In Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” a mortally wounded Mercutio wishes a “plague” upon both the Capulet and Montague houses.

In the Rochester Civic Theatre’s production of “Romeo and Juliet,” that plague comes a bit early and hits all houses in Verona.

The show will go on Thursday — with precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The cast of 13 will be wearing masks — and gloves — and keep relative distance from their castmates for the theatrical performance.

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Misha Johnson, interim managing director of the Civic Theatre, devised new blocking for the show to help keep actors distant while still depicting intimate relationships between characters.

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“It’s the smoke and mirrors of the theater,” she said.

Kelly Kirkpatrick helped design many of the period-matched masks, which help the precautions look like part of the show, instead of an anachronism.

Rhys Van Ert, as Romeo, and Logan Ackerman, as Mercutio, in Rochester Civic Theatre's production of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" (John Molseed/jmolseed@postbulletin.com)
Rhys Van Ert, as Romeo, and Logan Ackerman, as Mercutio, in Rochester Civic Theatre's production of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" (John Molseed/jmolseed@postbulletin.com)

Ella Frank, who plays Juliet, said adapting to new blocking and wearing a mask and gloves for most scenes was easier than she expected. She said the cast has risen to the challenge admirably.

"It's a little like those improv games where you have these different elements thrown at you," she said.

Acting with half your face covered does present a challenge, she added.

"We're using our eyes and a lot of body language to express what you're trying to get across to the audience," Frank said.

Related: Civic Theatre to resume live shows July 23

There are a few scenes in which actors, alone on stage or with significant distance from their castmates, are unencumbered by masks. That includes the balcony scene — one of the best-known parts of the show — in which actors Rhys Van Ert (Romeo) and Frank shine bare-faced and passionate.

Theatergoers will have their temperatures taken before being allowed inside. Seating is limited to 75 people to allow 6 feet of distance between people who aren’t from the same household. Show programs are digital and can be downloaded via smartphone. Theater staff also took creative measures to ensure distancing in the restrooms.

“The arts have to evolve,” Johnson said. “COVID-19 is going to be with us for a while.”

Rhys Van Ert, as Romeo, and Ella Frank, as Juliet, perform in Rochester Civic Theatre's production of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" (John Molseed/jmolseed@postbulletin.com)
Rhys Van Ert, as Romeo, and Ella Frank, as Juliet, perform in Rochester Civic Theatre's production of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" (John Molseed/jmolseed@postbulletin.com)

“Romeo and Juliet” was originally set to open March 13 — the same day Gov. Tim Walz declared a peacetime emergency and announced restrictions on businesses and public gatherings to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

With the costumes and set complete and a cast ready — including stage combat training by Doug Scholz-Carlson of Winona’s Great River Shakespeare Festival — theater leaders decided to delay and not cancel the show.

“They worked so hard,” Johnson said. “We wanted to let these volunteers show their hard work.”

The rest of the upcoming season will feature smaller casts to help accommodate COVID-19 precautions, she added.

Watch the show

Tickets are available for $30; you can also stream the production online for $15. The livestream will be available July 24 through Aug. 2.

Thursday, July 23, 7 p.m.

Friday, July 24, 7 p.m.

Saturday, July 25, 7 p.m.

Sunday, July 26, 2 p.m.

Wednesday, July 29, 7 p.m.

Thursday, July 30, 7 p.m.

Friday, July 31, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 1, 7 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 2, 2 p.m.