Anyone who has read the Shakespearean comedy Twelfth Night knows that the bard was definitely not opposed to challenging gender roles, with cross-dressing playing such a huge role in that play’s marriage plot—so it’s surprising that his most famous work, Romeo and Juliet, is still most commonly cast in a heteronormative, expected fashion. But in a new short film titled Still a Rose, the infamous tragedy of the two star-crossed lovers is being retold with a new twist: Romeo is not exclusively a boy and Juliet is not exclusively a girl.
In fact, two actors are cast in each role. Pretty Little Liars actress Troian Bellisario and Will Branske take on the part of Juliet, while Brandon Crowder and Tinuke Oyefule are cast as Romeo. The story is the same, but the couples vary to show Romeo and Juliet as both a same-sex couple and a straight pairing. The text holds up, showing a fluidity of both gender and sexuality, and spreading the message, in the words of Hazart Films, that, “Love, by any other name, is still Love.”
This step away from PLL shows Bellisario’s incredibly versatile acting skills, and the project as a whole gives us some much-needed diversity infused into a classic love story tragedy. Shakespeare’s plays were originally acted by all men, anyway—but it’s time that a modern audience make something meaningful of that.