Romeo and Juliet Controversy

Romeo and Juliet Controversy
By:  CJ Cassidy

Cape Girardeau, MO - Theatrics on the set, lead to high drama off the stage.  We're talking about Shakespear's Romeo and Juliet, now playing at Southeast Missouri State University.  It's one of the world's best known plays, so what's behind the controversy?

Each year many high school administrators take their students to watch plays at the Southeast Campus.
But this year, some school leaders are boycotting Romeo and Juliet, because they feel the play has some "questionable material."
The play's director says that's too bad.
"I thought the idea of interracial relationships would be where conflict is," Director Kenn Stilson says, but adds no one in the audience seemed fazed by his casting of a black Romeo with a white Juliet; rather, it was the bawdy behavior of other key characters that upset some folks.
"We had 450 students see the play yesterday, and about 15 of them left with their teacher not that they went on their own accord, but they walked out but they were very unhappy,"
Stilson says.
"Initially l laughed I thought it was funny. Then again, you know, that's their way of thinking," actor Stephen Fister points out. He plays Mercutio, one of those controversial characters.
"We do moon. It's for the nurse she doesn't enjoy it, but then again she does at the same time, but that's very tame I feel," Fister says.
"The people that surround Romeo and Juliet are bawdy, they're loud, they're crass in their behavior. Again mix that with young men with raging hormones and women and out of all this lewd behavior people that surround them, emerges true love," Stilson says.
"I understand it's a good play," Principal Jennings Wilkinson at Woodland High says but he still "dropped the curtain" on taking his students to see the play.
"If the content we feel based on reports is questionable, we feel we owe it to the parents to decide if its something they want children to see," he says.
"They're not seeing the forest for the trees," Stilson says.
"If nothing else they're missing out on a very good production," Fister adds.
Director Stilson says only a few people who saw the play didn't like his interpretation of it.
He also says the negative criticism won't keep him from tackling similar plays in the future.
If you want to check it out, Romeo and Juliet runs through Sunday at the Rose Theater on the SEMO Campus.