Drama starts production on Romeo & Juliet

New approach to a classic Shakespeare play


Carlos Centurion, Managing Editor

The drama department’s Romeo and Juliet will take a new approach to the classic by taking time to understand and respect the themes of the play with the help of on-campus Prevention Specialist Meghan Lever.

The story of the star-crossed lovers separated by feuding families is timeless in its relevance and authenticity. Romeo and Juliet has many mature themes, ranging from gender to gang violence to suicide.

Following the grim events that occured around the world last school year, Director Kandace McGowan hopes to tackle some of the harsh realities and expand them to a wider audience through the use of Romeo and Juliet’s tough themes and endless relevance.

“Romeo and Juliet is a play that is old but is a classic,” McGowan said. “[The play] has really intensive themes in it, and I wanted us to have a platform to talk about them. Having Meghan [Lever] help us frame these conversations both helps the cast to have a better understanding of the play and its themes, but also lets the audience depart with a clearer idea of the themes Shakespeare presents.

Lever’s role on campus is to help students by allowing open discussions talking about their mental health in a healthy way. She is excited to be a part of a production of Romeo and Juliet that stays socially aware using facilitated discussions with the cast and the crew.

“When Mrs. McGowan first came to me to talk about the play, I was pleasantly surprised that there would be a socially conscious adaptation of Romeo and Juliet,” Lever said. “For a while, I debated whether it is good to do in high school, but decided we should talk about it and not brush it under the rug. I think of [the play] like a banned books list, where books are banned for being uncomfortable. Just because something is uncomfortable doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have discussions about it.”

Rachel Holladay (12), portraying Juliet, is excited to have the opportunity to dive more in depth into her character. She hopes that the discussions benefit her and the rehearsal process.
“I absolutely adore Meghan, and I am so happy to have her lead some discussions with the cast and crew,” Holladay said. “I think the topics we are covering are not only enriching to me as an actor, but also as a person. Personally, these discussions have helped me learn how my characters feels about these themes, and the role she plays in the world of the play.”

Carly Williams, fight choreographer and alumni, takes on the task of educating the cast on how to respect the intensive fighting and deaths of the play,. Williams also teaches the cast how to perform these acts without getting hurt.

“With this play, we are trying to keep the fights as realistic as possible. While the audience knows that the actors will be fine, my job is to make sure it seem like the actors are hurt.” Williams said. “The actors learn to respect the fight choreography by connecting it back to real life. If an actor truly had a knife or a gun in their hand, and they truly harmed someone, what would be the emotions their character is feeling in that moment? By respecting the weapon, and respecting the fact that these things happen in everyday life, an actor learns to understand and respect their fight choreography and what they are portraying on stage.”

With the help of Williams, Lever, the cast, and the directors, the drama department hopes to use time allocated after the play to have a ‘talkback’ with the audience directly. A talkback is an informal discussion with the audience hosted by the actors and tech team. This will allow the audience to discuss the overall themes of the play with the cast, and depart with a better understanding of the decisions and outcomes of the play.

“I hope the cast feels empowered from their conversations about the themes of the play using the talkbacks,” McGowan said. “I hope the audience walks away thinking more about the story, and how it can affect them in their life.”

The cast of the play is also excited to have these talkbacks. Misty Garcia (12), portraying William, wants the audience to walk away understanding the very real impacts of the show.
“I’m very happy to do the talkbacks because I feel like the audience really needs to understand the importance of things like suicide, which is a theme in the play,” Garcia said. “While it might not be the same as it was when the play was written, it’s still really important in today’s society.”

Romeo and Juliet will begin showing on Nov. 8 and runs until Nov. 17. You can reserve tickets online at sehomedrama.com/fall, or buy tickets on the day of the performance.