The Independent Shakespeare Company performed at Archer for the ninth year in a row on May 15, providing a night of food, fun and theater.
The production last year was “Macbeth.” This year’s play, “Romeo and Juliet,” has a similar theme of tragedy. The play is a tale of forbidden love.
Archer students, families and faculty settled on blankets and awaited the performance of the night. In the northern section of the courtyard stood a simple platform decorated with cream curtains.
At 6:30, the performance began. The opening scene was set in Verona, where the story of the lovers unfolded.
The Oracle had the opportunity to interview the actress who played Juliet, Erika Soto. Soto studied theater in high school, college, and has been professionally acting since she graduated college.
When asked how Soto was able to play a younger girl, she says, “I remember what it was like to actually be a teen—you are not a passive human being, you are going through intense changes.”
Soto disagrees with portrayals of Juliet as a passive female character: “Really the idea of Juliet being a passive gentle flower is only one aspect of what it’s like to be a young girl.”
Soto notes how she “thought it was really important, especially at this performance for Archer to sort of display that young women are complex creatures and that’s okay… The female identity isn’t just one of beauty and of passiveness, it’s about power and strength, finding yourself and making mistakes and making decisions. So I try to incorporate that and still be very young.”
English teacher Tracy Ganzer says, “I have seen multiple productions of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and I have to say Erica’s portrayal of Juliet was by far the best I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”
Ganzer teaches “Romeo and Juliet” to her 8th grade classes every year, and the class recently finished their unit on “Romeo and Juliet” by watching the 1996 film as well as performing scenes in class. According to Ganzer, it was “perfect timing.” The class also had the opportunity to work with Soto and the actor who played Mercutio, Andre Martin, in a series of workshops.
“Shakespeare is difficult to understand, and that combination of being able to study it in the classroom and then go and see it performed and have it all come together is the perfect way to experience it,” Ganzer comments.
When asked why schools continue to teach Shakespeare, Ganzer thinks “the themes are universal.” Adding that the “idea of star crossed lovers, opposites attracting, of doing something that’s forbidden, is something that appeals to all ages and all generations and will continue to.”
English teacher Jenn Babin shares a similar view with Ganzer in terms of Shakespeare in the classroom: “These are stories that have endured for hundreds and hundreds of years and been retold over and over again in so many different ways and there is something about them that speaks to every generation—and for that I think it is worth exploring, re-imagining, and connecting whatever happens to be happening at this moment in time”
The importance of this annual Archer event, according to both English teachers, is without question. Ganzer describes the purpose as, “to give the girls an experience and to bring that experience to them, because sometimes the girls don’t go and seek that out themselves.” She believes it allows them “to immerse themselves in Shakespeare and hopefully develop an appreciation for it that goes well beyond the classroom.”
Babin adds, “It’s one thing to read; it its another thing to act it out with your friends in class, it’s a total other thing to see professional actors performing it in the way it was initially meant to be performed.”
Soto and Archer English teachers disagree with the idea that Shakespeare is old fashioned and therefore outdated. Soto says, “I think that the misconception is that Shakespeare and his writing is old fashioned, but its actually, the reason why we continue to explore it and study it is because his concepts and his stories and his characters are universal.”
As the curtain closed and blankets were folded, the Archer community returned to the 21st century, already anticipating next year’s performance.
Below is a gallery of photos from the play taken by English teacher Kristin Taylor.