Set in 16th Century Verona, Italy, William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet was this year’s spring drama production at Delone Catholic High School. Beautifully performed in the unique ambience of the school’s old gym, the play featured superb performances by talented, emotionally-connected actors that blessed the audience with an emotionally-charged rendition of the nearly 425-year-old script. The play was performed for the public March 10-12, along with a special screening for area Catholic grade school students on March 9. The production was directed by Delone Catholic faculty member Miss Gabi Cranza (Class of 2017) and co-directed by Derf Maitland (Class of 2018), while the leads of Romeo and Juliet were stunningly performed by seniors Justin Smith and Audrey Dittmar.
This adapted version of Romeo and Juliet by Ken Womble still contained much of the original Shakespeare poetic cadence that makes the playwright such a challenge to perform by high school students. Yet, with only a couple of months to assemble the cast and practice the complex stage blocking of the play, the production’s acting quality was superlative.
“They worked very, very hard on this play the last couple of months,” Cranza said after the show. Not only was the acting excellent with multiple sword scenes and passionate, lengthy dialogue, the production’s technical use of changeable spotlighting to set the scene against a simple, yet effective constructed set complemented the production with mood and atmosphere.
The play features motifs about young forbidden love as well as unresolved conflict between two warring family sects, the Montagues and Capulets, whose bloody feud dates back many years before Romeo and Juliet. The couple, who come from the sparring factions, fall madly in love after a masquerade gala that Romeo secretly attends. While the entire supporting cast performs admirably, the roles of Mercutio, Paris, Tybalt and Juliet’s nursemaid dazzle greatly in their performances. But, who truly steals the show are Juliet and Romeo, whose experience and chemistry are noticeable.
“It was very challenging, and nerve-racking also to do Shakespeare, but honestly it was a fun challenge, and I feel like I grew very much as an actor doing it,” Justin said about playing the smitten Romeo.
For Audrey, playing Juliet was a dream come true. “I really wanted this role for a really long time, and I was so excited when I found out I was going to be Juliet – the little girl inside me was just screaming.” Audrey said. “The hardest part is not just being able to understand the line, but being able to put in the emotion needed because it is not a normal way of speech with Shakespeare.”
This production marks Audrey’s 30th stage performance in her young career, and she definitely hopes to make performative arts part of her future as well.
“We have been like best friends since the seventh grade,” Justin said about sharing the lead role with Audrey. “So yes, we have a chemistry on stage and that really helps doing this Shakespeare play.”
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Chris Heisey , The Catholic Witness