A rose by any other name may still smell as sweet, but would the world’s most famous pair of star-crossed lovers be able to handle a world where Facebook would inform their friends and family that “Romeo and Juliet are now in a relationship”?
That is a question Communication senior Mike Salomon seeks to answer with his one-act play RMEO + JULEZ. Salomon’s play recently won him a year-long mentorship at the Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC) and $7500. MTC and Dentyne gum sponsored the REALationships Playwright Competition, which was based on Dentyne’s Make Face Time ad campaign and designed to offer students the chance to explore their own ideas about how technology is affecting relationships in the digital age.
The play takes the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, which Salomon calls “arguably the most romantic scene in all of literature,” and sets it in a more contemporary time in which both characters have cell phones. Phones calls from various characters central to the original Shakespeare play distract the pair from their declarations of love. “In the end the intent is to question the impact of this constant accessibility that technology affords us. What happens to this most innocent of romances and the communication between two people who are there in front of each other when they’re so easily interrupted by their cell phones?” Salomon explained. “I myself am dependent on my cell phone, Facebook and other technological affordances but I think it’s sort of sad that it can take away from people being able to enjoy one-on-one personal conversations.”
The Acton, Mass. native first became interested in writing plays during high school. “I was always into writing and theater, so they sort of drifted together and their little Venn diagram overlapped in the realm of play writing,” he said.
The impassioned 21-year-old spent the week of May 12 in New York City, producing the play at MTC’s City Center. Josh Lucas hosted the event, which was judged by notable playwrights Adam Block, Liz Flahive and David Auburn, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Proof, a play that was originally produced by MTC. “It was incredible to work alongside the actors and director and watch them take my little scribblings and turn it into a really outstanding performance,” Salomon explained.
Of course, this was not the first time he has seen one of his works performed — earlier this spring, Vertigo Productions produced P is for Predator, Salomon’s comedy about the troublesome effects of reality television. He has also been involved with other campus organizations, including the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and TONIK Tap, for which he served as artistic director.
Participating in the Creative Writing for Media program at NU has helped strengthen Salomon’s desire to become a writer. The faculty there have been influential in his writing pursuits, particularly playwright professor and Steppenwolf ensemble member Mia McCullough, who introduced Salomon to the MTC contest. But the one thing he values most about Northwestern is the chance to interact with other talented students who are dedicated to their field of study. “It’s mind blowing. If everyone from Northwestern’s theater program graduated and decided to form one gigantic theater company, they could rule the world,” he said.
Salomon will head back to New York City after graduation where he’s hoping the mentorship at MTC will help open doors for him professionally by allowing him to further develop his existing plays, create new works and meet new people. “It’s so hard when you’re first starting out to showcase your work and get your name out there, so to have this opportunity exist, especially for young writers, is awesome,” he said.
Note: The original version of this article neglected to mention that Weinberg junior Kelby Siddons was one of the finalists for the prize with her play Off the Couch. North by Northwestern regrets the omission.