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Center for Engagement and Community Development

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Project Uses Romeo and Juliet to Educate Young Adults

K-State Engagement E-News, April 2009 (PDF)

by Jenny Barnes

Students from Topeka High School watch a scene from Romeo and Juliet.

Students from Topeka High School watch a scene from Romeo and Juliet.

Every high school in Kansas uses Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet as part of their curriculum at some point. Although the play was written years ago, problems faced by the characters are still relative to the youth of today.

Michael Gros, K-State professor of theatre, and Sally Bailey, K-State associate professor of communication studies, theater and dance, have been working together for the last three years to put together a DVD and curriculum guide that uses the popular drama Romeo and Juliet to educate adolescents and young adults on some of those problems. The materials have three overarching areas: conflict resolution, family violence and teenage suicide.

Gros said, "We wanted to have a healthy and entertaining way to get young people to discuss these topics."

Each section on the DVD includes a scene acted out from the original play, commentary by an expert in the field and then a modern day reenactment of the same scene to make the issue being discussed more relatable to young people and to provide students with healthier solutions.

"It's really all about the choices," Gros said. "We want this to demonstrate what alternative ways a situation might have been handled."

The project engaged the community as well as the K-State campus. All of the acting was done by students and faculty, and the set design was also constructed by K-State students. Along with Bailey, the project also enlisted the help of Genie Barton and Karen Myers-Bowman. Gros also worked with the theater departments at Topeka and Manhattan High Schools.

When the package of materials is complete, Gros plans to make them available to every high school campus in Kansas for free.