The Utah Shakespearean Festival is spreading that love with their current Shakespeare-in-the-Schools tour, taking a modernized version of one of the Bard's most popular stories and bringing it to the eyes and ears of the masses. The tour is coming to Layton High School on April 16, and will offer up both a daytime student performance and an evening one for the public. Tickets for the evening performance are $3 and will be available at the door.
"It's a wonderful thing," said Layton High Drama Director Dennis Ferrin. Though the show is being brought to Layton by the Northern Utah Academy for Math, Engineering and Science (NUAMES) Layton High is providing the theater. "Most of the students even in my classes have never seen the play live, and when they do I think most of them are quite amazed. They never thought it could be like that."
The tour, which has already been on the road for about three months, offers a slightly condensed, 80-minute version of the play in a simplified, modern setting that highlights the timelessness of what the characters go through.
"We must be taught to hate, and that hasn't changed over time," said Ann Tully, the production's director. "In 'Romeo and Juliet,' no one remembers who or what started the fight, and yet it continues.
"The two title characters learn to look past the labels, and it changes everything. I want our audience to look through their eyes, to begin to see their own lives differently."
That change of view will start with the student performance, which will not only include LHS and NUAMES students but also groups from Whitesides Elementary and Fairfield Jr. High. Whitesides, which performs their own Shakespeare, will be travelling down to perform at the festival this summer.
"It's amazing to see elementary kids doing Shakespeare and doing it so well," said Ferrin.
As for NUAMES, who is funding the performances and will help offset the costs with the money from the evening performances, the chance to see Shakespeare's work live on stage is worth it no matter what the price.
"We have done research that says when math, science and engineering students get a basis in literature, especially Shakespeare, it helps them communicate better," said Gayle Stucki, a drama teacher at NUAMES. "They're more balanced, more creative, and can go out and communicate their ideas more effectively."
Of course, there's also the Bard's ability to communicate with people.
"We have students from Korea who come here already loving Shakespeare," she said. "He's a bridge between cultures."