Starcrossed Rust

The director of Romeo and Juliet talks love, life and theater

Cottage Theatre kicks off its 2019 season this weekend with a traditional production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, directed by Tony Rust. 

Before becoming a fine arts theater teacher at Marist High School, Rust spent 20 years in New York City as a chef, actor, artistic director, carpenter, builder and painter. Rust is very attentive. Sitting in on him during rehearsal at Cottage Theater I witnessed just how passionate and raw he is towards his actors. Rust adds an aura of effortlessness in combination of stern, willing, excited and present holding himself to the same accountability, in showing up prepared to be the best. 

We caught him for a quick interview at a rehearsal at Cottage Theatre, where the play opens Friday, Feb. 1, and runs through Feb. 17.

Eugene Weekly: Do you think living in the Eugene/Cottage Grove area has helped shape the kinds of genres and plays you choose to perform at Cottage Theater?

Rust: Yes, it has. We have a super specific audience. I want to help get rid of the “I don’t know” stigma about Shakespeare. What keeps me going is everyone who comes together for a show, and the entertainment, given the chance to change those types of perspectives. 

What made you fall in love with theater?

I’ve always been a shy outsider, theater let me explore people and emotions, it helped me examine myself in different ways.

What kind of recognition do you hope to achieve with Romeo and Juliet at Cottage Theater?

Re-communication with our humanity, and our foibles, it’s about making those people the other, I believe Romeo and Juliet do that. I’ll also be keeping small scenes in R&J that are usually cut out, ones that set the show apart adding elements of irony by just being there to experience it. History repeats itself. The same dorky boy sex jokes I hear everyday in the halls at school relate to the same behavior of these young thugs in R&J. It’s refreshingly, relatable. 

Did your recent run with cancer shape your views on life and theater?

Yeah, it chilled me out. I have less angst and worry. My temper went away, and the fuse that was so easily lit, rarely happens anymore.