DENHAM SPRINGS -- This weekend, the Denham Springs High School theatre department will bring one of the most iconic plays to life — with a groovy twist.

William Shakespeare’s classic love story “Romeo and Juliet” will be updated to the 1960s when DSHS students perform multiple showings of the original “River and Juliana” during a two-night run March 13-14.

The production will be held inside Jacket Gym, beginning at 7 p.m. both nights. Tickets for the show are $8 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens. However, anyone who wears a 1960s costume will get $1 off their admission.

Like the play it is based on, “River and Juliana” is a tale of forbidden love — albeit one replete with peace signs, tree hugging, tambourine shaking, and sunflower waving.

Co-written by student Casey Gibson and theatre director Donna Van Oss, the play follows the story of the hippie River (played by Levi Marcantel and Cameron Beall), who falls in love with the mayor’s daughter, Juliana (played by Lauren Price and Casey Gibson).

While River and Juliana fight for their love, the hippie tribe is busy trying to save the trees and spread its message of peace, joy, and love. Meanwhile, the socialites are trying to run the hippies out of town and maintain the status quo.

During a recent rehearsal, Gibson and Van Oss said they came up with the idea while looking through a catalogue of school plays last summer. After spotting another Shakespeare play that had been modified, they decided to update their own and went with “Romeo and Juliet,” a play Van Oss said she has studied and taught “more times than I can count.”

They spent the summer writing the play, which Van Oss said will feature plenty of Shakespearean references throughout. 

“There are actual lines from ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” she said. “Anyone who knows the story will recognize lines from the play.”

Gibson said their original play follows Shakespeare’s story “pretty closely,” though there are a few differences — such as the inclusion of a Shakespearean insult battle in place of the famous fight scene between Tybalt and Mercutio.

Though they wanted to keep close to “Romeo and Juliet,” Gibson said it was also important to put their “own spin” on the play.

“It’s a lot of fun to watch and put on,” Gibson said. “It’s got a solid plot and has something for everyone. Just like Shakespeare.”

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