"When you look at [Shakespeare's stories], underneath they're all about the common everyday emotions we as people have," he said. "In this case, so many youth can identify with falling in love at first sight, parents who forbid us to go and date the other person. Even though you love them, their parents despise the family or the person.
"And what's at the heart of 'Romeo and Juliet,' -- a lot of people only think about the balcony scene and they think the whole play is just one long mushy love story [but] in reality the play is pretty much a comedy until things kind of spin out of control in the middle of the play and all of a sudden Mercutio is killed, Tybalt is killed, Romeo is banished. That's when all the tragedy starts to take place."
To be held at The Grand Theatre in Cartersville, "Romeo and Juliet" will be presented Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 25 at 2 and 7 p.m. John McQueary and Tiffany Cline will portray the lead roles of Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet. Prior to the public shows, The Pumphouse Players will perform the play for school groups as part of The Grand's educational offerings.
"We do a lot of programming for younger students but we always try to find something appropriate for the high school students," said Terri Cox, program director for The Grand Theatre. "And, of course, Shakespeare is one of the main things that they study, in particular 'Romeo and Juliet.' I find that almost all of the freshman class is required to read that.
"I just really believe that Shakespeare is so much more understandable for students if they can actually see it on the stage rather than just to read it. So we contract with The Pumphouse Players. I know they always do a fabulous job whenever they do a Shakespeare production. We're just so fortunate to have a group like that in our community that we can work with on that."
To update the tale and to reach a greater audience, this production of "Romeo and Juliet" will be set against a pirate-themed backdrop.
"Me and the costume designer, Stacey Bern, we met well before we even held auditions to talk about the theme [and] what did we want to do because my big thing is I knew I was doing two school performances and my goal is to always try to hook students to make them realize Shakespeare is not some dull, boring, dusty subject," Sanders said. "It's meant to be seen. It's meant to be heard and it's alive and funny and good and exciting. ... So I was thinking I've always loved the idea of the swashbuckling of Shakespeare.
"A lot of times there's sword fighting. ... And I thought why not do the pirate theme? We've got the pirate movies. Everybody can identify with all the pirate figures in lots of the other movies with swords. So I said that works for me. We'll make the Montague family, or Romeo's family, more of the brigands or the pirates and the Capulet family more of the aristocracy that's there to settle and try to bring culture. To me, that created that warring family mentality of the Montagues and the Capulets being at odds with one another."
Tickets for "Romeo and Juliet" cost $15 for adults, $12 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students and Pumphouse Players members. For more information or to obtain tickets in advance, call 770-386-7343 or visit The Grand Theatre ticket office, 7 N. Wall St. in Cartersville, Monday through Friday from 8 to 11 a.m. and 12:30 to 5 p.m.