Romeo and Juliet Plays: A How-To

Back in my freshman year, I had Erica Koprowski for English, and I remember the embarrassment I felt from doing a class performance of an assigned scene from Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ which somehow didn’t end in a train wreck. Grouping with two good friends, we got assigned the scene where Lord Capulet yells at his daughter for basically being a ho, or because she didn’t want to marry Paris, however your interpretation goes.

Our goals were easy: pick a scene, write a script, practice, perform. But, like anything else, this was easier said than done. You constantly have to reference the original scene to write your own. Of course, you don’t have to do that old-timey talk, so that makes it leagues easier.

Here’s a tip for writing your script: Pick your subject first and then start writing. Do you want to do forbidden love between Donald Trump and Mitt Romney? Lay the basis for that! Do you want to show your love for peanut butter and bananas, but jelly tries to interrupt them? Do it! Of course, if you want to be a boring degenerate like me, just rewrite the play as a more modern version with a princess and king. I guess that’s okay.

This is also a prime time for figuring out what sort of props you’ll need to fit your theme for the performance, since you will need those. You can bring lightsabers, crowns, bottles, or anything else you might need for it.

Up next is actually writing your script: Settle down and pull up the original text to the side so that you can look at it without switching tabs. Keep your topic in mind and rewrite it to your choosing. Give your characters life and action. Don’t just make them plain and boring.

If you actually write actions and phrase words in a way you’re more likely to remember them in, the whole project will be more fun to both the performer (you!) and the audience (your class!).

Now onto the fun part: practicing! In my time, we worked outside mostly and had space to figure out movements, both essential to everyone, but especially the group(s) who have movement-based scenes like the fighting ones.

It’s okay to be goofy at first because, let’s be honest, hearing the script read aloud the first couple of times, particularly where someone insults the other in a challenging way, is going to be hilarious. Just work through the laughter to get through the script. The more you get through it, the more you’ll remember your lines.

And the grand finale of all of your work- your performance! The scenes will go in order, so mentally prep yourself while your turn approaches. Take deep breaths and review your script during set-up for the other performances to refresh your memory on the lines if you need to.

When your turn comes up, focus on delivering your lines with emotion and precision. If you forget a line, don’t sweat it! If you can remember the basis of what you need to say, go along with it, but try to stay close to your original lines to help your group mates not get lost in trying to figure out what part you’re trying to reference. When you’re done, you’ll be glad it’s over and you had something to show from a couple week’s work.

Here are a few tips that might help you:

  • Prepare your script and finish it ASAP! Less time on the script = more time practicing!
  • Review your script thoroughly. Understand your lines and figure a way to remember them better, even if it means rereading it a bunch of times.
  • Keep group communication up! If you all stay in touch and can troubleshoot issues like what props to bring, even when at home, you can avoid a lot of frustration. Trust me.
  • Enjoy yourselves! This project might be for a grade, but Koprowski is more interested in the effort going into it than your subpar acting skills. Just relax and enjoy what you can do with your group!