production company Moon Shadow Films, Inc.

Cast Highlights

  • Harry Lennix (Lord Capulet) stars in the NBC series The Blacklist and can be seen in the megahit film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Lennix has starred in numerous other films including: Man of Steel, The Matrix Revolutions, Matrix Reloaded, Love & Basketball, Ray, and Guarding Tess. He was one of the five heartbeats in the hit film The 5 Heartbeats.
  • Aunjanue Ellis (Lady Capulet) is currently starring in the ABC series Quantico. She is one of the stars of the highly anticipated film The Birth of a Nation. Some of her other film credits include: The Help, Of Mind and Music, Notorious, Ray, and Men of Honor.
  • Erica Gimpel (the Nurse) is recognized by the public for her role as Coco in the television show Fame. Her numerous television credits include: ER, The Young and the Restless, Veronica Mars, and True Blood on HBO. Her film credits include: King of New York, Smoke, Freaky Friday, and Tio Papi.
  • Vicky Jeudy (Benvolia) began her young acting career as a series regular and can currently be seen in the hit show Orange Is the New Black.

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The Virginia Shakespeare Initiative (VSI) is a statewide celebration of William Shakespeare in anticipation of the 400th anniversary of his death on April 23, 2016. The initiative began through the partnership of the American Shakespeare Center, Virginia Commission for the Arts, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and Washington and Lee University. Together, they coordinated a larger partner network with 20 organizations across the state, including arts and tourism councils, school and college systems, and library and museum associations. Organizations and individuals in Virginia are invited to participate by developing programs occurring before December 2016 that will explore and commemorate Shakespeare’s genius and impact. For more information, visit: VAShakespeare.org.

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