Slideshow photos by Dominik Skroska ‘18.
The following article by Riley McEnery '18 was published in the Prep News on Friday, October 27, in anticipation of the play that weekend. Scroll down to listen to original music (opening of the Balcony Scene) composed by Mrs. Addie Akin of the Fine Arts department.
St. Louis U. High’s Dauphin Players will be presenting Romeo and Juliet, a SLUH English department classic, this weekend. The first play of the 2017-18 school year includes a special acting appearance from English teacher Chuck Hussung, original music composed by Chorus Director Addie Akin, and a unique set of masks made by members of the art department and head of SLUH Crew, Scott Schoonover.
The play draws directly from the Folger edition of Romeo and Juliet, which is taught to freshmen in the second semester. In the play, which takes place in England in the 1300’s, a young Romeo (senior Sam Pottinger), whose father Montague (freshman Carter Fortman) from the elite class, seeks the heart of Juliet (senior Maggie Kuntz), the daughter of Capulet (senior Max Kriegshauser). The two families are in the midst of a feud, however, and an intimate relationship between the star-crossed lovers is forbidden by each house.
The original adaptation of the play would take three to four hours to act out on stage, so it was cut down to two hours. It is also the traditional version of the story, meaning that it takes place in its original setting rather than an alternate time period and place.
The play involves romance, adventure, mystery, and destiny, and the SLUH theater department is well prepared for the action that unfolds. After auditions in late August, the cast spent a week doing a table read to fully understand the text before attempting to act it out. Director Kathryn Whitaker stressed that the actors take on their roles in totality and become immersed in the situation of the play, rather than just pretend to be the character while acting.
“One of the things Mrs. Whitaker stresses is that you can’t just be acting. You really have to be inside the world of the play,” said sophomore Harrison Petty, who plays Peter. “She really tries to get us to have genuine interactions on stage, so on stage and off we are in character the whole time, and I think that really helps.”
SLUH’s theater department worked with Shaun Sheley to choreograph combat scenes in the play.
“My favorite part of the play is the other activities we get to do while acting,” said senior Nick Parisi, who plays Benvolio. “For example, there’s a lot of sword fighting in Romeo and Juliet, so I’m really excited to get to sword fight on stage.”
An important aspect of the play is the set, which needs to reflect the themes of the play. Schoonover worked with Whitaker to create a set that displayed the flare of passion in Romeo and Juliet.
“It hit me while walking through Botanical Garden, and there was one section of flowers that was full in bloom, and then the next section where everything had died and was already withered,” said Schoonover. “There was something about the fact that there were these temporary moments of beauty that happen really quickly and can fade really quickly. That’s kind of what comes in the play.”
Schoonover, with his Theater Tech class and SLUH Crew, worked to create a unit set, meaning that it’s a fixed location with a few pieces that move in and out to fit different scenes. It’s influenced by Gothic architecture and incorporates garden imagery.
The set is also two levels high because Romeo and Juliet requires it for the famed balcony scene. The second level spreads upstage across most of the stage, and downstage lies natural scenery such as rocks and flowers.
“I was very impressed with the set,” said lighting designer junior Liam John. “With all the flowers it makes it look more realistic.”
SLUH Crew came in on four separate Saturdays to work on the set. Schoonover also had personal friends, who work in set design professionally, come in to work with SLUH Crew and build the set.
The play also contains originally composed music written by Akin (click the audio player to listen). This aspect of the play is unique to SLUH, because Romeo and Juliet typically does not have any music to it.
“The music is really a beautiful addition, and we worked hard to make sure that it enhances and doesn’t overpower the story of the show,” said Whitaker. “The language is the star of the show, it must be in Shakespeare.”
Art Department members Joan Bugnitz, Sean Powers, and Sarah Rebholz contributed to the play, with the help of Schoonover, by designing masks for the actors to wear. Schoonover, whose graduate degree is in mask-making and set design, believed the play offered him the ability showcase his abilities and enhance the play’s effect.
“We had the opportunity to capitalize on my specialty, so we have done a cross-collaborative effort in creating masks,” said Schoonover.
They did face castings for Pottinger and Kuntz, who play Romeo and Juliet, so that their masks would be a perfect fit.
Light designer Maureen Berry, with the help of John, has worked to utilize the lighting of the play to present the mood of each scene more effectively. They use moving lights, which are fairly new to SLUH theater, to create different effects.
“They’re good for the play for the more spooky and ominous moments,” said John. “Like when the apothecary comes up, you’ll see these green textures on the wall. They can also move throughout the play to be purple during the party scene and different scenes.”
The play is not just put on by the actors, it is a team effort that involves a lot of contributors.
“The great thing about the theater is that it is a team. It’s a beautiful collaboration of a lot of people bringing something to life,” said Whitaker.
“For me, what’s exciting about doing theater is getting a group of people together at one time, focused on one story and that sense of imagination that happens,” said Schoonover. “It’s really the culmination of all of the different designers and all of the different aspects that come together.”
The Dauphin Players will have put on the show four times after its last showing on Sunday at 2:00. The show was first put on last night, the freshman class will have an exclusive opportunity to see the play today, and Saturday’s showing is at 7:30 p.m. There are still tickets available for the shows.
“I bet a lot of people think that we’re doing Romeo and Juliet because we have to and because it’s this big fancy play, but I think the way we do it, it’s not good because it’s Romeo and Juliet, it’s good because of the way we do it,” said Petty.