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Students Stage Unusual "Romeo and Juliet" to Stimulate Conversations About Race at U.Va.

January 13, 1999 -- Concerned about the self-segregation of black and white students on Grounds, a group of University of Virginia students will stage a masterpiece aimed at crossing the racial divide.

Spectrum Theatre, a new student group, will produce a multi-racial adaptation of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," set in America during the turbulent civil rights struggle of the 1960s. To be staged Jan. 21-23 at Old Cabell Hall, the play will focus on the love and anguish of the son of a wealthy white business man and the daughter of a black lawyer.

Performances will be held at 8 p.m. on Jan. 21, 22 and 23. There will also be a 3:15 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Jan. 23.

Following the Friday, Jan. 22, performance, a panel of cast members, U.Va. faculty and guests will lead the audience in a discussion of racial issues at the University.

Two students, Steven Shepard and Kevin Neher, created Spectrum Theatre in 1998 to produce works that involve and challenge the audience. They believe the group's staging of "Romeo and Juliet" will create an atmosphere of constructive conversation about racial issues.

"It's a real and intriguing opportunity to witness theater changing the character of a community," said Shepard, the group's president and director of the 33-member cast.

The students' efforts have gained the support of the Dean of Students Office, the Office of African-American Affairs and the Parent's Program of the Alumni Association. An assistant dean has worked with students in the play to facilitate discussion of racial issues.

"By combining history, theater, drama and intellectual discourse, the production will have the opportunity to engage its audience, both during and after the performance," said Dean of Students Robert T. Canevari. "A feature of the project, enhancing its educational merit, is the opportunity that will be provided immediately following Friday's performance. Audience members will be encouraged to engage a panel of scholars, educators, artisans, civic activists and others invested in the issue of race relations."

Tickets for the play cost $5 and can be purchased at the Newcomb Hall Box Office. Located in room 436 of Newcomb Hall, the box office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For ticket information, call (804) 924-8808.

Contact: Steve Shepard, (804) 982-6657 or sms2j@virginia.edu, or Kevin Neher at (804) 245-8066 or kvn2a@virginia.edu.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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