Allie Dimiele (fr) wanted one role for as long as she could remember. She knew Shakespeare’s renowned tragedy, “Romeo and Juliet,” backwards and forwards; the role of Juliet was her dream — but more than her love for the drama would cast her as the lead.
“Othello” was the first choice for the play that Indiana Wesleyan University’s Theatre Guild would put on during the fall semester of 2010. But when the play’s star and codirector, Javon Washington (sr) was shot Aug. 28, the theater program was forced to decide on a new show.
After much deliberation, “Romeo and Juliet” was chosen, leaving room for the dreams of Dimiele to be realized.
“Gunshots may have ruined our first choice in plays,” said Dr. Kurt Edwards, theater professor, “but our affection of this play, and the lessons it has taught us, has enabled us to find a new love.”
“A greater power than we can contradict hath thwarted our intents.” – “Romeo and Juliet,” V.iii
“I told Dr. Edwards that I would take any role that he saw fit,” said Dimiele. She said she wasn’t going to set herself up just to be let down, so she tried out for any part that she could get. Dimiele started acting her sophomore year of high school and was not completely sold on the idea of trying out at IWU, until her peers convinced her that she would be great for the play.
“I remember being extremely nervous as I walked up to the cast list that was posted after our tryouts,” said Dimiele.
Her only theater experiences thus far were small roles in high school plays; never did she expect to see her name printed at the top of the cast list that day.
“I followed my name across the sheet and saw ‘Juliet.’ One of the girls coming up behind me asked me what role I received. Through tears I told her I got Juliet. I was so incredibly happy,” said Dimiele.
“These violent delights have violent ends. …” – “Romeo and Juliet,” ii.iii
Javon Washington was a junior at IWU last year when he decided to perform in the upcoming fall semester play as his senior project. He was never a big fan of Shakespeare, but “Othello” was one tragedy he loved, and he had always wanted to play the lead.
“It [“Othello”] just shows the raw human emotion of society,” said Washington. “We think we are in control of what we are going to do and what’s going to happen with our lives. When in reality, much of what we think is not what we thought before and many circumstances are out of our control.”
Washington spent the summer researching “Othello,” memorizing his lines and planning his cast. He even traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, to watch the play performed.
One week before the fall semester began, Washington went to a sports bar and grill with a friend. While the two men were talking, an acquaintance walked into the bar, belligerent and intoxicated.
“He was angry, and not with it, so I just ignored him and kept talking to the friend beside me,” said Washington, “until [a woman] started screaming.”
The woman next to Washington had been shot. He was next.
“Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.” – “Romeo and Juliet,” ii.iii
“The guy was 3 feet away from me, and I had not realized that I had been shot. He shot me once in each thigh, and I didn’t even know it. But then he shot me in the knee and I collapsed on the floor,” said Washington.
“When I fell on the floor, I was dragging myself away and I asked God, ‘Please, don’t let him be there when I look up because then he will just kill me while I lie here on the floor.’ I turned over and saw him run out the door … and I thanked God.” Washington proceeded to tell the people in the restaurant to call an ambulance because he had been shot.
“And I promise you, everyone there looked at me, lying on the floor, as if nothing had happened. … I had to reach in my pocket for my phone and call the ambulance myself,” Washington said. Eventually, a few of the people gathered around helped apply pressure to the wound. No one realized Washington had been shot multiple times until they cut his pant leg up to his thigh and saw a bullet-torn hole through one side of his leg to the other.
Washington was unable to walk for the first month and wasn’t sure how he would finish school.
“If it weren’t for Dr. Kurt, I would not have done any schooling this semester. I probably wouldn’t have come back to IWU. He told me I will miss my chances of graduating if I don’t keep trying now,” said Washington.
Edwards drove to Washington’s house every week to give his own private “Theater History” class and eventually drove him to classes when he could walk.
“I owe Dr. Edwards a debt of gratitude,” said Washington.
“This but begins the woe others must end …” – “Romeo and Juliet,” iii.i
Dimiele would not have starred in this tale had the play not changed, and the play would not have changed had Washington not been shot late that August night.
Like that of a Shakespearean tragedy, their story is one of bittersweet relevance in a world of hate and love alike.
“Shakespeare presents a brutal, passionate love that propels the young lovers into new territory for themselves, their family and their society,” Edwards said.
IWU’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” will commence this evening at The Black Box Theatre. To experience the tragedy for yourself, attend a show Nov. 11-13 or the following weekend, Nov. 18-20.
“Our hope is that you glean a new understanding of love from an old tale of hate for yourself, your relations and your world,“ said Edwards.
If You Go:
Performances in the Black Box Theater:
- Nov. 11-13, 18-20 at 7:30 pm.
- Nov. 13 and 20 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are available in the Box Office:
- $10 general admission
- $8 IWU faculty
- $6 for students