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Curtain rises this week on 'Romeo and Juliet are Undead'

If cast members in Marcellus High School’s fall drama production have a question about their character’s motivation or backstory, they don’t have to wonder for long. They can just ask the playwright during study hall or lunch.

Photo of Marcellus HS junior Teagan Todd
Junior Teagan Todd not only stars in “Romeo and Juliet are Undead,” she also wrote the script, at the urging of English teacher and director David Weaver.

“This is the first time I can think of that a fall show has ever been written by a student,” Mr. Weaver said. “It’s very unusual. I can't say enough about how proud I am of Teagan in her writing. This is a huge accomplishment for her and MCS to have such a talented young writer in our midst.”

After the drama department wrapped its production of "Ella Enchanted" last fall, Mr. Weaver suggested the group tackle something off the beaten path next. Something like Romeo and Juliet as zombies, for example.

“I always toss out ridiculous ideas at first,” he said with a chuckle.

But then he seriously suggested Teagan, then a sophomore, take a crack at writing it. She began noodling around with the idea in December, but the project didn’t really pick up steam until this past summer.

“I’ve wanted to be a writer – since before I could physically write words,” Teagan, 16, said. She hopes to study languages in college and perhaps become a screenwriter. “Romeo and Juliet are Undead” is her first play.

Teagan figures she wrote most of the script in about a month and a half – with a little help from friends William Shakespeare, Victor Hugo and Lewis Carroll.

The curtain rises at 6:30 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 13), 7 p.m. Friday and 1:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets cost $5 for students and $7 for adults.

Here’s the plot: In a sudden escape from death, best friends (and zombie apocalypse survivors) Suzanne and Caitlin (who Teagan portrays) accidentally wish themselves into different classic books. As the girls struggle to find their way back to one another, they realize they might not be as far away from their problems as they'd initially hoped. You see, the zombies can travel from book to book, too. 
The girls travel into the pages of “Romeo and Juliet,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Les Miserables” – and, yes, they meet the Mad Hatter, Alice, Jean Valjean and, of course, literature’s most famous star-crossed lovers. 
“Their goal is to get back to their base universe,” Teagan said.
Expect less romance than comedy and beware of flying zombie limbs, warns Teagan, who prefers the BBC zombie show “In the Flesh” to AMC’s “Walking Dead,” for those keeping score at home.
Mr. Weaver estimates 70 percent of the story is Teagan's original work, with another 20 percent coming from Shakespeare, 10 percent from Carroll and 2 percent from Hugo.
“I know that adds up to 102 percent, but our students always give at least 102 percent!” he said. 

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