Tag Archives: Romeo and Juliet

Who’s Counting? Two

Courtesy of The Fact Site, the number 2 is the first prime number, and it’s either the third or fourth number in the Fibonacci sequence–and that’s significant because math is beautiful and everywhere. Courtesy of Three Dog Night, “2 can be as bad as 1; it’s the loneliest number since the number 1,” followed by the glorious and inexplicable non-lyric, “uh.” Seriously. Give it a listen. Courtesy of my own associations, the number 2 is yin and yang, me and you, unity and opposition both, left and right, hands, feet, eyes, nostrils, ears, kidneys, certain male unmentionables, the fallopians and the ovaries, ones and zeros, dark and light, sun and moon, being and unbeing; essentially, the number 2 is everything and everywhere all at once–which is a deliberate allusion to the film everyone is talking about these days about the multiverse. Also, I’ve had too much coffee. Also, today is the penultimate day, the next to last day, the SECOND to last day of my career in public education.

As you know if you have been following this experiment, I am attempting, in between my last meetings with students, while I grade and clean and pack up, to listen to all of the albums in my classroom record collection from Z to A before I leave the room for the very last time, never (never say never) to return. This morning’s first selection on opaque white vinyl: E.P. 001 from Honorary Astronaut.

And look! The arrival of my 7th period English 10 students to deliver their Romeo and Juliet final projects. Cool playlists chosen to match the story and themes of Shakespeare’s tragedy contain some surprises: Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and The Carpenter’s “Close to You” are notable standouts. And a befuddling shout out to an artist named Bon Fovi. Never heard of that guy. There was a diary from Juliet’s point of view, the last entry of which she wrote right before taking the sleeping potion. We saw a presentation of the various weapons used to kill the various dead people from the play and their potential symbolic significance, including a very astute description of a deadly weapon called “Grief.” That’s what killed Lady Montague. There was a clay sculpture of the balcony scene complete with little dialogue signs. It’s kind of adorable. You have to see it:

I said goodbye to my very last group of public high school students.

Seventh period reflections, done. And every once in a great while, a student will sneak in a little extra something twenty blank lines or so after the last sentence of his or her reflection: “I appreciate you! I’m glad you were my teacher and I love your energy. It makes me happy. It’s never too late to follow your dreams, so I wish you the best on your writing career. I’m sure you’ll do beyond great. I see a lot of potential in you, Mr. Jarmer! You got this. Just don’t forget the one and only Yair. If you see a Yair or a Gomez playing soccer on TV, it’s me! But yeah, thank you for everything.” This nearly brought me to tears. This from one of the kindest, most gentle souls–the kind of student from which comments like this carry enormous weight. It makes me happy.

OMG–how’d this get into the classroom record collection? Play: Songs from Shakespeare by Here Comes Everybody. I love this band, and what a great sounding album. These Romeo & Juliet songs are abfabsolutely apropos!

Seventh period final Romeo and Juliet projects, done.

And before I can put on another record, it’s 12:30, time for a staff lunch, food provided by the good folks across the street at the Life Journey Church. The main purpose of this lunch, however, is to celebrate and send off with cheer all the Putnam people who are moving on: student teachers, teachers moving away or changing jobs, and teachers retiring. Hold on tight. This is gonna be a doozy of a staff lunch.

And it was a doozy of a staff lunch. Colleagues took turns saying lovely, thoughtful, kind things about those of us who were leaving. It was impossibly achy-breaky, emotionally exhausting and exhilarating all at once, and sometimes super funny. Lots of laughs and tears and then some more tears and laughter. And I think there is something so very strange about listening to our dear colleagues talking about us in this way. For me, almost an out of body experience, because, you know, I’m there in the room as I would be on any other last day of the school year when people are sharing their love and appreciation for the folks moving on, but this time the subject is me–or somebody very much like me–and I find myself thinking, wow, this guy must be really something; even while the presenter is looking right at me and saying my name, part of me is thinking that they’re talking about some other person. In my case, two colleagues who are two of the most cherished human beings in my life said the most kind and generous things. I am bowled over with gratitude and humility and love.

The English Department gifted me a beautiful certificate for music from Music Millennium! And all of us retirees got these beautiful word clouds printed exquisitely in school colors on canvas. Here’s mine, shaped like a record album!

I must say that the most interesting thing to me here is the descriptor “Kandinsky-esque.” I had to look that up and was quite pleasantly surprised. Also love the “woo-hoo”–a phrase that only the teachers who might be my classroom neighbors would understand. I am fond, apparently, of the woo-hoo and can be heard woo-hooing quite often, maybe even daily. And I appreciate a great deal the word “lover”–although I promise that no one on staff knows me in quite the way that word would suggest, so I am hoping that they meant that I am passionate about a great many things. Sure, that makes me a lover. I approve this message.

After that, a few cherished visits and conversations with a couple of my good teacher friends, it’s almost 2:30 and I am determined to submit my grades by the end of the day. And now I’m spinning As Long As You Are by the band appropriately named (for my moment) Future Islands. It’s 4 o’clock, or close to it, when I submit the last class set of grades, shut everything down, and leave the classroom the penultimate time, second to last, next to last, before I can finally be off to my own future islands.

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April’s Greatest Hits: Audio Poems

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So it was that during all of April I wrote poems, 32 of them to be precise, in celebration of National Poetry Writing Month. And they all, or most of them, turned out to be about this guy, or at least inspired by this guy, the Bard from Stratford Upon Avon, because, as you may or may not know, I had Shakespeare on the brain again as I was deeply embroiled in a performance of Romeo and Juliet as Lord Capulet.

For a friend who is making a film, I recorded audio performances of seven of my favorites.  For your listening pleasure, here they are:

Curtains

Lord Capulet Speaks the Unspeakable

A Poem from Director’s Notes

Capulet Speaks of His Daughters Grief

During Act II, Capulet Writes a Poem

The Actor Attempts to Meditate in the House During Fight Call

Lord Capulet Interrogates Michael Jarmer in a Closing Night Sonnet

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#214: Lord Capulet Interrogates Michael Jarmer in a Closing Night Sonnet

First things first: Happy birthday, Bill! It’s been a super rough year. The loss of Bowie, Rickman et. al., and just days ago now, the devastating loss of Prince, makes one super conscious of the fragility of life, especially when our heroes fall, heroes who seemed to us untouchable and timeless, almost god-like. But now, involved as I have been over the last 8 years of my life in a close relationship with the Bard from Stratford-apon-Avon, I am reminded how great art never dies. Right, Bill? “So long as men can breathe and eyes can see,” or ears can hear, “so long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” Bowie, Rickman, and Prince are still with us and every time we spin one of their records or see one of their films,
they are very much alive and well, just as Shakespeare is still, 451 years later, alive and well.

So, to celebrate the timelessness of great art, the final performance of Romeo and Juliet, to be a good napowrimo student, and to inadequately express my gratitude for all three, I pen today a sonnet, another persona poem from Lord Capulet. I fought a great battle against adding two more syllables in that final line. Iambic pentameter wins the day.

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Lord Capulet Interrogates Michael Jarmer in a Closing Night Sonnet

So what did you to me bring forth and what
did I give you? Imagine that we are
one soul: why must I hate Montague gut?
And why, dear actor friend, is this young star,
this boy Paris, of such interest to me?
And why must I insist Juliet wed?
It’s clear, we don’t need his royal money
and did I not say those too early bed
are marred? It’s true, I contradict myself.
I know, in part, I hoped to quell her grief;
instead I heaped it on. Her mental health
disturbed, distressed. So actor, please, be brief:
Your task demands that you do know me well;
What kind of father makes for daughter hell?

 

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#213: Ode to Tech (a prose poem)

Ode to Tech

They spin a revolving stage that weighs hundreds of pounds a dozen times every night, some with their bare hands. They sit in the dark wearing headphones whispering cues and following script. They perch in the heat near the ceiling behind hot spotlights that focus the audience’s attention in every single moment, or they seclude themselves inside a booth in front of a console where they operate the faders for light and sound. They sew buttons. They keep track of everything. They know the show better than some of the actors. And they are quiet. In long stretches of the play when nothing needs to be done, they read novels in the dark. They wear black so no one can see them.

No one can see them.

They are heroes, every one, and to commemorate their contribution, someone has drawn lovely cartoon portraits of each team as if they were members of rock and roll groups: The Revolvers, The Lighting Crew, and Da Booth. At curtain call, they’re off stage, or otherwise out of sight, while the cast gestures off left and then out toward the top of the house to direct the audience’s applause and appreciation. I sing the praises for these invisible stars of the show, without whose help, there would be no show.

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#212: Rosaline Goes to an Old Accustomed Feast

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Today’s napowrimo suggestion is to write a poem in the point of view of a minor character in a folktale or myth. I choose neither. Because Shakespeare:

Rosaline Goes to an Old Accustomed Feast

I was on the guest list and I decided to go
even though I knew he would be there.
I wanted no awkward moments but I trusted
there would be none. I think I convinced him
that between he and I there could be no hope
of anything like an enduring relationship,
let alone the kind of fling thing
for which these boys in Verona are so keen.
I let him down as easily as I could, or rather,
I devised, I must confess, a diversionary tactic,
one against which there could be no response
or argument. I told him I have sworn
that I will still live chaste, forever celibate,
no monkey business, that soon I would be on
my way to a nunnery where the concerns
of worldly desires and the dangers of menfolk
would be far away. This was a lie. Frankly,
I’m really looking forward to the mystery dance,
but, truth be told, even though he’s pretty good
looking for a Montague, I won’t do it with him.
I just don’t like that guy. He’s flighty,
too much like a boy, his friends are creepy,
and by the looks of his behavior at the Capulet
shindig, he’d be about as faithful to a woman as a
honey bee to a single daisy. Never have I been one to gloat,
but truthfully, Paris is the man that floats my boat.

.

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#211: Ode To Juliet’s Nurse


Juliet’s age-knowing,
wormwood on dug-leaving,
dirty-joke telling,
thou wilt fall backward,
when thou comest to age,
wilt thou not, Jule-talking,
fan-waving,
fan’s the fairer face-waving,
Mercrutio, scurvy-knaving,
saucy merchant-screaming,
I’ll take him down-threatening,
match-making,
Juliet-teasing,
oh, my aching bones-complaining,
where is your mother-asking,
wedding-arranging,
Romeo and Juliet co-conspiring,
Romeo shaming,
on Friar Lawrence-crushing,
he’s dead, he’s dead,
alack the day-sobbing,
heart-throbbing,
Tybalt’s dead body-mourning,
Capulet-fighting,
Juliet-betraying, no longer
in confidence and craving,
and on wedding-to-Paris-day morning,
Juliet’s sleeping body-discovering,
she’s dead, she’s dead-mistaking,
alack the day again sobbing,
and then out and never again
to be seen-leaving, a sail, a sail
into the dark and behind the
curtain and into the green
room, where Juliet’s nurse
transforms and becomes again,
my esteemed colleague, my friend.

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#210: How to Perform Shakespeare for Middle School Children

Chew the words.
Enunciate.
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.

 

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#209: 35 Years Later, The Actor Playing Capulet Remembers Auditioning for Romeo

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I was 16 when I auditioned for Romeo.
I got Mercutio instead and I was happy
about that because that guy has the best
death scene in all of literature.
But in preparation for my Romeo
audition I carved out a space in my brain
for Romeo’s balcony soliloquy and I still
know it to this day, 35 years later.
Today, I am cast as Lord Capulet
and the girl who played Juliet with
the dude that took my Romeo role
so many years ago is cast in this show
as the Nurse. Here we are full circle
in the same play and at the same location.
We’re playing different roles, but both of us,
I imagine, have spaces carved out
in our brains for the parts we played
(or the part we wanted to play)
when we were teens. I don’t imagine
that Capulet might ever deliver
“but soft, what light through yonder window breaks”
to the Nurse. That would be unseemly.
Instead, I have a fantasy that R&J
might be cast as old people for the lovers
and the kids can run around meddling
and spoiling all the fun for once.
That space I have carved out in my brain
for Romeo may yet be of some use.

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#208: Lord Capulet Cleans Out His Chakra House

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Down there in the red Root the ground is slipping.
That navel orange Sacral space is pretty much on fire and
my Solar Plexis spins like a drunken dervish on a yellow sun.
All the Heart Stuff bubbles and boils dangerously
toward destruction, comes up green in my throat and
I find myself shouting all the time. Finally, I spy
with my Third Eye something like a clearing out,
a cleansing, a purple purge of everything that’s broken.
Violent delights have violent ends and a violet Crown
now sits on my head.

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#206: The Actor Attempts to Meditate in the House During Fight Call

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and is successful in his way.
The swords clash and clang
and the combatants exclaim
their shouts of excruciating pain
and the crowds riot in the streets.
The actor meditating in the house
allows the clamour to disguise
itself as a kind of tumultuous silence.
The bell chimes inaudibly underneath
his theater seat just in time for
him to go up on the stage
and throw his daughter Juliet
to the ground.

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