(Posted Nov. 14, 2022)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
London High School’s drama department is putting their own cyber-punk, futuristic twist on an old (very old) classic, “Romeo & Juliet.” Think dark costumes, neon accents and lighting, fog machines, and martial arts bow staffs in place of swords.
“There aren’t a lot of science fiction plays to do on stage. I just started teaching a sci-fi class this fall. And I grew up in the ‘80s when ‘Bladerunner’ was a thing. All of that was in my head when I was deciding what to do for this year’s play,” said Scott Blanton, English teacher and play director.
This marks the third time Blanton has staged “Romeo & Juliet” at London High School. He’s done a contemporary version, but this is the first time he has set the well-known story of star-crossed lovers and feuding families in the future.
“I didn’t know how the students would react to the idea,” Blanton said. “They were really excited when I said I wanted to go in a cyber-punk direction, and they got on board immediately when I said we were doing it with ‘Romeo & Juliet.’ They were all in.”
While the setting is different, the language is not. The cast is sticking with Shakespeare’s original wording, and Blanton is impressed with how well the actors have taken to it.
“What I like about all these kids is they really try to understand what they’re saying. We’ve taken time to make sure they know what the lines mean and how to say them,” he explained, adding that the text’s rhythm and rhyme has proven easier for students to memorize than traditional dialogue.
Isaiah Capell, a sophomore, plays Romeo. Blanton said Capell was an easy pick for the role.
“Trying to do a cold read of Shakespeare can be difficult, and Isaiah read well the first tryout. He has a lot of enthusiasm for the part,” he said.
Playing opposite Capell as Juliet is senior Kyleigh Wilson, who, according to Blanton, has really dedicated herself to memorizing and knowing what Juliet is saying with her lines. Blanton describes Wilson as a confident, reliable performer.
Other seniors in the cast include Evie Gillilan as the nurse.
“She’s another one who when she tried out, you just knew she was right for the role. She wanted to play that part and played it well from the beginning. She’s a really talented actress. Playing an older character can be difficult for a high school student, but she really pulls it off,” Blanton said.
Seniors Olivia Davitt and Jordan Anderson are each holding down two jobs as part of the production. On stage, Davitt performs as the prince in charge of Verona and breaking up the many fights; off-stage, she serves as the play’s stage manager. In addition to playing one of the fighters, Anderson oversees organization of the prop table.
Senior Anthony Holfinger, who Blanton describes as a solid, reliable performer, serves as the narrator, showing up at the beginning, middle, and end of the show. His classmate, Sam Homan, is putting his athleticism and coordination to work as the bow staff-wielding Mercutio. A member of the high school band’s fall and winter guard, Homan has the skills to move well on stage.
Yet another senior, Kelley Tuttle, is lending her talents to the production, by choreographing all of the fight scenes. Her training in stage combat is coming in handy.
Blanton said he has been enjoying preparation for the play as much as the students.
“It’s fun as an English teacher to work with kids on a Shakespeare play because you can really dig in. You have a greater appreciation of Shakespeare when performing it than when learning it in a classroom. It comes alive,” he said.
London High School’s production of “Romeo & Juliet” is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 18-19 and 2 p.m. Nov. 20. Tickets are $8 at the door.