Middle School Students Prep For Performances

ST. MARYS — St. Marys Middle School students are bringing a classic Shakespearean play to the local stage with two performances this weekend.

Approximately 20 students at St. Marys Middle School are presenting “Romeo and Juliet,” directed by Zach Durnell and co-director Sonya Jaros.

“I chose this play primarily to give the kids a new experience, and I thought it would be an authentic experience, something they could learn from and something they could use in their own lives,” Durnell said.

Each of the 21 cast members “does everything” — there is no set, nor a stage crew.

“The audience and the actors can get distracted by a set,” Durnell said. “This way they can focus on the text and push the play forward.”

He described “Romeo and Juliet” as a show “everyone should see at least once.”

“This is a show that traditionally is not done by 11, 12, 13-year-olds,” Durnell said. “This is an adaptation, but it still hits on all the classic lines everyone knows.”

He noted the plot is still the same.

“It’s an adaptation, but it stays true to Shakespeare’s work — 11, 12, 13-year-olds can’t do a three-hour epic,” Durnell said. “It’s still Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy.”

One of the challenges with the show, he added, is the script.

“It’s done in Shakespearean verse,” he said. “It’s not an easy task for students who speak in 21st century language.”

Durnell described the show as “something different.”

“The kids are excited to portray Shakespeare,” he said. “It’s awesome for the students to do classical theater.”

Durnell added the play was a first foray in Shakespeare for a lot of the students.

“More than half the cast had never heard of William Shakespeare when we started,” he said.

Noah Miller plays Benvolio, Romeo’s cousin.

“It’s very unique to see students our age doing this procedure and doing this kind of play and they can see us be successful at it,” Noah said of why someone should come see their production of “Romeo and Juliet.” “It can be a recap of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for the adults since they probably haven’t seen it since high school.”

Alli Schlosser, who plays Juliet, described their production as “exciting.”

“It’s exciting and it’ll keep you on the edge of your seat,” she said.

Simon Wirth, who plays Romeo, said the show will “be a great time.”

“We threw in a little bit of comedy more than the usual ‘Romeo and Juliet’ play,” he said. “Someone new to ‘Romeo and Juliet’ will definitely find it a good time.”

Victoria Bartlett, who plays Escalus, the princess of Verona, said she likes the ending of “Romeo and Juliet” the best.

“My favorite part is the ending,” she said. “Backstage it gets so emotional — other people are emotional.”

She encouraged others to come see the performance to get them thinking about their own lives.

“I think it’s something they have to see, I think the ending could change people’s perspectives on life, love and happiness,” Victoria said. “To me this play’s been a little change on how I view things, and I think it’ll change other people.”

“Romeo and Juliet” will be at 7 p.m. Friday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are general admission, will be sold at the door and cost $5.