Zimmerman High School drama club stages and films new take on ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for audiences tuning in online

by Jim Boyle


The show must go on ....

Even in a pandemic when school has turned to hybrid and distance learning models and facial masks are more of a priority than microphones and their corresponding sound system.

Zimmerman High School drama club pulled of its production of “The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet” when its first audience tuned in online at 7 p.m., Friday Nov. 20, on screens both near and far from where the show was staged and filmed with the help and dedication of artistic director Jon Palashewski and technical director Michael Smith and 16 participating students.

In addition to being shown on opening night, “The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet” by Peter Bloedel will be streamed at 7 p.m. Nov. 21 and 2 p.m. Nov. 22. The link to see the show can be found on the ZHS Activities page and on Twitter @ISD728Theatre.

The show is described by the publisher as “A whimsical reinvention of Shakespeare’s tragic love story complete with rhymed couplets, creative wordplay, and fantastical machines — similar to something Dr. Seuss might have come up with if he ever had his way with the script.”

Some questions were posed to Palashewski. Here they are and his responses.

Why did you decide to go ahead with productions this fall despite the COVID-19 restrictions and potential hazards?

“We wanted the students to have the opportunity to produce a show even in the present situation. We felt that this could be done safely if we followed guidelines and modified how we performed.”

What has been challenging?

“It was difficult to have students wear masks and keep social distancing during the show. The show calls for Romeo and Juliet to kiss and for some of the characters to fight. This would normally require close physical contact, which is not possible right now. Masking students means a muffled sound. We have to mic all students so that they can be heard. Students needed to do their own makeup and we had to limit how many could change costumes at a time. The set had to be painted while maintaining distancing and set and props needed to be minimal. This is the first time that we filmed a show rather than performing it live.”

What has worked out very well?

“It has been good for students to learn to do their own makeup and hair. We’ve had to streamline our time knowing that at any time we may need to stop production. I think students have really appreciated being able to do anything this season, since it was unsure if we would be able to or not. Our working areas have never been so clean. We will continue with cleaning practices and to require students to be responsible with their own props, costumes, and personal items.”

What precautions have been taken?

“Students are restricted where they can be in the theater and are each assigned a chair and area that is their area for prop items and as a place to be when they are not on stage.”

What has the virtual experience meant to the students? What have they learned?

“Students are really enjoying this experience and learning how to think outside of the box as we have had to problem solve on how to do things for the play within the restrictions that we have. Tech students have learned a lot about filming a production, and students have learned how to perform for film as opposed to performing live theater.”

Anything else you would like to mention or for the community to know about your production?

“We are thankful to the school board and administration to allow the students to have this opportunity. As the director, I believe that this opportunity has been invaluable for the students’ mental and emotional well-being as it gives them a healthy outlet for all the stress and uncertainty that they are facing each day.”

And now the rest of the community has something to sit down and watch from the comfort of their homes to take a load off of their feet and minds.

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