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Archive for the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Category

William Fox presents Theda Bara in William Shakespeare’s masterpiece Romeo and Juliet, 1916. Folger Shakespeare Library.

William Fox presents Theda Bara in William Shakespeare’s masterpiece Romeo and Juliet, 1916. Folger Shakespeare Library.

By Julia Perlowski

If the use of Shakespeare’s early modern English is under attack in some “regular” and “honors” English classrooms, just think about what the reaction might be to the use of such rigorous text in an Intensive Reading class!

At Pompano Beach High School, I am not only the ONLY drama teacher, I am also the ONLY reading teacher. I teach all levels of reading from grades 9-12. While I am producing Romeo and Juliet in the auditorium during fourth period with my drama students, I am reading the same texts way out in portable 3 during first and second periods with my striving readers.

I believe that a text does not have to be changed among students of a variety of abilities… just the TASKS! One may “perform” Shakespeare by acting it out or by engaging in ANY activity that requires one to read closely and critically to execute the task. With struggling readers, there is great power in reading and re-reading and re-reading, for that is how even the best of readers grasps meaning, nuances, and depth.

Here is the “performance” task around the R&J Prologue for my Intensive Reading Class:

(more…)

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canada

In a recent post, I requested that schools, theaters, or anyone else should stage a flash mob for the “balcony scene” from Romeo and Juliet, with a script created using Folger Digital Texts. Well, the deadline has passed, and we’ve had 28 fabulous submissions. They come from Punahou School in Hawaii; from the University of Northern Iowa; from Ottawa, Canada; from George, Kansas; and from Brooklyn, NY, among others. (more…)

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In case you’ve forgotten: Tomorrow is Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday.

In my recent post I wrote about the Romeo and Juliet Balcony Scene-Flash Mob event that the Folger is hosting on YouTube. We’ve gotten lots of questions and comments about this activity, and we’re hoping that you take the time to get your students to create this scene. (more…)

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As you probably know, April 23 is Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, and the Folger Education staff wants to get everyone involved in the celebration. So we are hosting a Balcony Scene Flash Mob Festival. It’s simple. It’s fun.  And it will get a lot of people speaking Shakespeare.

UNCWe hope to get groups from all across the country to take part.

So please join us! (more…)

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Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet

Drawing by John Austen for an edition of Hamlet (ART Box A933 no.2), 1890 painting by Ludovic Marchetti of Romeo and Juliet (ART Vol. f220). Folger Shakespeare Library.

Last week, we took a reader poll to ask which Shakespeare plays were being taught this semester. Top of the list (as of this writing): Romeo and Juliet, with more than 25 percent of the vote.

Macbeth took second place with 22 percent, and Hamlet third with 10 percent. Our write-in option was also quite popular, with Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing making multiple appearances.

Good news! We have a wealth of resources for teaching each of these plays. Here are a few highlights:

  • Romeo and Juliet – In December, Folger Education recorded an hour-long master class for teaching Romeo and Juliet. You can watch the archived version online, broken down into video segments on scholarship, performance, and the classroom.
  • Macbeth – Folger educators talk about surefire ways for successfully introducing students to the Scottish play in this podcast, Macbeth: The Teacher’s Edition.
  • Hamlet – Watch the Insider’s Guide to Hamlet. These videos highlight the play’s themes, characters, and plot—perfect for students encountering Hamlet for the first time.

Find more resources by downloading a curriculum guide for each of these popular plays. The guides include a brief synopsis, two lesson plans, famous quotes from the play, prompts for teachers, links to podcasts and videos, and a list of suggested additional resources.

Want even more? Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet are all included in our Shakespeare Set Free books, a series written by Folger Education’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute faculty and participants. (Today’s your last chance to apply for this year’s TSI, by the way!) Each book is packed with practical, specific ideas to use in the classroom.

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On Thursday, we hosted our first Folger “office hours” – a digital opportunity for you to bring your questions about teaching Shakespeare. And we got some good ones! The theme was Romeo and Juliet, but we also had some lively discussion going about more general topics, like iambic pentameter.

If you’re interested in seeing all the tweets from “office hours,” just search for #folgerofficehours on Twitter.

We tried to give what answers we could (in the moment and with the restriction of 140 characters), but we’d like to expand on some those answers here.

“Abridge” can mean changing Shakespeare’s words, or cutting the lines.  If you mean changing the language—using modern language instead of Shakespeare’s text–take a deep breath and don’t change the language.  Lots of material in Shakespeare Set Free gives you and your students the path to and through Shakespeare’s language.  And then your students won’t be deprived of  the opportunity–and the thrill–of experiencing and conquering Shakespeare’s language. (more…)

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Folger Master Class Teaching Romeo and JulietLast month, Folger Education streamed a live master class on Teaching Romeo and Juliet.

Hundreds of teachers participated, and afterward we asked for your feedback. The response was so positive!

Many of the teachers surveyed said they appreciated the well-rounded approach embodied by our three video segments on scholarship, performance, and the classroom.

Here’s a sampling of what we heard back:

“I had no clue what to expect, but by ten minutes in I was wishing that the class was more than an hour. There were so many things packed into the time that I could not wait to start studying with my students.”

“Yes – the interviews, clips, and examples of actual classroom work gave a direct, personal-involvement feel. I felt more engaged than I have had with some live professional development! ( not the Folger’s, of course!)”

“I think it was very helpful to learn directly from the experts who are closely tied to the content that we ourselves only re-visit one month out of the year. Even though I’ve taught R+J to at least 14 different classes, I enjoyed the detailed glance into several different perspectives of the play.”

Also, here’s what we’re hearing from you about what you’d like to see in future master classes:

  • more examples of in-classroom techniques and activities
  • more lesson planning ideas, both things that worked and things that did not
  • teaching strategies that could be used across multiple Shakespeare plays

It’s great to get this kind of feedback from you. Teachers are the rockstars in our book, and our job is to help you do what you do best. We’re on it!

And if you didn’t get a chance to participate in the master class live, you can watch a recorded version online. Happy teaching!

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We’re truly sorry if you missed our flash mob balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, at the NCTE annual convention in Boston last month. It was a blast! To console those who couldn’t be there, and to offer a happy remembrance to those who participated, we present these videos for your enjoyment.

Our goal was to gather as many people as possible, to perform in unison an edited version of Act 2, Scene 2.

“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” begin the Romeos.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow That I shall say “Good night” till it be morrow,” chorus the Juliets at the end of the scene.

Yes, the image is a bit dark, but what counts is the audio – which certainly comes through loud and clear! The second video gives you a view from above.

And now this has us thinking, what other scenes from Shakespeare would make for fun flash mobs? If you’ve got ideas, we want to hear from you! Please share in the comments below.

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reposted with permission from the Folger Theatre Blog

“Grumble, Grumble.”
“Snort”
“Whine”
“Complaint”
“But it’s soooo eeeearly!”
“This is ungodly.”
“Oh, no…I’m going to need a nap!”
“Is there coffee?”

And so it goes…

It’s a student matinee of our Romeo and Juliet at the Folger Theatre and our call is practically the butt crack of dawn. We have to be at the theatre no later than ELEVEN o’clock. I mean, in the MORNING! What?!

What is this, Prison?

See, a bunch of actors naturally gravitate to later and later bedtimes. We don’t crash at the median of the group, we all push our bedtimes later so that we go to bed towards the time the person who goes to bed last goes to bed. For me, that’s a little before 4am. Which isn’t as crazy as it sounds. We come down at 10:30 at night, amped on that show adrenaline, we calm down, have a drink or two, nosh a bit, catch up on sports news, maybe play some cards and then I go upstairs to my room to get a bit of work done. (I’m currently writing an opera and a play.)

Which all works out swimmingly. My earliest call for most matinees is 1:30.

But not STUDENT matinees.

Don’t you totally feel sorry for us actors?

Now, the upside:

Because, I guess, the theatre understands the eye-blearingly earliness of the hour, they provide bagels, croissants and muffins at these matinees. And coffee. There’s always coffee.

And the kids are fantastic.

No, really. Fantastic!

I have been in shows where we had to dodge skittles, M&M’s, spitballs, and (at worst) pennies flying in from the student audience. I have heard slurping sounds coming from the audience during a kiss. I’ve heard two comments from the same kid before and during a sword fight. The first, “They’re just a bunch of sweet boys in tights…” Which, admittedly, entertained not only the audience around him, but the actors as well. The second, after an early head swipe with a rapier, “Nope, they serious…” I have been surrounded by 1,100 students while doing a production of “The Scottish Play” in the round (at 10:30) and when they decided to converse, we had a tough time hearing each other.

But these groups? These groups are heavenly.

I don’t know if it’s the relatively small size of the theatre, the quality of the production, or the intrinsic good manners of these particular students, but they are a joy to play for. And not just because they aren’t making it hard, but because they make it so easy.

These are groups who laugh out loud when something is funny (sometimes adult audiences have to be convinced it’s all right to laugh – after all, this is a tragedy.) The kids are involved in the drama when it arises. (After all, every play is a comedy, until the play can’t hold it anymore. Maybe more on that in a later blog.) These have been my favorite audiences we’ve played to…just joyful and appreciative and open and, let’s be honest, some of them don’t even know how the play turns out.

I have a friend who was going to see a production of All’s Well That Ends Well and he’d never seen it, so he decided to read it first. He’s an actor who’s done a good number of Shakespeare’s plays so I reacted to this news, “Are you crazy?” After all, here he had one of his final chances to see a play written by Shakespeare as if it were a “new” (at least to him) play. Plays, after all, are written to be performed, not read (or at least not read silently). These audiences get to watch Romeo & Juliet, probably for the first time. Now, of course the vast majority of them know the story…but the language spoken by professionals has got to be a first for that same vast majority.

And they have been wonderful.

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~by Jessica Lander

Students giggle together during a theatre game at the 2013 Folger Secondary School Festival.

Students giggle together during a theatre game at the 2013 Folger Secondary School Festival.

On the grass behind the theater – once a fire station – two teenagers embraced each other and slow-danced.  They wore sheepish grins as they took each other’s hands, swaying and revolving to the music.  Iron & Wine and Graffiti6 and Elliot Smith floated from my portable speakers.  Curious dog walkers with waddling pugs and sweaty joggers threw sidelong glances.

It was week four, opening day, only hours before curtain.  Our Romeo and our Juliet were nervous.  Would their performance be believable?

The three of us met behind the theater to explore the act of falling in love.   The two teenagers began by locking eyes, standing quiet for twenty minutes without once letting their glances dart sideways.  Most students would feel too awkward to dance along the streets of Charlestown.  But these two seventeen-year-old actors were willing to try.

In theater such willingness is called “saying yes.”

Saying yes is the number one rule of improv.  If your improv partner says: “That soup you’re eating looks delicious!” and you respond, “I’m not eating soup,” the skit falls flat.   In our converted black box theater saying yes became the first rule and promise of our ensemble.

Last summer, as a teaching artist for Actors Shakespeare Project, my July crackled with witches and Scottish thanes.  This year we – ten students and four teachers – took up residence in the bloody streets of Verona.   Our students were a demographic chart of the Boston area. Our ensemble came from the suburbs and from the heart of the city; from public schools, from exams schools and from private schools.  Some had previously lived in youth detention centers.  Some had years of acting experience in camps and school plays and some came with no formal theatrical training.  What set them apart from their peers was that these ten teenagers were willing, even eager, to say yes.

Saying yes can be challenging in any setting, particularly in the confines of a traditional school classroom.  Raising your hand, offering up the answer to a math problem, sharing a poem, proposing a hypothesis – they all open you to vulnerability.  I have had 6th graders and college students of mine say no.  I have had students as far as Thailand and Cambodia and as close as Charlestown say no.  School textbooks and tests are lined with “right” and “wrong” answers and school halls are varnished in peer pressure and the shine of social status.

The black box exists outside this norm.

Over the course of four weeks I watched as ten teenagers chose instead to just say yes.

They said yes to playing improv games that required them to squirm like jello and row furiously like Viking warriors.

They said yes to walking and running and crawling through our theater to explore the space.

Two young men said yes to locking hands and attempting to push each other across a room while yelling their lines and furrowing their brows.

One young woman said yes to chortling like an old man with a beer belly and then cooing like a baby girl.

Everyone said yes to playing games of Mafia every day (four weeks straight) during lunch, holding heated debates and flinging accusations, in each subsequent game, about who might be suspect.

One young man said yes to swinging his arms in the air for an entire monologue.  Another young woman said yes to trying not to smile (a real feat for her).

In four weeks our students said yes to dancing in the rain, to singing, to arguing about character backstories, to fake punching each other in the nose, to sharing painful stories, to laughing out loud and crying out loud.

It is not easy saying yes.  You need three things.  You need peers that won’t snicker, you need teachers who won’t seek “correct” answers, and you need a space wide open to allow students to spin and floors strong enough to encourage students to leap.

And if you are lucky enough for such a convergence, then Romeo and Juliet waltz in a park, while dog walkers stare and at least one teacher smiles.

What can you and your students say YES to? Let us know in the comments!

Jessica Lander is a teacher and writer in Cambridge, MA.  She has taught, among other things, Shakespeare and critical thinking to college students in the Cambodian Capital of Phnom Penh and the northern city of Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Closer to home she has taught math and Shakespeare to 6th graders in the Boston inner city.  She has written for the Boston Globe Magazine and keeps an education blog, Chalk Dust: http://jessicalander.blogspot.com

 

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