Anime and Shakespeare? They come together in outdoor performance in Macon

Lauren Dreggors as Juliet, Marianna Baccallao as Friar Laurence and Joey Mitchell as Romeo appear in in Mercer Theatre’s outdoor and indoor production of “Romeo and Juliet.”
Lauren Dreggors as Juliet, Marianna Baccallao as Friar Laurence and Joey Mitchell as Romeo appear in in Mercer Theatre’s outdoor and indoor production of “Romeo and Juliet.” Special to The Telegraph

You’ve likely never seen Shakespeare like this — or where you’ll be able to see it.

Mercer Theatre’s unique, anime version of “Romeo and Juliet” in classic Elizabethan language is coming outdoors to Poplar Street as well as Mercer’s Tattnall Center for the Arts.

Two of the student’s eight performances will be outdoors near the east end of Poplar with the remaining six at Tattnall on College Street.

“We wanted a concept young audiences would be excited about plus were looking for a way to distinguish between Romeo and Juliet’s families,” said Scot J. Mann, director of the play and director of theater at Mercer University.

“Our costume designer, Katie Trotter, is immersed in anime, the Japanese style of animation, and had the idea of using anime design. Anime uses western European and eastern looks for clothing so one family got one and one the other. Plus, Katie based each of our play’s character’s look on an actual anime character and we’re using Japanese katana, not sabers and swords. It’s all working very well.”

Mann said the first night of dress rehearsal, he saw how the costumes changed student’s performances.

“Using anime gives the play a modern feel without making it contemporary,” he said. “When our actors first came out in costume, the others cheered and shouted out the anime characters they resembled. I had no clue — but they knew. The costumes changed how they moved and expressed their roles. It’s really fun.”

Mann, a noted expert in stage combat, said he himself had to learn new things to bring the katana action to the performance.

Then there was the play’s pacing.

“We’re using an excellent script treatment by John Ammerman that keeps the language but quickens the pace and emphasizes action,” Mann said. “It changes structure a bit and, though not written for anime, it’s perfect for what we’re doing.”

Ammerman, a professional actor, director, playwright and professor at Emory University, said in an email he and Mann are long-time friends and colleagues and that he’s excited about the script being used for the production.

Mann said the play’s outdoor presentation on Poplar is sponsored by the Situation Room through a grant from the Community Foundation of Central Georgia.

“We’re so happy to partner with the Situation Room,” Mann said. “They’re eager to promote the arts downtown and got a grant to do Shakespeare in the Park. We had the players, they had the grant. It will be a fun experience for those who come to the free showings and it offers a completely different atmosphere for our students. Being at Tattnall, packing up, performing downtown, then packing up and going back to Tattnall gives a real on-the-road experience.”

Mann said outdoor presentations are full performances only without set and lighting features.

“Romeo and Juliet” Shakespeare in the Park

Where: On Poplar Street and at Tattnall Square Center for the Arts, 1096 College St.

When: At Poplar 2:30 p.m. Nov. 10 and 17; at Tattnall 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8-9 and 15-16, 2:30 p.m. Nov. 11 and 18

Cost: Free at Poplar, $15 general, $10 Mercer students at Tattnall