Friday, September 23, 2011

Pizza and Shakespeare

A group of seven children recently gathered at my house for two days to read "Romeo and Juliet," write about it, have lunch, and to view Franco Zeffirelli's film version as well as "West Side Story."

Day two of our reading dawned sunny and warm. We were now deep into the complexities of the characters and their terrible tempers clashing with their gigantic passions.

By this point in our reading, the kids had their favorite characters. In an unusual turn, Peter begged to read Juliet and Sabrina wanted Romeo. Sure, go for it.

"Look, I don't want to influence you one way or the other, but I really think Juliet's head is screwed on a teensy bit tighter than Romeo's."

What do you mean, Ms. Ryane? piped up Nathan, who had just spent part of his summer at Shakespeare Camp...where he was cast as Romeo. Understandably, he might want to defend the impetuous lad.

"First off, when they meet...Romeo's all into let's kiss right off the bat and Juliet says whoa, hold on there, pal...I don't even know you....We'll just touch palms for starters."

Yeah right, hands should do what lips do! shouts Peter, proud that he got Shakespeare's sexy joke. Peter's eight and I wonder...are we going too far? Nah.

"Then Romeo keeps letting his emotions get the better of him. He insists the nightingale is singing when Juliet knows perfectly well it's the lark, and he better get the heck out of her house."

Or he'll get killed, right, Ms. Ryane? Millie offers.

"Right. Then he hauls off and kills Tybalt and then he falls all over the Friar's floor weeping and not listening to the plan."

And then he drinks the poison, don't forget that part! Sabrina chimes in.

The group got busy writing in their journals, after which they shared what they'd written. We moved to the dining room for lunch, and as I cleaned up they followed Nathan into the yard where he taught them stage-fighting techniques he'd learned at camp.

I called them inside to finish our viewings of "Romeo and Juliet" and "West Side Story."

Peter gave his review: "I loved 'Romeo and Juliet' and I would love 'West Side Story' if it didn't have all that music."

I love that they know this story at an elementary level. Their high-school English teachers will be amazed.

Of course, here's what they all remembered, and repeated over and over:

Gee, Officer Krupke, krup you!

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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