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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: November ::
Re: How to act as Romeo
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1122  Wednesday, 11 November 1998.

[1]     From:   Christine Mack Gordon <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 09:02:37 CST6CDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

[2]     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 11:15:53 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

[3]     From:   Mike Sirofchuck <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 07:48:40 -0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

[4]     From:   Melissa D. Aaron <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 23:05:27 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

[5]     From:   Skip Nicholson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 23:01:56 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

[6]     From:   Marilyn A. Bonomi <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 11:03:30 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

[7]     From:   Cora Lee Wolfe <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 21:13:22 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 09:02:37 CST6CDT
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

I would encourage Leslie Kuo and his colleagues _not_ to modify
Shakespeare's language in their selection of scenes from _Romeo and
Juliet_. None of the language in this play is especially difficult; most
people are familiar with the story and have probably seen stage or film
productions. "Thou" and "you" had different connotations in Elizabethan
English (analogous to other languages with formal and familiar forms of
the second person), and even though those are lost in contemporary
English, it surely won't be confusing to retain them in the play. At
least a good part of the glory of Shakespeare's plays is the language;
modifying it in ways that you suggest does a disservice to both the
plays and to the audience.

Chris Gordon

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 11:15:53 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

Above all else, enjoy yourself.  That's the key, since this is a first
effort, in your teens.

By all means, think of your audience and make some changes in the
language, especially when you find your fellow cast members haven't a
clue what you're talking about.  You'll be doing this for your high
school, so any strategic replacement of words will help them to keep up
with the action.  Only be sure not to mess with the meter, and even in
prose passages try to preserve the rhythms of the original.

If you have time, look at facsimile editions of R&J.  The punctuation in
the Folio, for instance, may give you some good clues about where to
breathe, and which words might be most important.

As for books, check out anything by Lord Laurence Olivier and Sir John
Gielgud, who in their prime were the opposite ends of the pole, in terms
of interpretation.  Olivier saw Romeo as intensely physical, whereas
Gielgud favored the more pensive, poetic soul.  By sheer coincidence,
they tailored their Romeos to what they knew to be their strengths as
actors.  That's another clue for you:  see what kind of persona you can
project most successfully, and use that as a starting point.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

Andy White

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Sirofchuck <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 07:48:40 -0900
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

>And another question, do we need to adjust some rarely used words in the
>original play into their modern counterparts.

Please, God, no, no, no!  Give your audience some credit

> but it will be easier both for the actors/actresses and the
>audience.

Heaven forbid anybody have to work at this - Fast food Shakespeare for
all!

Our high school drama class has performed several Shakespeare plays in
recent years without changing any language - the actors and audience
survived intact with only minor abrasions.

Mike Sirofchuck
Kodiak HS

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa D. Aaron <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 23:05:27 -0500
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

>I am a college sophomore, who will act as Romeo this December. The drama
>we will put on will only include five scenes of the play: Romeo meets
>Juliet; balcony; wedding; kills Tybalt; dead. I am wondering if some of
>you can offer me some tips or suggestions that will improve our
>contemporary work, no matter the settings, the language tones, etc.
>
>And another question, do we need to adjust some rarely used words in the
>original play into their modern counterparts. For instance, thou to you;
>wouldst to would; overperch to fly over? I know it may sound a little
>bit awkward, but it will be easier both for the actors/actresses and the
>audience.

Dear Leslie--

First, best of luck in your production.

Second, I doubt that the particular adaptations you describe will make
much difference to comprehension, and in the case of "fly over" you'll
wreck the scansion of the line.   And scansion's a really important
issue in this particular play-remember, you're playing a guy who is so
romantic and so steeped in literature that he automatically falls into a
sonnet when he meets Juliet.   Yes, it's a bit artificial, but in
Romeo's case, that's the whole point.   I'd recommend wholesale cutting
sooner than rewrites.

Also, chances are your college audience has read the play or seen at
least one movie version of it before.  I wouldn't worry too much about
their not understanding these major scenes; especially not if you speak
the words clearly and understand what you yourself are doing  (whatever
character and action choices you may make).

Hope this helps--

Melissa D. Aaron
University of Michigan

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Skip Nicholson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 23:01:56 -0800
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

Leslie Kuo,

> And another question, do we need to adjust some rarely used words in the
> original play into their modern counterparts. For instance, thou to you;
> wouldst to would; overperch to fly over? I know it may sound a little
> bit awkward, but it will be easier both for the actors/actresses and  the
> audience.

No. You can cut lines, move them, assign them to other speakers... but
you can't "write new Shakespeare."  If your actors need contemporary
language, why not put on a contemporary play instead of R&J?

Cheers,
Skip Nicholson
South Pasadena (CA) HS

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn A. Bonomi <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 11:03:30 -0500
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

Given the fact that you plan to present only the five scenes you've
listed, you've simplified the job enormously:  he's the ultimate
romantic hero, handsome, verbally gifted, talented with the sword,
devoted and dedicated to his love above all else, and finally... oops!
We've just run into the problem w/ your plan!  SUICIDAL.  But except for
one line in 2.6, there's no significant support for his suicidal
tendencies in the scenes you're proposing to present.

Best suggestion, if you want to establish some character substrate w/in
the constraints you've set up, is to do something really significant w/
the passage in 2.6 (sorry, doing this from memory... may not be
absolutely accurate)

R (to Friar):
Do thou but close our hands with holy words
Then love-devouring death do what he dare
It is enough I may but call her mine.

These lines support an interpretation of Romeo as much more in love w/
himself and his own romanticizing than w/ Juliet... and also illustrate
that Romeo, despite his efforts to "ope [Rosaline's] lap with
saint-seducing gold," is not a particularly testosterone-driven
adolescent.

So you may also want to do something w/ Romeo's response in 2.2 to
Juliet's "What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?" when he answers
NOT w/ some desire for a kiss (which at least Cyrano and Christian had
the sense to desire in THAT balcony scene!) but with a desire only for
the exchange of Juliet's "faithful vow for mine."

Language?  That's one I confess to being a total traditionalist on-but
insisting that doing it the way Shakespeare "wrote it" is so risky, b/c
of course we may never know precisely what he wrote.  And given the
truncation you've chosen, changing the pronouns and updating the
occasional obscure word won't do any more "sacrilege" to the text.

Just do me a favor, please: DON'T call it "William Shakespeare's _Romeo
and Juliet_" the way that egregious movie (More properly titled _West
Coast Story_) did!

Good luck-I hope your purpose is to make Shakespeare come alive for a
novice audience, not to make him "modern" for those deemed incapable of
achieving an appreciation of the Bard naked in his own bed!

Marilyn A. Bonomi

[7]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cora Lee Wolfe <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 21:13:22 -0700
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

> Leslie Kuo <
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> And another question, do we need to adjust some rarely used words in the
> original play into their modern counterparts. For instance, thou to you;
> wouldst to would; overperch to fly over? I know it may sound a little
> bit awkward, but it will be easier both for the actors/actresses and the
> audience.

In most cases, the way the line is delivered, as in the case above, will
make the meaning absolutely clear.  Don't sacrifice the poetry.  Almost
always its ambiguity is what makes it interesting.
 

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