Shakespeare with a southern twang

Published 4:09 pm Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chelsey Sanders and Taylor Lawler portrayed Juliet and Romeo in Chelsea High School's rendition of the famous play April 14-17. (Contributed/Rachel Ivey)



CHELSEA – School desks lined the stage and theater students wearing skinny jeans and letterman jackets spoke the Shakespearian dialogue of Romeo and Juliet in Chelsea High School’s theatre April 14-17.

Eric St. John, Chelsea High School’s theater teacher, said he’s carried a grudge against Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet since the ninth grade.

“When I was in ninth grade, I was forced to read Romeo and Juliet. I guess I carried a grudge against the play,” St. John said. “We settled on Romeo and Juliet because it’s the only tragedy that would work with young actors.

“This year has been about the idea that a story is not about the settings and the costumes. It’s about getting the audience involved,” he added. “Most of us experience Romeo and Juliet in the classroom.”

Therefore, the students decided to set their rendition of the popular play in a high school classroom, using a blackboard as a background and school bells as intermission breaks.

Chelsey Sanders as Juliet, Rachel Barrrett as the nurse and McKenzie Pattillo as Lady Capulet performed on the Chelsea High School stage April 14. (Reporter photo/Christine Boatwright)

“I tell them my idea, and I’m just there to make sure it all fits together,” St. John said. “The students commit to reading the script every day. They read the entire script, so they’re exposed to it every day. They’re just a dedicated bunch of kids.”

Last year, the Chelsea High School theatre was nominated to the American High School Theatre Festival.

“Every year, they choose about 50 schools from across the nation. We were nominated and made a video, then their panel judged and accepted us into the program,” St. John said.

St. John said he and five students will participate in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland this summer. The festival is the world’s largest performance arts festival. To attend the festival, the theatre department must raise funds for the trip.

“The shows we’ve done are raising money,” St. John said. “We’re doing a children’s theatre camp in June, and a 10-minute play festival in May. It’s called ‘Dessert and Drama.'”

For more information about Chelsea High School’s theatre department or the impending trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, contact Eric St. John at