The Southern Shakespeare Company and Tallahassee Community College partnered to put on a play inspired by Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” which takes the stories of Tallahassee residents to address issues involving racism.
It was a night filled with emotions at every spectrum. The audience at Thursday’s performance at Turner Auditorium had no choice but to look at the racial divide and process the play, “A Town Divided.”
It follows two young lovers with different environments and lifestyles. With the help of a giant projector, “A Town Divided” was able to use pictures of Tallahassee and other effects to bring a story from the past to the present day.
Living on “different sides of the track,” the young lovers fight to stay together while their families try to keep them apart.
Bert A. Mitchell, the director and one of the writers of the play, talked about why they used the stories of the Tallahassee community while employing “Romeo and Juliet” as a muse.
“What started it was that an article said that Tallahassee was one of the most segregated cities in the united states, ” Mitchell said. “So using Shakespeare and the arts they (Southern Shakespeare Company) felt that this was an opportunity to mix them both, to create this dialogue, and so by getting people to tell their stories and interweaving stories into the play of the themes they talked about is very universal.”
Mitchell even went into detail on his experiences being followed around the store just because of the color of his skin and how segregated the past was.
Yolanda Grant, a recent resident of Tallahassee, talked about her experience and thoughts on the play.
“I mostly got that we’re living in 2020 now, that racism is in the past and to come together as people, ” Grant said. “I feel like we need to come together and learn about our history. Just come together and be open-minded. ”
Liane Giroux, the producer of the play and a Tallahassee native, talked about the importance of the arts for children and having more funds in schools for things like music and theater. The Southern Shakespeare Company does a lot for the community, she said.
“I think their commitment to being involved with theater for a change. Where there is a push to do shows that reinforce the need for social change, that they are continually doing education outreach to schools that are undeserved or may not have the exposure to the arts, Shakespeare and theater,” Giroux said. “When you work with the kids, and you see them in these settings, there still is a great interest in theatre. I think it’s not a lack of interest but a lack of exposure.”
Through technology and theater, “A Town Divided” brought a range of people, at different ages with diverse backgrounds, and changed the way they see their community.