Romeo & Juliet
By William Shakespeare
From Mr. Howard
The idea to do R&J came into my head sometime in the spring while we were still working on the musical. Sometimes my brain just does that, jumps forward to the next production despite the work still remaining on the current one. I've learned to listen to my brain when I get messages like that, and I filed it away.
After the Addams Family closed, and like everyone else, I grappled with the transition to what school and life were going to be, the play showed up again in my head and I got a copy and read it. I had never, to my memory, studied it. I've seen a couple of movie versions, and went to a production a couple of summers ago (departing at intermission.)
A question that keeps mucking around in my head is, why do a tragedy during trying times? Well, I love tragedies (surprising to no one.) Tragedies remind us of all the good in our lives. I can think of no better time to stop and be thankful for everything that is going well, even during these difficult days.
What does the fall play look like in the age of Covid-19? Great question. I've been asked to envision three versions of the play. First, is a traditional performance in our auditorium with an audience. Second, is a traditional performance in our auditorium that has no audience, is recorded and watched online. The third is some form of an online theatre experience. That one, I find to be most challenging and, to be honest, pretty intriguing. My thought at the moment (and production plans change) would be to create ad record an animated graphic novel, using the actors as the voices for the characters. What I'm finding in my early research is that there are apps that will animate pictures. It would take editing, and skills that I don't have, but I think we could create a unique performance piece that still requires us to break down the Bard's language, rehearse and act them out. The final product would just be different. I do think it would be different enough that we would find great satisfaction from this kind of performance.
There are lot's of unknowns out there, but for me and for us, I know that working on a play is what we do. Given all the uncertainty in the world, I look forward to, once again doing something that feels normal.
I don't have a big C concept for the play yet. Where will it take place? What time period? That will come to me over the summer as I work on cutting the play down to about 90 minutes. However, the one thing that keeps sticking with me is what would happen if we swapped all the gender roles? A male Juliet? A female Romeo? Or, if you don't identify in either of those categories, just casting the person for the role. I think it would give us the chance to explore gender norms, power associated with gender, and lots of other things that we will discover along the way!
Audition materials will follow. Auditions will be towards the beginning of the school year. Again with the unknown of the fall, auditions may be online, they may be in person. Sports is an unknown for the fall, so I would like to plan auditions at a time after we know what is going on with the fall sports seasons. That way students who typically play a fall sport could opt to audition should their season not be happening. Again, I DON'T KNOW what the fall will look like, so I'm trying to plan for all sorts of possibilities.
As you wait for audition materials, start watching & reading Shakespeare. Any Shakespeare. Many are intimidated by the language, and we will have to work hard. Howerver, you can help by immersing yourself in a variety of his plays, training your ear to hear the beauty of his language. Don't get intimidated when you don't understand. Just stick with it, don't give up and you will get the gist of what is being said. I've directed four Shakespeare plays with students at WHS. They have all been challenging. They have all been productions we are quite proud of.
I can't wait to start working with you again.
- Mr. Howard
A couple of quick resources:
- Shakespeare's Globe is presenting plays weekly on their YouTube Channel
- Patrick Stewart is reciting a Sonnet a day during Covid on his Twitter account
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