A few weeks ago, my dear friend and fellow Bruin alum teacher, Carmen shared pictures of her students reenacting scenes from Romeo and Juliet. The students seemed so engaged in owning their unique spins on the Shakespearean classic that I had to ask her if I could share her class photos to inspire our English teacher community here at Simply Novel to try a similar project with any drama on next year’s reading list. We are all about adding to the collective tool boxes of secondary English teachers and I think this is definitely a fun one to file away!
The Lesson in a nutshell:
This lesson is intended to be a culminating project at the end of a play. After students have read a play, they are assigned small groups, which are tasked with reenacting a particular scene in a cultural or chronological context other than that of the original play. Group sizes, group formation (teacher or student assigned) and scene choices depend on class size, maturity level, and choice of play. For older or more advanced classes, students can pick their own cultural/chronological adaptions, which would probably help them to get into the spirit of the project. If that seems like a difficult task for a particular class, the teacher could make a grab bag of contexts for groups to draw from, which could include things like: 1920s Chicago mobsters, The Wild West, A Mars Colony in 3015, Beverly Hills in 2015, Gotham during Batman’s heyday, The Dust Bowl, The deep South during the Great Depression, The USSR during the Cold War, or any other interesting context the teacher can think of! Students should focus on ways in which language and action would change in their given context while remaining true to the spirit of the original scene and being careful not to oversimplify or stereotype any particular group of people.
Teacher Tip from Carmen: If you have access to a couple professionally directed versions of the play, it can be very helpful for students to systematically contrast the choices different directors made in style, language, and other dramatic conventions. For example, after reading Act 1, students can watch 2 versions of Act 1 taking note of cinematic techniques and their intended effect on the audience. Continuing this process of contrasting each interpretation for each Act can help students understand how to make the scenes their own: make it personal, make it fun, make it a representation of their views and style.
This lesson should have students dig deep into the author’s purpose for the scene and inspire them to research or think critically about the adapted context. They should be encouraged to take creative ownership over dialogue, props, costumes, casting, and other dramatic considerations. Doesn’t it sound like so much fun? Check out the pics below:
Note: This lesson was inspired by SpringBoard; details of the lesson and program can be found here. Photos used with permission for the purpose of teacher instruction and inspiration. Carmen’s class was located in the Los Angeles area and worked on scenes from Romeo and Juliet, but I think this lesson could easily be adapted for almost any play in almost any educational context. My wheels are already turning thinking about how I could use this for Death of a Salesman next year!
Would you adapt this lesson for use in your classroom? What play(s) would you try?