Chattanooga Now Back Alley Productions' steampunk 'Romeo and Juliet' may unite old, young - Aug. 22-24

Chattanooga Now Back Alley Productions' steampunk 'Romeo and Juliet' may unite old, young - Aug. 22-24

August 22nd, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Chattanooga Now - Art

English teachers for generations have been looking for ways to make William Shakespeare relevant to their present day.

Kaylee Smith of Back Alley Productions believes she may have hit on a way to do so on the stage.

"Romeo and Juliet," Shakespeare's tale of young love and tragedy, will be offered by the production company in the art form of steampunk for five shows beginning Friday, Aug. 23.

"We can get a broad range of people," Smith says. "Older people recognize the story. Younger people recognize the art style. We're bringing the old and new together. Hopefully, we'll intrigue younger people not familiar with the story."

The art form of steampunk is displayed in the production's late 19th-century set design. Its focal centerpiece, Juliet's balcony, is a giant, center-stage clock tower. The set also incorporates items such as gears, chains, piping and other things that "seem otherworldly."

"It has a rugged, edgy feel to it," Smith says.

She says the art form also may seem familiar to young people who are used to tragic, dramatic movies such as "The Hunger Games."

Smith says the Back Alley Productions show, in addition to its anachronistic time setting and art form, also may have a different focus than playgoers are used to.

"I feel that a lot of the focus [usually] is on the romantic and love aspect," she says. "That's not bad at all. We are going to focus on the strife between the families and how it took the death of these two to get through all this." The deaths of the young lovers is "history altering. The parents put away their enmity and agree to no longer wage war. That aspect is very powerful."

That aspect of the play, Smith says, may have comparisons to much of the political talk today, where it is "very strong opinions against other very strong opinions."

In the play, she says, "it is powerful" to note "that by tragic event, everybody put down their anger and came together."

The Back Alley Productions show has a cast and crew of more than 20 people, who range in age from 14 to 50.

Due to the intensity of the subject matter, parental guidance is advised for children 13 and younger.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts at