Brian Nemiroff was excited when he heard the New York State Theater Institute was going to perform Romeo and Juliet.
"What young boy doesn't want to take a crack at Romeo?" asked Nemiroff, whose resume includes numerous theaterical productions, as well as several appearances on ABC'S "One Life to Live."
Nemiroff will get his chance to play perhaps Shakespeare's most famous leading man when "Romeo and Juliet" debuts at NYSTI on Saturday, March 13, at 8 p.m. But this version of the story has a distinctly modern flair; director Ron Holgate set it in present-day Iraq.
"It's just to kind of make it contemporary," Nemiroff said. "It is still very much Shakespeare's script. It really still centers on the story."
That story is a classic tale of forbidden love. Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet fall in love despite being from feuding families. Juliet's parents, however, have promised her in marriage to someone else. She decides to stage her death so she can be with Romeo, but he does not know she is really still alive and winds up taking his own life. Distraught, Juliet then takes her life, too.
Nemiroff said Romeo's actions in the play are "very childish, almost." And while Nemiroff thinks he'd probably approach the situation differently himself, he strives to portray Romeo with the right blend of youth and immaturity.
"The emotional investment is the most challenging," Nemiroff said. "He's very sensitive, very emotional. A lot of actors can be uncomfortable being so vulnerable on stage. While it's challenging, it's rewarding."
Starring opposite Nemiroff as Juliet is Kate Hettesheimer. A former NYSTI intern from Albany High School, Hettesheimer studied Shakespeare in college while attending school in London, and like Nemiroff, she was thrilled for the chance to perform "Romeo and Juliet" with NYSTI.
"It's a dream role," she said. "It's a role all girls dream of, let alone actresses."