Director of community theatre's "Romeo and Juliet" talks his love for theatre and the current production

Hannah Swayze • Nov 12, 2018 at 11:15 AM

Meet Christian Coger, director of Johnson City Community Theatre’s Production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” A graduate from East Tennessee State University, the young director is tackling one of the Bard’s most famous plays. 

Q: How did you first get involved in theatre?

A: My theatre journey began a long time ago. I started in All-City Chorus singing Annie. That's all it took. From that point on, my mother and I would sing show tunes at the top of our lungs, reenacting them in our living room. I have been blessed to perform on the collegiate level and in many theaters across the region. I've also been given numerous opportunities to do behind-the-scenes work.

Q: What aspect of theatre do you prefer?

A: I love every aspect of theatre, from set construction to costume design to acting and dancing. Each one presents its own challenge and I love to be challenged. I'm a bit of a glutton for it actually. I once was stage managing, scenic designing, costume designing, and acting in a show. But, if I was forced to pick, I'd have to pick acting. I love creating a character and escaping into their life for just a moment. It gives me the chance to bring somebody else's story to life.

Q: Talk about your take on Romeo and Juliet. How did you come up with the idea?

A: I sought to break that cycle with this production. I wanted to make it relevant for the audience and actor, alike. In the early stages of planning, I said to myself, "People love the Beverly Hillbillies! Let's do that!" Yet, as I analyzed the script further, the Clampetts and Drysdales had a bit of a different relationship than that of the Capulets and Montagues. So I re-evaluated. Then I thought, what better way to do that than to set it close to home, Southern Appalachia. I hoped that by sticking close to home and removing the accents to make the flowery language more accessible and relatable. With the setting chosen, I was presented the option to do a cutting or to do all 5 acts in their entirety [... ]I had numerous conversations with my team and the Board of Directors about it. I finally settled on doing the whole thing. The last piece was to decide how to cast the show. I always thought that it would be interesting to cast Romeo and Juliet as teenagers. So that is exactly what I did. I cast the show as age appropriate as possible. Our Romeo is 14 and our Juliet is 17.

Q: What was it like working with this cast?

A: My cast! They are great people and it helps that they great actors, too. They have been absolutely incredible and supportive. This show wouldn't be possible without their hard work and dedication. I'm eternally indebted to each and every one of them. I'm honored to have been able to lead them through this process.

Q: What’s next for you after this?

A: I plan to audition for Barter Theatre in December. If that doesn't pan out, I'll audition for Disney's The Little Mermaid and, God willing, direct one of my favorite plays How I learned to Drive, both at JCCT.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

A: Find something you love and give it everything you've got. Don't let the detours and distractions keep you from chasing that love. If you can't find the will, take Shakespeare’s advice, "Borrow Cupid’s wings and soar with them above a common bound."

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