Shakespeare’s steampunk slayers

“Romeo and Juliet” is a story about two families that experience horrible and needless tragedy because their teenage children let their hormones guide their behavior. It’s a story as pertinent today as it was in the time of William Shakespeare, said theater Professor Brent Noel, who is directing the play March 3 through 5 in the Bruce Owen Theater on campus.

His cast will be offering a different take on this age-old theme.

“You know most people don’t expect ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to be funny because it is a tragedy,” Noel said. “But Shakespeare was writing for a very diverse audience and there are some pretty funny moments. In our production, we’ve added a few more.”

“You must experience joy, because suffering can only be fully understood if you’ve known great joy,” he said.

“I’m sure that teenagers 400 years ago in Shakespeare’s day were pretty similar to teenagers today, in that there are problems in dealing with parents, falling in love, not being understood by others, or not fitting in with a right group.

“Depression, violence, suicide, having a different lifestyle or outlook, these are all a part of the human experience.”

The two households in “Romeo and Juliet” have been in a violent feud for years, according to the script. The tragic ending causes them to have a change of heart, and live in peace with one another.

Juliet, played by Jerusha Jezek, said this rendition of the play will be both old and new.

“We want everyone to come with an open mind,” she said. “Shakespeare’s dialog will remain the same, but know that this is not going to be the old traditional Shakespeare, but what we think Shakespeare should be.”

Stage manager Mekensie Dill added that “Romeo and Juliet” is more than a teenage love story. “In reality, it is a story of teenage lust, and that is highly showcased in our production.”

Cast member Megan Rich said the costumes will be dramatic.

“Our costumes are going to be exciting and eclectic,” she said. “The Montague family is in Steampunk/Vampire Slayer style that feature steam-driven gadgets, while the Capulet family have a vampire/gothic look, the Bram Stoker type, the dark side of the romantic movement.”

Noel said the “Romeo and Juliet” his cast is working on remains true to the original in important ways.

“Maybe teenagers don’t have a good concept of what love is, so they do stupid things because they’re being led by their hormones,” he said. “Romeo and Juliet instantly fall in love at a party, get married the next day, and then three days later there are six people dead. These are the headlines we still read about today.

“And we are not hiding the fact that a 13-year-old girl is attracted to a boy that her father doesn’t want her to date. That’s been going on since the dawn of time.

“I think what Shakespeare was trying to point out is that teenagers need to slow down a little,” he said. “They need to know that just because things don’t go their way in the first instant, it doesn’t mean they need to give up all hope.”

Curtain time will be 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Tickets are available at the VPAC box office located in the lobby of the OCCC Visual and Performing Arts Center. Tickets for the Thursday night performance are free when students show their student ID. Friday and Saturday night tickets will be $5 with a student ID and $10 for general admission.

For more information, call the OCCC Box Office at 405-682-7579.

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