Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet at Atlanta's New American Shakespeare Tavern

Kelly Criss and Matt Felton in Romeo and Juliet. Photo courtesy of The New American Shakespeare Tavern

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet may have graced many valentines over the years. As a classic love story, the play has helped Atlantans celebrate Valentine’s Day for the past 13 years as one of The Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s productions at The New American Shakespeare Tavern. Many of the cast and crew have created special memories during these productions, and a few of them have shared their favorite Valentine’s Day stories.


Kelly Criss (Juliet)

My husband (actor Matt Felten, who’s playing Romeo) was playing Romeo six years ago as well. I was an apprentice myself back then, and I had several smaller parts, including Balthasar, Romeo’s servant. And that character has the task of telling Romeo his wife Juliet has died (or so he thinks). Well, that scene held a little more special meaning to me the night of February 12, 2006. I was getting ready to go to the theater when Matt caught me completely off guard and proposed. It was very sweet, and I said yes of course. But the whole thing made us late to the theater! Luckily, everyone seemed pretty satisfied with our excuse. Later, I found out one of the reasons he asked me that night was because the ring had arrived, and he just couldn’t stand to wait any longer (again, very sweet). He also was a little afraid I would think a Valentine’s Day proposal was too corny, so he sprung it on me two days before instead. That’s just one of many reasons this play will always have a special place in my heart.

Doug Kaye (Lord Montague and Peter in this production and Friar Lawrence in several previous productions over the past ten years)

Leslie Smith worked tech on a show I directed in 1982, and also for the first show I did for Jeff Watkins — A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1986. However, we were both with other people at those times and barely noticed each other. On February 14, 1997, after a Tavern performance of Hamlet we were both in, I walked her to her car and laid a kiss on her that she said left her knees weak. We count that as our anniversary and have been together since then.

Jeff Watkins (Artistic Director)

My Valentine’s Day story is also about my wife Jay’s birthday, which happens to be February 14. As you can imagine, she’s seen Romeo and Juliet too many times to count. Also, as a rule we tend to  celebrate her birthday on the Saturday before or after Valentine’s Day since I generally work on the 14h.

Jay and I have two kids, and when our son Joe was nine years old, he started to become aware of what Valentine’s Day really means . . . in that it is a special day for couples to celebrate their love. He also made the connection that Valentine’s Day was his mother’s birthday. So one day we’re in the kitchen, and Jay steps out for just a minute. Joe turns to me with an air of excitement and says, “Hey Dad, I know what you can do for Mom’s birthday this year.”

I said, “what would that be?”

He replied, “You can take her to see Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Tavern!”

Romeo and Juliet at The New American Shakespeare Tavern

Matt Felton, Kelly Criss and Jeff McKerley in Romeo and Juliet's wedding scene. Photo courtesy of The New American Shakespeare Tavern

I looked at my boy and thought, “God bless you and all young men who think like you.”

That year, I took the 14th off. Jay and I stayed home to celebrate.

Joe’s 20 now. Sometimes he works in the kitchen, but wisely, he is not following in his father’s footsteps!


Do you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day at the Tavern? Check out their special Valentine’s Day Auction to win a front and center table for two. Romeo and Juliet plays at The New American Shakespeare Tavern through February 26. For tickets and more information, please visit the Tavern’s website or call 404-874-5299.

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