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?
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.
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