Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 30
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
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A Different Look at “Romeo and Juliet” Thanks to Financial Planner David Gray

Anne Levin

Somewhere around the eighth grade, David Gray was introduced to the joy and heartbreak of Romeo and Juliet. Right away, he began to wonder: What if Shakespeare’s iconic play had a different ending? What if, instead of drinking poison and dying, the young lovers had merely taken sleeping potions and escaped from the tomb?

Several decades and many research trips to Italy later, Mr. Gray has self-published Escape from Verona: Romeo and Juliet Part Two, The Lost Diary of Juliet Montague. The 479-page opus picks up where Shakespeare left off. Juliet wakes up and realizes that Romeo is only sleeping, not dead. The lovers flee the tomb. In their flight, they encounter accusations of murder and witchcraft, while coming up against the power of the Papacy and the Venetian government.

“I had to think, is this what love is? A 48-hour infatuation followed by death?,” Mr. Gray mused, sitting in the office of his company, Finance Arts, LLC, where he offers financial planning. Speaking of lost love, Mr. Gray is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. The Princeton High School graduate began his eclectic career in publishing, writing plays, articles, non-fiction, and children’s books. He worked in the press office of the New York City Ballet before getting into financial planning, and has since become an expert on finance and non-profit management. It was at the ballet company where Mr. Gray met his wife, ballerina Kyra Nichols. The couple live in Princeton with their two sons, who are 9 and 14.

Escape from Verona mentions specific artists and historical figures from the era of the play. In his research, Mr. Gray discovered that the original Shakespeare characters are loosely based on families and religious figures from Italian history.

“Most of the book was done in the early 1990s,” he said. “Before we had kids, Kyra and I would spend three weeks just tooling around Italy, visiting all of these sites mentioned in Shakespeare. I dragged her all over the place, and she was a good sport about it.”

His research done, Mr. Gray wrote the book and got an agent. He did rewrites as the agent suggested, but got discouraged along the way. “I retired it and put it on a shelf,” he said. “But now that the publishing world has changed so much, it has become easy to just do it yourself. I did some polishing and found a wonderful designer who included these old maps, so people can follow the progression of the characters. Having worked in publishing, I’m thrilled with how it looks.”

Romeo and Juliet has captivated audiences since Shakespeare wrote the play in 1597. “It is a wonderfully tragic tale with beautiful poetry in it,” says Mr. Gray. “It is beautifully written. But my guess is that not as many people have read it as feel familiarity with the characters. Other than knowing that they loved each other and died tragically, people might not realize how much more is involved.”

Mr. Gray admits that his own encounter with the play inspired some overly dramatic behavior when he was a teenager in love. “I was so overwhelmed,” he said. “But fortunately, dueling wasn’t as prominent in Princeton in the 1970s as it was in Verona a few centuries before.”

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