SUNY Oswego’s Theatre Department will produce “Romeo and Juliet” for the first time in 30 years –- and director Steven Mazzoccone, cast and crew are focusing on making this piece appealing and accessible to a wide audience.

“Romeo and Juliet” opens April 19 in Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre.

“It actually feels really fresh and it feels really relevant and understandable,” Mazzoccone said. “It feels really quick and action packed, and I don’t know that that is the usual connotation when you hear you are going to a Shakespeare show.”

Mazzoccone, a visiting assistant professor of theater, started adapting the play last summer, condensing the three hour play into 90 minutes. He was very excited when he learned he would be directing the production.

“We are using Shakespeare’s text. Last summer, I adapted it, and so I cut it and I’ve switched some scenes around to help the play,” Mazzoccone said. He said that by using Shakespeare’s original script, it will help improve the actors’ skills with heightened language.

While reworking the screenplay, Mazzoccone said he was able to combine scenes and take out any parts that may be unnecessary. He wanted to adapt the play so that it would be more understandable for any younger people in the audience.

Updating some elements

“With the text being over 400 years old, there are words and phrases that are just going to fly right over the audience’s head,” Mazzoccone said. “I was mindful and thinking to myself, ‘is this something the actor can get and is this something the audience can receive?’ and if both of those answers were ‘no,’ then I got rid of it.”

The audience is still going to understand the whole story with so much of the original script being cut, Mazzoccone said. They are still using Shakespeare’s language and his original ideas.

“I think Shakespeare’s metaphor for the whole play is what is love and can it be controlled, and how deep is it impacted by the circumstances of the world you live in,” Mazzoccone said.

An alumnus of SUNY Oswego, Mazzoccone predominantly worked on Shakespeare productions throughout his professional career. He said his experiences started budding at Oswego.

Mazzoccone has also directed the production of “Elsewhere” and a virtual production of “Misanthrope.” However, “Romeo and Juliet” will be the biggest production he has worked on.

“‘Romeo and Juliet’ is definitely the biggest cast that I’ve worked with here, and it is also the one with the most elements that need to be built into the show, like combat,” Mazzoccone said.

The set for the play also involves a lot of levels and is harder to work with than a smaller production. With the play being put on in Waterman Theatre, they gain access to a large stage area.

“When I was adapting it during the summer, I wasn’t sure how big or small I wanted the cast to be, so when I actually did the adaptation, I planned it to include around 10 actors,” Mazzoccone said. “But we had such a high turnout for the audition and there were a number of students who expressed a willingness to be in it in smaller roles, so we expanded the cast to 15.” 

Mazzoccone said that by expanding the cast, they are able to expand on the fighting scenes more, and they are able to fill the large stage. 

Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. on April 19, 20, 22 and 23, plus a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on April 23. On April 21, the production will host attendees of Dramafest, a popular returning feature for high school students.

Tickets are free for SUNY Oswego students, $10 for everybody else, available via

–- Written by Gabrielle Kroeger of the Class of 2023