Gun Play


Yesterday I witnessed several murders. People died by gunshots, swords, and foam pool noodles. That last method took a while and left pieces of aquatic pasta all over my floor. I know this for a fact because I observed these gristly deeds as I do every year. The location for this massacre was the front of my classroom, and the people who died were Montagues and Capulets. I could have helped them, I suppose, but why interfere with fate?

Death by pool noodle - not as painless as one might imagine

Death by pool noodle – not as painless as one might imagine

The assignment requires students to write a modern day version of the bard’s classic that retains the original meaning. While last year’s group took the cake with props and preparation, this group held their own with creativity. I watched Romeo and Juliet join the Kardashian clan, and I must say that the drama performed in front of my marker tray was some of the best stuff that family has produced to date. At least it looked real. Then I saw the two warring factions square off as social media competitors, and all conflict had to be interpreted through hashtags and Facebook status lines. But the most gripping moment came when Lord Capulet took Juliet’s cell phone as punishment. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as members of the audience reached down to possessively pat their own device as they tried to envision such a horrible fate.

The words "cell phone restriction" and "fate worse than death" are interchangeable to students.

The words “cell phone restriction” and “fate worse than death” are interchangeable to students.

Aside from the themes, students put their all into acting, as they delivered lines and waved Nerf guns in the air. They were allowed to carry their scripts, but even then over eagerness sometimes got the better of them as they missed cues or skipped ahead. Of course, you had to know the play like a Thespian to catch such subtle nuances, but it wasn’t hard for an old pro like myself.

“Halt, I say, Tybalt, or – What are you doing, man? You’re supposed to be over there – or I’ll be forced to draw my – Why did you hit me in the arm? We don’t fight for two more lines- sword and take you out!”

But I think my favorite moment came with the group that used a gun app on their phones. These phones had a picture of a gun on their screens that would cock and shoot with authentic sound effects. Of course, during the double suicide scene between the two star-crossed lovers, Juliet had trouble getting the gun to fire, so Romeo resurrected himself, punched a couple of buttons, then lovingly fired a bullet into the temple of his young bride before resuming his pose of eternal rest. Now that’s true love.

And I’m pretty sure that if Shakespeare could see all the flavors added to his 500 year old classic, he’d be in search of his own happy dagger.

© 2014 – Traci Carver


25 responses »

  1. What awesome creativity ~ the phone guns are perfect.
    It’s truly amazing to witness the great stuff that young minds can cook up!
    What a wonderful teacher you are to encourage that. 🙂
    ~Andrea ❤

    • Thanks, Andrea! Their use of technology was perfect because it truly does characterize their generation. I haven’t had a child write down a vocabulary word in over two years because they all take pictures of the vocab list with their iPads and phones!

    • If you really want to put Shakespeare on his ear, then cast Kanye West as the role of the gallant Paris. I vacillate between shaking my head and wiping away tears of mirth.

    • They are so intimidated by Shakespeare. I often hear the comment, “He doesn’t even speak English!” I guess if you’re comparing his language to the “sophisticated” jargon we have today, it’s true.

  2. Ah, that brings back fond memories of teaching English 9. My six-year-old still plays with the foam sword one of my freshmen abandoned after the Romeo and Juliet unit, so I’m reaping the benefits of the Bard. (No abandoned phones from my kids, though, I’m afraid…)

    • I have so many leftovers from former plays and projects! I’m sure there are parents out there wondering, “Whatever happened to my old black robe?”

    • They seemed to have a good time. The more autonomy they have in guiding the activity, the more they feel ownership and pride. Self-guided activities have blown up in my face a few times, but it’s still worth the risk 🙂

    • You really should ask Chris if he would be willing to put you out of your misery in case of a misfire. Then you’ll know the true depth of your marriage 😀

      • He has asked what he can do at migraine time, only to show his true colors by NOT shooting me as requested. He SAYS it is because he loves me. I question his devotion. 😉

  3. Fabulous assignment, Traci. And well-executed with Twitter hashtags and Facebook status lines, a perfect marriage of ancient text with 21st century technology. Even guns in the classroom: In this case, I know the students (even the administration) loved it. Guns N Roses . . . . Were there roses for the ill-fated couple at the end, I have to wonder. They’ll never forget this experience or this play.

    Next week I am doing a less racy tribute to Shakespeare on his birthday, reputedly April 23. I think I’ll put a link from this post to mine.

    • This is one of my favorite teaching days of the year . . . and I don’t even teach! They really can be creative if given a little push. Thanks for the link on the big guy’s birthday, Marian!

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