ROMEO AND JULIET for Youth:
Adapting Shakespeare tragedies for Youth audiences always presents a challenge. The length of speeches, the density of the subject matter, and the dearth of comic relief elements all contribute to demanding a kind of focus and attention that are not necessarily as acute as in watching the comedies. ROMEO AND JULIET offers a story built around young love thwarted, between parent/child tension, with a good deal of exciting sword play thrown in. In other words, there exist substantial character and plot elements with which the youthful audience can identify and appreciate. There is marginal audience participation in this adaptation, and it plays probably fifty minutes or more in order to capture the intricacies of the plot. A NARRATOR is used to provide guidance through role and place and time transitions. The metaphor of the acting company is maintained throughout, and one of the characters does provide some comic interplay to a small degree. If the audience is all high school only it is recommended that the few participational elements be eliminated.
From the Play:
(An Actor peeks through the curtain. “Uh Oh”, then whistles loudly. The ENSEMBLE comes out, dragging a large trunk which can withstand abuse, pushing a three step stair case, a cube or two, and half in and out of their ‘period’ costume. Workout music plays in background. The NARRATOR or group leader comes forward while actors stretch.)
NARRATOR: (to audience) Sorry we’re late. We’re doing a play by William Shakespeare for you today (or ‘this evening’), how many of you have heard of Shakespeare?
TIM: Well, if you haven’t, you will. You’ll probably have to read his play MACBETH in eighth grade, and JULIUS CEASAR in ninth, or something like that.
PETER: Actually, I like HARRY POTTER myself.
JUNO: Yeah, or TWILIGHT . . .
BRENDA: I gained three pounds reading TWILIGHT. Four pints of Mountain Lion Ice cream, 13 bags of Nachos, Mozzarella Cheese sticks . . .
PETER: No, no, you gotta scarp down red jelly filled donuts when you’re watching TWILIGHT.
BRENDA: Yeah, Jasper makes my mouth water.
JUNO: Ed Cullen, LOL.
TIM: Or. . . or chow down on some Mushroom Ravioli. (beat) Y’know, in the restaurant, Bella orders mushroom ravioli, uh, well, that’s actually a little dorky, but still. . . Is it lunch time yet?
NARRATOR: Try reading my favorite. . . . HUNGER GAMES.
(He claps hands.)
O.K. let’s stretch. On three. Arms reaching to the sky.
NARRATOR: You guys can join in if you want. Follow my instructions. Now lean to the left, lean to the right, swivel that head around, open your mouth as wide as you can. Close it slowly. Everybody hum now, as low as you can, a little bit higher, higher, and as high as you can go, still stretching those arms. . .And now for some tongue twisters. Shakespeare writes a lot of words. Have to get our tongues and lips loosened up.
TIM: After all, we are doing a romance.
(He giggles and gets hit by girl actresses. To audience.)
NARRATOR: Tim, please.
See if you can say these along with us. “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” OK, now repeat it a little faster along with me.
(He repeats, gets audience going faster.)
Let’s try another. “Red bulb, blue bulb”. Faster now. Let’s go. . . Good. And now for the most difficult one of all: “Strange strategic statistics. . .”
TIM: We’re doing ROMEO AND JULIET, right?
NARRATOR: That’s right.
JUNO: I love romances.
PETER: With swordfights.
BRENDA: And dances.
TIM: And a lot of humor.
TIM: O.K. what did Romeo say when he saw Juliet out on the
balcony? Can’t guess can you? He said, “where you at, my little Pooh bear?” And Juliet was so insulted that she jumped from the balcony trying to scratch his eyes out but landed in a briar patch, with blood here and blood there, and shrieks and cries, and that’s why they call it a tragedy. Uh, I made that up.
TIM: I got a laugh. I did. That kid with the green shirt. . . well he might not have laughed, but he smirked. Smirk again for us would you kid?
NARRATOR: And now for the show.
(The actresses dress him in a tabard and a hat as he steps forward. During the following the ensemble behind him will act out what he is saying as if a dumb show. But they make a mess of it. Two of the characters, TIM and BRENDA have picked up bearded masks of heads on stick dowels, showing angry bearded faces. Color scheme: the Capulets are blue; the Montague’s are red. They could end up in a pile of sorts.)
NARRATOR: Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
(TIM taps NARRATOR on the shoulder at the end of the speech.)
TIM: Uh, we didn’t understand a word of what you said, friend. Could you try again doing it a bit slower maybe?