The world of theatre has been a frequent subject of several notable movies and TV series throughout the years, from the recent NBC musical drama SMASH, to films like the Oscar-winning SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, and comedies like THE PRODUCERS and WAITING FOR GUFFMAN. Amidst all the glitz and glamour of opening night, the backstage drama of just how a theatrical production is developed, and how it affects the professional and personal lives of those involved, is often as intense as the action portrayed onstage. PRODUCING JULIET is such a story.

The series will have its world premiere at the first annual London Webfest at the prestigious Raindance Independent Film Festival in London on September 28th (more info below) with its online debut on October 9th on its official web site and Youtube page (see links below). The show will also be closed captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Two episodes have completed filming, but its writer/creator Tina Cesa Ward (ANYONE BUT ME, GOOD PEOPLE IN LOVE) hopes to secure funding to complete production of the show’s first season and possibly any others that follow. “The viewership for the first two episodes will weigh heavy on the future for more episodes, but we’ve gotten a great response to the trailer so we’re optimistic we can find a way,” she says. (The trailer can be found on Youtube).

PRODUCING JULIET is also produced by Allison Vanore (COST OF CAPITAL, ANYONE BUT ME) and Rochelle Dancel (B.J. FLETCHER: PRIVATE EYE). The series follows two young women – Juliet (played by Rachael Hip-Flores, best known for her role as Vivian on ANYONE BUT ME, plus for her appearance in GOOD PEOPLE IN LOVE), a playwright who achieved success with her debut, “Comforts Of Home”, but who now finds herself struggling to get her sophomore effort onstage; the other, Rebecca (played by Alisha Spielmann), whose passion for the arts leads her to leave the corporate world in order to take on a new, yet daunting challenge – producing Juliet’s new play. As they both find out, the road to opening night is filled with drama and chaos all its own.

Juliet finds herself constantly battling with the director of the revival of “Comforts Of Home”, Richard (played by Kevin Sebastian), along with being in an uneasy relationship with openly gay actor Evan (Andy Phelan). Meanwhile, Rebecca’s personal life is just as hectic, primarily because of her play’s leading lady, Laura (Jenny Grace), who’s in an open relationship with her and Michelle (Stacey Raymond). While Juliet and Rebecca work together to make the new play a success, their personal drama threatens to overtake the drama they hope to bring to the stage. The series also stars Betty Kaplan as Andrea, Rebecca’s friend and the producer of “Comforts Of Home”. She’s a woman who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, including Richard – and she desperately wants Rebecca to break away from Laura. Rounding out the cast is newcomer Chinaza Uche as Jacob Aarons, Laura’s co-star in “Comforts Of Home”.

PRODUCING JULIET is unlike many of the series Ward has produced over the years, and as she explains, it’s a rare peek behind the curtain of the art of making art – and all the conflict that comes with it. It also provided her with a unique opportunity to take on a new challenge. “I was approached to do a show for a new channel on YouTube (ultimately the contract expired before the show was produced).  I had to keep the budget down but it could be about whatever I wanted.  I started thinking about what kind of story I wanted to tell and I warmed to the idea of doing more of an ensemble in a setting that I knew something about but not everything about. At the time I also really wanted to direct a play. It’s something I’ve done a little of and haven’t for a number of years now, but the timing and circumstances have never aligned. So the setting for Producing Juliet came into focus while also eyeing the possibility of producing the play for an actual run that the series will be centered around. It seemed like a big challenge to take on as a writer, as I would be writing a series and a play, and I’m always up always for a challenge,” she says.

While Ward took the same approach to casting PRODUCING JULIET as she did her other series, the show’s ensemble is a mix of the familiar (Hip-Flores) and the new, with many of the cast having extensive theatre experience. “Alisha Spielmann I had seen star opposite Rachael Hip-Flores in a wonderful and very challenging play called Sans Merci. I thought Alisha’s performance was very brave and so I just filed her away in my brain for the future. I also knew of Chinaza Uche from the stage as he’s part of the same theatre company as Rachael and Alisha. Kevin Sebastian and Stacey Raymond I’ve been hoping to find the right project for and Producing Juliet seemed to finally be the right fit, and I also wanted the chance to work with the wonderful Andy Phelan, who I was going to work with on Guards of Dagmar (whose likeness graces the pages of the comic version), so in writing one of the characters I kept him firmly in mind,” Ward says.

PRODUCING JULIET posed a unique challenge for Ward not only because of the world it takes place in, but also because of an all too common struggle web series creators face: filming on a very low budget. “I think the biggest challenge for me in making Producing Juliet is that I have even higher expectations for the series in terms of production, but I’m still working with a very limited budget. So I have to figure out a way to handle my expectations without getting down about the limitations. It’s still incredibly tough to fund a scripted web series because the return for investors still isn’t there.  But at the same time I really love working on the web so I’m constantly trying to crack the code to be able to tell the stories I want on the web,” she says.

“This is something that I thought The Lizzie Bennett Diaries was really smart about, (because) they found a way to have success with scripted content online. All of us individual independents are forced into ways to covertly get our scripted content out to the masses, even if we have to continue to learn how to come to terms with making compromises.”

Further adding to the hectic nature of the show’s production was its short schedule. “It was by far my most challenging production yet because we had such a small budget I had to shoot what ended up being 22 minutes in two days. We managed to make it happen without going into crazy hours mainly because we had no flexibility with locations. Many compromises came into play, but the one thing that thankfully was never compromised was performance. It’s a blessing to have a prepared and dedicated cast,” Ward recalls.

Like ANYONE BUT ME and GOOD PEOPLE IN LOVE, PRODUCING JULIET is about people – from the lives they touch to the decisions they make, and Ward continues to portray those stories through her series.“Curiosity is probably what inspires me the most. I like to investigate and explore human interactions or responses to circumstances that I’ve never thought about before. One example of that in Producing Juliet is exploring the idea of loving someone that isn’t brave enough to love you back which is the problem both Alisha and Rachael’s characters need to work through.  I think it’s probably easier to get over loving someone that doesn’t love you as opposed to someone that you know can or does but just can’t let themselves fully commit to it. I think the hope of possibility can be quite damaging,” she says.

Overall, Ward hopes that PRODUCING JULIET will be just as popular with fans of her previous shows because of its characters, and its portrayal of the backstage world of theatre. “I feel that Producing Juliet in terms of tone will land right in the middle of Anyone But Me and Good People in Love.  There is a lot of drama involved but there are also characters that will infuse a good deal of humor.  In the end, I just hope it’s a story people connect with.”


For more information on the London WebFest at the Raindance International Film Festival, visit: