The American Myth Center (AMC), a performing arts organization based in Asheville, will present The Ballad of R & J on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from Saturday, June 2, through Saturday, June 30 (with the exception of June 23). The shows begin at 6:30 p.m., with music starting at 6 p.m. Performances are free to the public and will be held in downtown Asheville at 68 Haywood Street as part of the City of Asheville’s 68 Haywood Pop Up Program.
“My equation for American Myth is taking the skeleton of an old story, fl eshing it out with a land inspired by a time in our country’s history and infusing it with the blood of our modern identity,” says Aaron Snook, AMC founder and curator. “In the case of The Ballad of R & J, I took Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, used the era of Reconstruction Appalachia to give us our tinderbox of inherited hate, and have cast the show with non-traditional gender roles to present a mirror up to our modern time that recognizes a spectrum of gender and sexual identity.”
Snook grew up in Chapel Hill, but his mother is from Swannanoa and he spent time visiting his grandparents in Asheville as a child. After working in Chicago’s theatre scene for 14 years, he finished his graduate studies in theatre, directing at Northwestern University. His thesis culminated in the idea for American Myth Center. “The purpose of American Myth is to spark needed conversations within communities in an effort to provide relevance, perspective and, at best, catharsis,” he says. “While I could have done this in Chicago, I knew my voice would be clearest closer to home. My goal is that the AMC is for, with, and by Asheville and I hope The Ballad of R & J will prove that true.”
Snook says that, with his productions, he hopes to create an atmosphere more like a music festival than a staged performance, where attendees can keep cell phones on, bring food or patronize nearby food trucks and talk to others about the show during the show. “This is how the Greeks did it, as well as Shakespeare,” he says. “There will be music and there will be poetry, but in the center, there will be a story about a community in crisis, whose tribalism and inherited hate can devour the purest of loves. We hope that, amidst the fun and delight, there is a spark that can ignite a conversation about our own community and how to heal old wounds and build new bridges.”
To learn more, visit americanmythcenter.org. The lot at 68 Haywood is located near the intersection of Haywood and Flint streets, across from the U.S. Cellular Center. Some seating will be available, but attendees may also bring their own chairs.