Haskell's 'Romeo and Juliet' carries message against violence

Most everyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers who end up killing themselves rather than facing the world without each other.

But there's another part of William Shakespeare's play that Thunderbird Theatre will be emphasizing in its upcoming production of the classic at Haskell Indian Nations University: violence and its aftermath.

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Scott McClurg/Journal-World Photo

Haskell Indian Nations University students Sara Keeton and Jacob Trickey play the star-crossed lovers in Thunderbird Theatre's production of "Romeo and Juliet." The play is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday in Hiawatha Hall on the Haskell campus.

"There's two families fighting (in 'Romeo and Juliet'), and it parallels two clans," Pat Melody, director of the play, said. "In so many (American Indian) communities, the young people get caught up in the violence and the suicide rate is so high."

"Romeo and Juliet" is about two rival families: the Capulets and the Montagues and how they keep apart their children who are in love.

The Haskell production sets the play on the East Coast, where some American Indian tribes had kings.

"Those kings had the job of reconciling different factions of tribes, but the reconciliation never happens," she said. "Romeo was the only son and Juliet the only daughter, so (their deaths) was the end of two families. They were sacrificed to violence."

The friar and nurse also take on different connotations in Haskell's production.

"The friar mirrors the early impact and negative influences of Christianity," Melody said. "The nurse is being seen as a traditional woman so she and the friar are at odds. She's the guardian of the traditional ways."

Sara Keeton, a 19-year-old freshman from South Coffeyville, Okla., plays Juliet and Jacob Trickey, 19, a freshman from Clarkston, Wash., is Romeo. Both actors said the scene where their characters commit suicide is particularly challenging.

Trickey prepares himself by remembering how he felt when one of his high school friends died of leukemia. Likewise, Keeton thinks about what she would go through if she lost a loved one.

"My heart has to break every time we have to rehearse (the scene)," she said.

Keeton said the play, which runs about two hours, carries a message to parents.

"To be understanding of their children and their feelings, and to not think that they are young and what they're going through is a phase," she said. "They need to talk to their children."

Trickey said the play also speaks about the futility of violence.

"Don't fight, don't hate," Trickey said. "It doesn't get you anywhere."

The play features a 24-member cast, costumes by Blanche Wahnee, music by Ray Farve and scenic design and combat choreography by Patrick Carriere.

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