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Costuming A Classic With A Twist

With energy, humor and hip hop verse, Shakespeare's timeless masterpiece Romeo and Juliet moves to a new rhythm created by the Q Brothers Collective for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

In 2015, The Q Brothers created the well-received adaptation of Two Gentlemen of Verona, entitled Q Gents, at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. Back by popular demand, they've again swapped iambic pentameter for hip hop in their latest add-RAP-tation, I Heart Juliet.

Every aspect of the show embraces a contemporary sensibility, including the original costumes created for this show.  

Christina Leinicke is the costumer for I Heart Juliet. The Illinois State University graduate first worked with the Q Brothers on Q Gents and went on to redesign their Othello, the Remix, which played Off Broadway this past winter. Leinicke was selected to return to the Illinois Shakespeare Festival to help bring I Heart Juliet to life this summer. The costumer enjoys working with the Q Brothers.

"They are a lot of fun," she said with a grin. "And we have a great rapport. We have a great time brainstorming together and riffing off of one another."

Credit Laura Kennedy / WGLT
The design for Romeo and his crew.

Working on this show requires a nimble designer.

"A lot of times we have these ideas that we get from the scripts and we've created the blueprint of how we want to go forward with the designs. But when we get on our feet and in rehearsal, new ideas come up all the time. So I try to preserve a certain amount of my budget so we can find the best way to tell the story or communicate with the audience very quickly."

Kevin Rich is directing I Heart Juliet, and he requested that Leinicke design costumes that play up the class differences between the Montagues and the Capulets.

"One of the things that we wanted to explore in the differences between the two families is that the Capulets are more privileged and the Montagues are blue collar," Leinicke explained. "The Q Brothers provided a profession for the Montagues: They work in a fish market. At first we didn't have a profession for the Capulets. So that was one of the things I asked them to create for me so I would know what might motivate the Capulet clothing choices. So the Capulets have a golf and yacht business. You'll see Lord Capulet wearing golf shirts and carrying golf clubs."

Leinicke didn't spend all her time in the costume shop to create pieces for I Heart Juliet. She went shopping.

"In fact, I shopped a lot of the show. I have a tendency with the different torsos that we make to shop brand new things so that I can cut them up and piece them together and make them a new thing that can go on and off very quickly as a whole character costume. I feel very guilty," she laughed. "That as a lover of clothes, I buy brand new things to cut them up and only use pieces to make a character costume."

I Heart Juliet is scheduled to run this summer at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, but it's already sold out. There is a waiting list for tickets.

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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.