Students in San Marcos High School’s Sheltered English class, taught by Phil Levien, will perform William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at 7 p.m. this Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 6-8, and at 2 p.m. Sunday.

English Language Learners from different countries, special-education students, students at risk and student mentors all come together to perform one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays.

The goal for this production is to provide equal access to the performing arts curriculum for all students. The Academic Focus Block schedule at San Marcos allows for a 90-minute class period enabling performance opportunities to students who otherwise would have been unable to participate because of jobs, family responsibilities or transportation problems. The actors, most of whom have never acted before, gain instruction in reading, literacy, pronunciation and theatrical skills.

According to Levien, teaching Shakespeare to such a diverse group of students “seemed appropriate.”

“I wished to select a script that would not privilege the culture of any of the actors over that of the others,” he said. “Since many of the students are learning English, Shakespeare seemed appropriate.”

Shakespeare is considered to be a “gatekeeper” author by Levien.

“This production is meant to provide scaffolding for students who will be reading Shakespeare in their English class here at San Marcos and in college,” he said. “Students must come to grips with him before passing through the gates of higher education and into the world of rewarding careers.”

This unconventional production of the popular masterpiece, which will take place in Room I-10, concerns the tragic story of two young lovers. It will be directed by Levien, with costume designs by Marian Azdril.

Tickets may be purchased either at the door or ahead of time from students in the class or from the San Marcos High School Business Office. Adults are $5, students are $3 and tickets are free with a Royal Card. Enter the parking lot off Hollister Avenue near the tennis courts for easy access to Room I-10.

This production is made possible in part through funding from the SMHS ELD Department, SMHS Performing Arts Department, SMHS PTSA, Title 1 funds, Georgetta Craviotto, South Coast Writing Project’s Anne Coffin Johnstone Memorial and S. Stephen Marcus Funds. Their loyal support over the years has been invaluable.

— Aaron Solis is activities director for San Marcos High School.