Broadneck, Severna Park take drama of rivalry to the stage

Schools to perform 'Romeo and Juliet' together

  • Chris Timko, left, the technical director for “Romeo and Juliet,” talks with teachers Angela Germanos, right, from Severna Park, and Kevin Whewell, middle, from Broadneck.
Chris Timko, left, the technical director for “Romeo… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
April 22, 2011|By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

A modern-day version of the Capulets and Montagues once co-mingled in Anne Arundel County, but they split in 1982 and are now known for being divided by bad blood and College Parkway, occasionally getting together for events marred by taunts, skirmishes and vandalism.

Most folks know them as Severna Park and Broadneck, two high schools that form one of the most bitter rivalries in the county. Next week their drama clubs will get together for a theater production of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," a play about two feuding families brought together by young love between Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet.

Students from Severna Park High School, which is more than 50 years old, will portray the Capulet family. Broadneck High, which formed in Annapolis in 1982 and consists of students that would have gone to nearby Severna Park, will be the Montague family. The play will be held at the Children's Theatre of Annapolis from April 29-May 1.

The idea to form the production originated with Severna Park drama director Angela Germanos, who figured the arts would be a colorful way to showcase favorable aspects of the rivalry and generate more cooperation between the schools. Severna Park and Broadneck will wear their respective colors, with Juliet briefly dressing in a cheerleader uniform.

Each school was designated a family name on the basis of the casting of Romeo and Juliet's parts, which were announced after auditions at each of the schools. Broadneck senior Chris Kemp will play Romeo and Severna Park senior Leah Channas will play Juliet.

With the rivalry beginning in the 1980s, the setting and dress will be from that decade and will feature music including Michael Jackson's 1983 single, "Beat It," and Dire Straits' 1981 single, "Romeo and Juliet."

The play will have some elements of the 1996 motion picture adaptation that starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, but Broadneck Dramatics Guild director Kevin Whewell says the play stays true to the Shakespeare script.

"Early on we discussed the idea as to whether we wanted to do this as a period piece or as a modern adaptation," said Whewell. "We were pretty strongly on the side of not changing any of the dialogue, but we also decided early on is that if part of what we were doing was a rivalry between the two schools, it needed to be set in a modern context."

During the opening scene, Whewell said most of the production's 44 cast members will be wearing either Broadneck's maroon-and-gray colors or Severna Park's blue and gold. There will also be a fight scene between the two groups. Germanos said that a local choreographer was enlisted for the fight scene.

Severna Park ninth-grader Matt Dell, who plays a watchman in the production, is charged with breaking up the fight.

He says that the rivalry between the schools mostly involves athletics but that response among Severna Park students about doing a production with their rivals has been minimal. "I feel like from the sports members, their response was like, 'Oh my gosh, we're doing a play with Broadneck? It's really weird,'" he said.

Whewell said that as news circulated about the play, some Broadneck faculty members wondered if they'd be able to pull it off and asked whether Severna Park cast members "are listening to my direction."

But he said that it has gone well, adding that the most heated aspects of the rivalry is concentrated among a few organizations.

"For the most part it … it's mostly an athletic and music thing," he said. "It began when the two schools split in 1982, when Broadneck sprung from Severna Park, and it kind of developed from there.

"Both schools really want to outdo each other," Whewell added. "If you go to Broadneck-Severna Park basketball games, the usual chants from the sidelines don't really exist. It's actually weirder: They yell about their Advanced Placement scores."

Germanos said that sometimes the game tensions spill into the respective schools' parking lots. "Sometimes there are fights, vandalism in the parking lots, the other school's cars get keyed. It's a shame," she said.

Both drama heads say that efforts have been made to stem the volatile aspects of the rivalry. The school's basketball and lacrosse games have been moved to daytime, Germanos said. Whewell said that he makes certain that his drama club respects all clubs whenever they compete in theater shows.

Dell said the actors have enjoyed working together and called it "a good experience."

Broadneck and Severna Park high schools will perform "Romeo and Juliet" at 7 p.m. Friday, 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. May 1 at the Children's Guild of Annapolis, 1661 Bay Head Road. Tickets, which cost $10, are available online at http://www.sphsdrama.com.

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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