Instead of the Montagues and the Capulets, Dominion Middle School students will feud with their Ridgeview peers when drama students at the former perform a localized version of the classic Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet.

Instead of the Montagues and the Capulets, Dominion Middle School students will feud with their Ridgeview peers when drama students at the former perform a localized version of the classic Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet.

The rivalry between the Clintonville middle school and its counterpart on the Northwest Side "is very close to our hearts here in Dominion," drama teacher Emily Whittaker said last week, as her young actors were rehearsing for not only opening night -- set for 7 p.m. today, Nov. 19 -- but also for a planned performance the day before in front of an audience of pathway elementary students and youngsters from Ridgeview Middle School.

"Ridgeview is referred to as 'that team across the highway' or 'that team across Olentangy,' " Whittaker said. "When we play Ridgeview in basketball or volleyball ... it's definitely something that people are aware."

Other public performances of Romeo and Juliet are set for 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, and Saturday, Nov. 21 at the school, 330 E. Dominion Blvd.

Tickets are $3 for students, $5 for adults.

Instead of 16th-century Italy, the play is set in modern-day Columbus.

"Certain scenes happen at Ridgeview Middle School and others are at Dominion," Whittaker said.

The Montagues, Romeo's family, are Ridgeview students and graduates, while Dominion's students and alums are the Capulets, Juliet's family.

"It's the original text," Whittaker said. "It's just severely cut."

For the text, the drama teacher said she relied on the "Sixty-Minute Shakespeare" series by Cass Foster, a professor emeritus of theater who once was on the faculty of Ohio State University.

"We've kind of modified it even further," Whittaker said. "His original adaptation had a cast of about 25 or so. I went through the script and separated some of the parts to include more of the students. Our cast has about 45 in it."

Now retired and living in Hawaii, Foster wrote in email that it was early in his tenure at Ohio State that he conceived the idea for the series of abridged plays by the Bard.

"I found it terribly unsettling to discover the immediate change in attitude, posture and involvement with most of my students when I introduced a theater course indicating which of Shakespeare's plays we'd be studying," he wrote. "They were either scared to death, anticipating absolute boredom or frustrated at what they thought would be learning another language."

Foster said he was pleased at Whittaker's adaptation of his own work.

"What an absolutely delightful twist to R&J," he wrote. "My hat is off to the teacher/director. Making Shakespeare's plays more accessible is not only important for enhancing audience appreciation but absolutely vital if we are to engage and interest our students.

"I have no doubt if the Bard were still wandering the planet he would be most pleased."

Whittaker said she hoped the students could relate to the play.

"We started the process by doing a week's worth of workshops after school before they even auditioned," Whittaker said. "What my hope is that they're realizing that while he's saying things in a more complicated way, it's still relatable to present day. These are situations that they are still in. They meet someone and they can relate to the fact that you're so excited to go and see them.

"They're hopefully not going to get married, but they can relate to really having a crush on someone and that anger you are so filled with for someone else that you feel like you want to go and fight them."

A rivalry is a rivalry, the drama instructor added, and several of her students chosen to be Montagues chafed at the costumes they have to wear.

"Some of the kids who are playing the Montagues, we borrowed some shirts and things from Ridgeview and they're like, 'Darn, do I have to wear this shirt?' " Whittaker said.