Play Changes Venue after Boardman Park Rescinds Agreement

WARREN, Ohio – Twilight Theatre has changed the venue for its LGBTQ-themed production of “Romeo and Juliet.”

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. June 30 and July 1 at Modern Methods Brewing Co.’s The Darlene Lounge, 145 W. Market St, Warren. Admission is free.

The play was originally booked at the Maag Outdoor Arts Theatre in Boardman Township Park. The park board later rescinded the agreement with Twilight, after it was later told by the play’s director, Joe Soriano, that the play has been altered to give it an LGBTQ theme.

Before reaching its decision, Gabe Manginelli, park superintendent, and Karen McCallum, recreation director, met with Soriano to discuss their concerns, which included whether it is family friendly or would stir confrontations that they wished to avoid. 

“The play was not what we originally discussed,” McCallum said.

Manginelli and McCallum stressed that the park does not involve itself in politics and has “been bitten” in the past by events.

Soriano described the production during his meeting with the park officials, discussing costuming, changes to characters and details of scenes. He recorded the meeting and shared it with The Business Journal.

One scene would have a “Pride festival feel,” Soriano told the park board. He also said the character of Mercutio does a scene in drag.

In explaining the board’s decision to not allow the play at Maag, Manginelli and McCallum expressed in an email to Soriano that they were concerned that other undisclosed changes might arise. They also alluded to past occurrences that they wished to avoid in the future.

Their letter to Soriano read:

“Please understand that there is not an issue with the themes themselves or with the LGBTQ+ representation. The issue arises with the lack of communication as the production vision has evolved since the original communication with [McCallum]. Being that a number of changes have occurred, there is concern that further undisclosed changes may come up. Being that we have had previous past occurrences, it is out of an abundance of caution that we cannot proceed forward.”

Soriano responded by stating he explained the changes to the board and did not understand its stance.

“To cancel our contract or distrust us due to past occurrences the park has had with parties or entities unrelated to me and Twilight Theatre seems extremely unfair,” Soriano wrote.

The play would have been the first production of the Twilight Theatre Company. The new company aims to provide opportunities “for marginalized groups to make their voices heard and their stories heard,” according to Soriano.

“Romeo and Juliet” tells the story of a young man and a young woman from rival families. They fall in love and seek to be together, against the wishes of their families. The play is a tragedy that involves suicide and physical combat.

The Business Journal sent an email to the park board’s Manginelli and McCallum inviting further comment but did not receive a reply in time for publication of this article.

Pictured at top: The original promotional image for Twilight Theatre’s LGBTQ-themed production of “Romeo and Juliet,” which had been booked at the Maag Outdoor Arts Theatre in Boardman Township Park.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.