Black Swan to present 'Romeo and Juliet' Jan. 11-19

Rachel Lawrence, 15, a sophomore at Reynolds High School, says her plan to avoid the spotlight in Black Swan Youth Theatre’s “Romeo and Juliet” kind of backfired.

“I just wanted to be part of the play, and my friends were all doing it, and they’re a really fun group of kids,” she says. “I was hoping for something really small so no one would notice if I messed up.”

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: ONALEE DUHRKOOP - Erik Scott and Rachel Lawrence play the starcrossed lovers in Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet,' which Black Swan Youth Theatre will present Jan. 11-19 at Portland Lutheran School.

Instead of that happening, after performing a monologue during tryouts she was cast as Juliet in the play, which Black Swan will present at Portland Lutheran School from Jan. 11-19.

Despite her shyness, Lawrence says she’s prepared to let the spotlight find her.

“The fear is always going to be present, but I’ve learned to deal with it,” she says of being onstage.

It helps that she grew up reading the King James version of the Bible, which has flowery language similar to that employed by Shakespeare. She adds she thinks Black Swan’s production will boast a level of professionalism above and beyond that of your average high school play.

“It’s more than just a bunch of kids putting on a play to please their grandparents,” she says. “It has a modern twist, but it’s the same language. The words are beautiful, and we never speak like that anymore.”

East County cast

The cast of 20 for “Romeo and Juliet” is made up of actors from Barlow, Reynolds and Clackamas high schools as well as a handful of middle school students from the Gresham-Barlow, Reynolds and Centennial school districts, says Susan Scott, Black Swan’s artistic director.

“It’s going to be something that students have studied, and hopefully they’ll be coming into it with an understanding of it,” she says of the iconic piece studied by generations of teenagers.

“It’s just a play that you know the audiences are going to like,” Scott adds. “The language for this one is so beautiful.”

She also says the play will feature modern costumes and contemporary music from such groups as Scottish folk rockers The Proclaimers, pop artist Taylor Swift and rock band The Killers.

Lawrence adds that even though the play is centuries old, teenagers can still relate to such characters as Juliet, who is torn between her loves for Romeo, a member of the Montague family, and her own family, the Capulets, with whom the Montagues feud.

“We’ve all gone through something where we’re all trying to make everyone happy, but you just can’t do it,” Lawrence says.

Wherefore art thou?

Erik Scott, 16, a Barlow High junior, plays Romeo, and he’s been cast in 10 Black Swan plays.

“This is my first serious role I’ve taken on,” he says. “Before this I was a character actor or in a comedic role.”

Given his mother is the artistic director for Black Swan, Erik Scott says he’s been raised on Shakespeare and has already played roles in such shows as “Macbeth,” “Twelfth Night” and “The Tempest.”

“Luckily it’s not my first Shakespearean play seeing as I’m taking on the role of Romeo,” Erik Scott says, although he adds, “It’s a lot of practice learning iambic pentameter.”

Like his mother and Lawrence, Erik Scott says Shakespeare’s way with words is unparalleled among playwrights.

“I think his language is so beautiful,” he says. “At times it can be humorous and at times it can be moving, and it’s just an honor to be able to present that.”

Erik Scott says he’s attempting to put his own spin on the oft-performed role of Romeo.

“I didn’t really want to be your traditional lovey dovey Romeo,” he says. “There’s several lines where he messes up, and Juliet points out that he’s not this smooth guy.”

For example, he says, Juliet takes Romeo to task for swearing his love to her “by yonder blessed moon.”

“She says don’t swear by the moon, it changes monthly,” Erik Scott says.

He also notes the Black Swan production should appeal to modern audiences who have grown accustomed to action aplenty in movies and theater shows.

“There’s like people wearing jeans having swordfights,” Erik Scott says. “It’s definitely not like dry Shakespeare. The actors’ movements will definitely keep people on the edge of their seats.”

And working on plays like “Romeo and Juliet” is a welcome break for the primarily teenage cast, he says.

“When you have a drab teenage American life, it’s fun to slip into something more interesting after a long day at school.”

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