Interview: Allison Volk and City Shakes Ponder “To Live or Die” in Life and Art

On Friday, July 11th, The City Shakespeare Company will open a gritty production of Romeo & Juliet that asks: What would you die for? Allison Volk, co-founder of City Shakes who also plays Lady Capulet and Benvolio in the production, offered these thoughts on the subject by members of her company.

What Would You Die For?
By Allison Volk

I asked some of the major players in our production the same question; not what would their characters die for, but what would THEY, the actor, die for? Initially I assumed that everyone would have the same obvious answer, but when I pulled people aside, I suddenly saw how intimately personal the question actually is. 

“I would die for a chance to truly live,” said David Hartstone, the actor playing Romeo and also City Shakes’ fight choreographer. “I was always into parkour, gymnastics, skydiving. I want to experience things that are larger than life. I would give anything to feel that higher power of real living.”

Megan Ruble, who plays Juliet, had a much different answer. “My instant response was my family and my faith. But as I thought about it, I realized that I would die for anything if you could convince me that my death had a purpose. If you could convince me somehow that my death would end world poverty, I would do it.”

As I listened to these responses, I began thinking about Romeo and Juliet. Are they actually dying for each other? Not really. They’re not sacrificing themselves for the sake of the other. On the contrary, they’re releasing themselves from their anguish.

“I can picture a scenario where death would be freedom,” said Brooke Bishop, City Shakes co-founder and director of Romeo & Juliet. “In my life, I’ve definitely felt like it was hard to keep going because I could imagine how easy it would be to not have to.”

With answers like these coming from the director and cast, I’m excited to put up this visceral production of the play. Everyone has a unique perspective on what it means to live, and what it means to die for something.

What’s yours?

City Shakespeare Company
July 11 – 26, 2014
Thurs/Fri/Sat at 8:00 pm. Doors open at 7:30 pm.
1454 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401.
Plenty of free street parking after 6:00 pm
Tickets ($20) at


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Deborah Voorhees
    Jul 09, 2014 @ 23:09:39

    Other interesting take on Shakespeare, Allison!



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