Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hot Dogs and Shakespeare

I didn't mention video games, or a trip to Universal Studios or Disneyland.

My message was simple: Please come to my house to read "Romeo and Juliet."

Parents replied: He's stoked! She's screaming from the back seat! He's beyond excited!

To read "Romeo and Juliet" at Ms. Ryane's house.

I invited seven kids from Shakespeare Club to spend two days in August with me. Seven kids who were not at camp or enjoying other summer plans were dropped on my doorstep.

Peter appeared as if he'd spent some serious time choosing a wardrobe. He wore his Shakespeare Club T-shirt under a sportscoat. Bright red trousers and green sneakers completed the outfit.

"Hey, Ms. Ryane," he dropped his voice low and acted super-casual, as if we did this every week. I was touched by his attempt to squelch excitement.

Sabrina and Millie.

We gathered in the backyard with a bowl of oranges to snack on as they read aloud. Every few pages we'd stop to discuss the action of the play.

"What the heck are these two families fighting about?" I asked. "Shakespeare doesn't tell us how this all started, does he? Maybe someone didn't return a lawnmower or someone said someone else's Auntie Dorothy ate kitty litter....I mean who knows, but this play was written over four hundred years ago and we're still doing this stuff. Does this feud remind you of anything?"

Yes, piped up Sabrina, it reminds me of our family reunions....I mean, no one stabs anyone with a sword or anything but...well, you can kinda tell people are mad at each other.

"It reminds me of the gang warfare that shows up in our city," I offered. "And what color are gangs anyway?"






"Exactly, all colors. And all religions seem to have some gang behavior...except maybe Buddhism. I don't ever remember hearing about a Buddhist religious war."

We read some more, peeled and ate the oranges, then I invited them into the dining room, where I'd set a table for a civilized lunch of hot dogs and potato chips. Eleven-year-old Nathan had baked sugar cookies to share with the group.


For the last hour and a half of our time, we moved to the living room and watched clips from Franco Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet" and from "West Side Story."

Peter's mother later reported to me that he told her It was the best day of my whole life!

CHILDREN'S WRITES: Journal Entries
I think to stop a fued from Romeo + Juliet's family is to make them shake hands and make up. Or slap some senes out of the person who started it and scream, stop fighting.
—Lizzie, 6th grade

I remember when my brother got into a food fight with me. I had food all over my face.

How I would tell them to stop fighting: 1.) There really is no point of war 2.) Banish them
—Millie, 5th grade


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