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Students 'Seussify' Romeo and Juliet

In the obligatory sword fight are Dalton Shank (left), as Hamlet, and Haley Radke, as Osric. In the background is Adam Nielsen as Polonius. (Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner)

When the audience arrives at 7 p.m., tonight, Wednesday, March 18, they will see two plays for the price of one.

"The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet" followed by "Rules of Comedy" will be performed at Oltman Junior High School March 18 through 20.

Director Tracy Caponigri was inspired to have students perform the spoof of Romeo and Juliet when she saw the play, written by a North Mankato author, last year.

"It was hilarious," she said.

The play also comes on the heels of students studying Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" in English classes.

"We just finished reading 'Romeo and Juliet' in class and it didn't make much sense to me," said student actor Hannah Birttnen, who appears in the second play. "It makes sense now," she said.

The secret to performing a successful comedy is timing, Caponigri said. At first, she has students read their parts in a serious way. Then they go back and discover how to deliver their lines so the humor comes through.

Seussification is about the well-known plot of two star-crossed lovers, but is told from a new perspective, she said. Shakespeare wrote in "blank verse" style, which is sometimes confusing for young teen readers. The author claims his play was not inspired by Dr. Seuss's famous children's books such as "Cat in the Hat," but the connection is obvious, according to Caponigri.

In "Rules of Comedy," actors walk through the steps to create a comedy. Then they inject the rules into "Hamlet" and one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies becomes comedy.

Ashley Partch, who is in "Rules of Comedy," said she discovered she loves acting after being in several other school productions. "It's so cool to use your imagination and be someone else," she said.

Haley Sklenar, also in "Rules of Comedy," said she's still learning about performing even after taking Caponigri's theater class. "When you're acting, you get to escape from your shell," she said.

Becoming an actor is not about the student's talent, Caponigri said. "It's about their ability to learn."

The plays' schedule over eight weeks of having one play practice followed by the second play the next day has been somewhat grueling for Caponigri, but she's not complaining. She credits the success of plays to the work of students who've managed to balance getting homework done with commitment to the plays.

"I'm impressed by how hard they work," she said.

She also enjoys seeing the actors grow into their parts and improve. "When we start, I can hardly hear them, but they grow into big voices."

If you go

"The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet" and "Rules of Comedy" will be performed at 7 p.m. March 18, 19 and 20 in the Oltman Junior High School theater.

Tickets, available at the door, are $3 for adults and $2 for students. Children age 5 and under are admitted free.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600