#210: How to Perform Shakespeare for Middle School Children

Chew the words.
Don’t go too fast.
Lift the line.
Energy. Energy.
Perhaps, more importantly,
overemphasize the dirty jokes:
“Draw thy tool” and
“My naked weapon is out”
should get big laughs.
However, for things that could
be considered dirty but
are not, caution is advised.
If you’re Romeo, for example,
and you’re climbing
on top of Juliet in her
bedroom, you’ll want
to underemphasize the
contact here. On second
thought, strike that.
Go ahead and make it steamy.
They’ll laugh, and laughter
from middle school kids
during a Shakespeare performance
is better than silence, with
some exceptions, like when
Tybalt kills Mercrutio,
or when Romeo kills Tybalt,
or when the Prince banishes
Romeo, or, alack the day, when
Capulet abuses his daughter,
or, alack, alack the day again,
at the double suicide at the end.
So, if you’re playing Mercrutio,
Tybalt, Romeo, Capulet, or Juliet,
aim for silence and not for laughter,
understanding of course,
that you have little or no control
over the response of the little
middle schoolers, and that
whether you like it or not,
they might laugh, not because
you’re funny, but because
you’ve made them very uncomfortable
and they did not know what else to do.


Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

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