Yesterday was the big day for my freshmen: skit presentations for Romeo and Juliet. While they’ve certainly had their issues with Shakespeare, some of them put enough thought into their productions to make the Phantom of the Opera sound like a radio jingle. I encouraged them to choose a theme for their version of the Bard’s classic, and once that creative stampede started, they were constructing backdrops and commandeering enough props from home to turn my classroom into the backstage of Broadway. Allow me to mention a few of the highlights.
First, we had a South of the Border Shakespeare. The characters appeared in sombreros and spoke with such heavy accents that if I closed my eyes, I could picture Speedy Gonzales pouring his heart out to that Capulet rodent. Then, as the group ran into a people shortage for the characters, one fellow became both Mercutio and Romeo and held a split personality conversation by taking his sombrero off and on every time the dialogue switched. It was like watching Romeo and Juliet in a Mexican psychiatric ward.
Next, we had a Mario brothers theme. Characters turned into digitized personas reenacting the pain Mario/Romeo feels as he creeps down the balcony ladder while balancing a script in one hand and holding his mustache in place with the other. Anytime Romeo tried to incorporate dramatic hand motions with his moving farewell speech, facial hair had to be retrieved from the floor, so he became stoic in his love. While I loved the ingenious selection of theme from this group, I felt the skit lost credibility since none of the characters drove himself off a cliff while trying to race the others on a series of mushrooms tops, which invariably happens every time I become Yoshi behind a Wii steering wheel.
Last but not least, we have the group who tried something radical: a puppet show. From the moment Romeo and the love of his week appeared over the edge of that bed sheet as brown paper sacks brandishing daggers, I started giggling. Not only was this teenage lunch accessory capable of carrying a nutritious meal to school, he could also break into iambic pentameter while he regurgitated a peanut butter sandwich and a fruit cup. My students struggled with some of the shoulder endurance necessary to keep a Friar Laurence aloft while he explained the massacre to the Prince, and students lending aid by holding the sheet would slowly bend at the knees and lower the linen partition to try to keep Friar Brown Bag visible for the audience. My novice puppeteers soon forgot that anything said behind the curtain could easily be heard by the crowd, so lines took on a life of their own with interesting interjections.
Romeo: I need to enter the tomb to get a – hey, can you move your elbow? – ring from the finger of my – seriously, dude, you have got to scoot over; your feet are all up in my space – beloved and to gaze upon her – no, I don’t need that flashlight until the top of page three – beautiful face.
As each character met his or her untimely end, the puppeteer would fling the body over the sheet, giving my floor the appearance of a Ziploc Baggy version of a CSI episode. As the remaining Brown Bag Montagues and Sack Lunch Capulets gazed at the carnage and mourned their loved ones, I knew that all was not lost. We could simply wad those corpses into balls and toss their remains into the recycling bin. It looks as if Shakespeare has finally gone green.
© 2013 – Traci Carver