What If Romeo & Juliet . . .
Created & Directed by Jackie Gosselin
Produced by DynamO Théâtre
This guide is designed for parents, teachers and caregivers to use with their children or students in connection with their visit to the theatre. This study guide was written for DynamO Théâtre by Jackie Gosselin and Maurice Roy. The resources and curriculum connections were adapted by Julia Dickson to suit an Ontario context. We hope you will find this guide to be a useful resource. Should you have any questions or feedback or have inquiries about the use of this guide (which is copyright protected), please feel free to contact Karen Gilodo, Associate Artistic Director, Education at kgilodo(at)youngpeoplestheatre.org.
The original story of Romeo and Juliet is famous for its discussion of the idea of fate, and how the love and hate that the characters experience is “star cross’d”, or written in the stars, and out of their own control. However, this re-imagination questions these themes, and examines how the choices we make can prevent the worst-case outcomes from occurring. Through movement, dance, design and speech, the piece looks at the concepts of control, choice, and how through the lens of our own identities, we can better empathize with others, providing us all with the capacity to change for the better.
This study guide aims to aid in this thematic exploration through activities involving movement, choral speaking, creativity, and imagination. These activities will help students to better appreciate the underlying issues in the play, and to reflect upon their theatre going experience.
SEVEN ANCESTRAL TEACHINGS
- Telling Familiar Stories in Imaginative Ways
- Examining Choices
- Exploring Alternative Outcomes
Through these activities, students will:
- demonstrate an understanding of a variety of drama and theatre forms, traditions, and styles from the past and present, and their sociocultural and historical contexts.
- communicate their feelings, ideas, and understandings in response to a variety of dance pieces and experiences.
- construct personal and/or group interpretations of the themes in their own and others’ dance pieces and communicate their responses in a variety of ways.
- evaluate, using drama terminology, how effectively drama works and shared drama experiences use the elements of drama to engage the audience and communicate a theme or message.
- demonstrate an understanding of the information and ideas in increasingly complex and difficult oral texts in a variety of ways.
A physical movement piece, What If Romeo & Juliet… uses acrobatics, movement, poetic design and speech to offer a retelling of William Shakespeare’s timeless masterpiece Romeo and Juliet. In this adaptation, the ensemble takes on the roles of a select few of the main characters from the original text to reimagine the popular story of two feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues. We witness the ever-growing violence between these two clans, leading us to question our part in preventing the tragedies that will follow. What if someone decided to lay down one’s weapons? Can we revisit the rise, fall, and demise of these famous characters, and re-write the story?
The process of communicating nonverbally through conscious or unconscious gestures and movements.
The organized recitation of poetry or prose by an ensemble or group, emphasizing vocal elements such as tone, pitch, tempo and dynamics.
The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
The characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is.
A person or a plan that is thwarted by bad luck.
PRE-SHOW DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
- When we encounter a problem, at what point is it our responsibility to find a solution?
- What are some words that describe the feeling of love? Hate? Is it possible to feel both at once, and if so, describe situations where this can occur?
- How can somebody’s body language show how they are feeling?
- How can children solve problems for themselves? When do children need adults to help them?
- What does it mean to have control over a situation?
- How does it feel to be powerless in a situation? What can you do to gain power?
Pre-Show Exercise #1: Human Mirror
Students will begin to explore the concept of control and understand the difference between trying to control the actions of others as opposed to working with someone towards a shared goal.
Space in which to move
- Divide the students into partners or have them pair up on their own and determine who is “Person A” and “Person B.”
- Explain that “Person A” is in charge of leading a physical movement of their choice, and “Person B” has to mirror everything exactly “Person A” does.
- Ask the students to move slowly to allow time for their partners to mimic them if they are struggling.
- Tell students to try and make the distinction of who is leading and who is following imperceptible as you will be moving around trying to assess each pair.
- After a while, stop and ask students to switch.
- Continue the activity as before.
- Next, ask students not to identify a leader but carry on with the exercise.
- Ask partners to attempt mirroring while moving (i.e. walking/dancing, moving slightly faster etc.).
- Challenge students further by asking them not to look directly at one another but rather use their peripheral visions to mirror movements.
- When was it easy to mirror your partner?
- When you were “Person B,” did you trust your partner to help you?
- Which did you like being more – the leader or the follower? How come?
- What happened when there was no leader? How did that change the exercise?
Pre-Show Exercise #2: A Friend and a Foe
Students explore power dynamics and how to gain control or change one’s situation.
Space in which to move.
- Instruct students to secretly choose a “Person A” and “Person B” out of all the students in the room. They cannot be the same person. The student should not share their choices with anyone.
- Instruct all of the students to begin moving around the space. Ask them to imagine that “Person A” is their foe, and is out to get them, and ‘Person B” is their friend, and can protect them from their foe. The goal is to keep their friend between themselves and their foe at all times.
- Play several rounds, allowing students to pick a new friend and foe in each round.
- Was this activity challenging? If so, what strategies did you try that helped you?
- In what role did you feel most powerful?
- Did this feeling of power affect your perspective during the exercise? If so, how?
- At what point did you feel powerless?
- How can the feeling of being powerless affect how we act?
- What physical cues helped you determine who was your “friend”? Your “foe”? Did this affect how you moved? Was is it important to be aware of the physical dynamics in a group? If so, why?
Pre-Show Exercise #3 – Human Clay
By using their own creativity and imagination, students will explore the themes of power and connection using physical interpretation.
Space in which to move.
- Divide students into partners and have them decide on a ‘Person A” and a “Person B”
- Instruct “Person A” to mold “Person B” into a statue, inspired by one of the following words: control, change, hate, love, connection. (If someone does not consent to physical contact, they can mold their partners using vocal instructions.)
- Give students each word and give them 30 seconds to see how the students interpret these words into statues.
- Have students present their statues one at a time to the rest of the group. Ask each set of partners to create a title for their statue.
- Ask students to switch partners and give them a different word and repeat the exercise.
- As the sculptor, how did you determine what pose you were going to use?
- As the statue, did you understand the connection your sculptor was creating based on how you were molded?
- What was a choice that another sculptor made that resonated with you and why?
- Were there any similarities between statues that you observed?
- Were any words more powerfully interpreted than others? If so, why?
POST-SHOW DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
- What role does William Shakespeare serve in the piece?
- What degree of choice do the characters have in the situations presented?
- What purpose does having every actor play every character serve?
- Why are only the young people, and none of the adults, represented as characters in this adaptation?
- Why do you think the playwright chose to personify non-human objects, such as the letter, the bench, and the tree?
- How does the audience understand what is happening in a scene when there is very little or no speaking involved?
- What movement techniques does the ensemble use to convey these ideas to the audience?
If your class has read or studied Romeo and Juliet, ask the following questions:
- How does this play differentiate from the original text?
- Does this adaptation change your overall understanding of the original play Romeo and Juliet? How?
Post Show Exercise #1 – Levels
Students will use physical techniques used in the show such as movement and levels to explore how physicality can convey differences in status and power dynamics.
- Space in which to move
- Chair or a bench.
- Divide students into groups of three. You can either choose to have them all attempting the activity at the same time, or to have one group working on a created stage and the rest of the group acting as an audience.
- Assign the group three characters from the play (Romeo, Juliet, Benvolio, Tybalt, Mercutio).
- In this exercise, one actor must be lying down or kneeling on the ground at all times, one must always be sitting or lying on the chair, and one must always be standing. At any point, an actor can choose to switch from one position to another, the rest of the actors must accommodate this shift and switch their positions still following the rules listed above. (I.e. if the standing actor were to move the sitting actor out of their chair, the actor on the ground would need to either move to sitting on the chair, or stand up entirely. If they were to stand up, the standing actor would need to move to sit on the chair.
- Play a few different rounds with different groups of three, experimenting with this kind of movement.
- Next, try giving the actors a situation from the play to see how this will affect their choices. (I.e. they are at the ball, or in the balcony scene, or dueling in the streets etc.).
- Which of the three positions feels the most powerful? The least powerful?
- When moving between levels, how did you work together to maintain the rules of the scene?
- How would the ensemble of What If Romeo and Juliet… have used similar practices when performing their piece?
- What sort of trust is involved when this much movement is involved?
- In What If Romeo and Juliet… how is the status of a character portrayed? Can you identify a low-status, middle-status and high-status character?
Post Show Exercise #2 – Identity Movement
Students will explore how movement and characterization are interlinked, and explore how the ensemble worked together to explore these ideas.
Classical music of varying styles (see appendix for some suggested pieces) and space in which to move.
- Have students find a spot in the room, and ask them to take on a character from the play (Romeo, Juliet, Benvolio, Tybalt, or Mercutio).
- Put on a piece of music and have the students try walking and moving in character, letting the rhythm, tone, and style of the music influence how they move.
- Call out the following feelings(love, hate, jealousy, excitement etc.) one at a time and ask the students to express physically the character’s reactions to those words.
- Ask students to continue moving but switch characters. How will that change their movement, or response to the music?
- Move through different musical pieces, playing with how it affects their character’s movement choices.
- Divide class into groups of five, with each of the characters represented.
- Ask students to create a 1-2-minute movement piece using one of the pieces of music played before as inspiration.
- Suggest that they incorporate elements of movement seen in the show.
Post-Show Culminating Activity: What If…
For students to engage with the open-ended nature of the end of the piece, and the implications it has upon the future of the characters, and us as audience members.
“Some of you may have read my play,
others are reading it now,
and some of you may read it in the future.
Almost everybody has heard of this tragic story where the hatred between two families causes the death of two young people.
Regrets of the parents in these two families could have prevented this tragic story.
And stripped it of its dangerous power
But then, I would have never written this play.
This story stands the test of time. Words live on.
So hang onto them.
What if today in this theatre, we let Juliet and Romeo leave?
What if Romeo and Juliet…?”
“Sometimes I am Juliet and sometimes Romeo.
Sometimes I’m Mercutio and Tybalt at the same time.
What if Romeo and Juliet, Benvolio, Mercutio and Tybalt were all of us?
How would you want this story to end?
Or how would you want it to go on?”
- Keep students in the same groups as in the “Identity Movement” exercise extension.
- Ask them to now create their own choral speaking piece as a response to the end of the play (see above for the full text), and the question posed by the ensemble “What if Romeo and Juliet, Benvolio, Mercutio and Tybalt were all of us? How would you want this story to end, or, how would you want it to go on?”
- Instruct them to use a combination of speaking patterns, rate, tone, volume, repetition (and other choral speaking techniques) when collectively creating their piece.
- When creating their choral response ask students to think about their own world outside of the play, and their own agency they have, as youth, to repair the world around them. What suggestions might they have to make their ideas a reality?
- Have students research an issue they feel passionate about and they feel affects them and their future, whether it be within their own school, community, or the larger country or world we live in. You may choose to focus on issues that relate to the thematic content of the play, or widen the scope to anything that they might feel personally drawn to. You can also choose issues relating to your social studies/political studies unit at the time
- Have them find articles and information on this issue, and use this information when creating their choral speaking piece. They can incorporate statistics, steps other youths are taking to take action, or any other research they find could make their piece more powerful.
Success Criteria and Learning Goals:
- I can identify problems that are relevant and important to me in my environment.
- I can explain how collaboration is important in creating movement pieces.
- I can list the themes that will be present in the show and where in my own life I have seen these ideas present.
- I can explain the ways in which movement can represent thematic ideas.
- I can identify the role I play in solving problems relevant and important to me.
- I can understand the role adaptations play in examining modern viewpoints.
Music Suggestions for Post Show Exercise #2
- Beethoven Moonlight Sonata
- Camille Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre
- Tchaikovsky Waltz of the Flowers
- Mozart Requiem
- Beethoven’s 5th Symphony