Context for this Lesson
GRADE LEVEL: 7th
FOCUS QUESTIONS: When is it right to disobey authority? How do you [students] respond when there’s a difference between what the authority figures in your life are telling you to do, and what you think is right? What factors influence Juliet’s decision to pursue Romeo?
MATERIALS: Chalkboard and chalk, pen and paper
§ 117.37 Middle School Theatre 2
(1) Foundations: inquiry and understanding. The student develops concepts about self, human relationships, and the environment, using elements of drama and conventions of theatre. The student is expected to:
(1)(A) explore characterization, using sensory and emotional recall;
(4) Historical/cultural relevance. The student relates theatre to history, society and culture. The student is expected to:
(4)(A) Demonstrate knowledge of theatre as a reflection of life in particular times, places, and cultures; and
(4)(B) Explore the relevance and influence of theatre heritage and dramatic texts on the student’s daily life
"Romeo and Juliet, the play you’ll be seeing today, and that I know you’ve been studying in class, is about two young people around your own age who choose to disobey the authority figures in their lives, and do what they think is right. So I want to start today by thinking a little bit about who the authority figures are in YOUR life? Who wields power over you? Let’s go ahead and list some of them on the board." As students call out authority figures, write them on the board.
"Parents, great, teachers, your siblings, maybe your friends? What are some of the things that these people might want you to do, or not do?" Write these anwers down on the board. "Great, so they might want you to do your homework, meet your curfew, not drink or use drugs, etc."
"Now I want to try and get inside Juliet’s head a little bit. Let’s drop inside her head in the moment after she’s met Romeo at the party and found out he’s a Montague. She walks back to her room, heart pounding, stomach upset. She digs this guy. And now she faces a choice. Should she pursue him further, or put him out of her mind?"
"Of course we know what she chooses to do. But let’s try and understand what she’s feeling in this (imaginary) moment."
ROLE ON THE WALL
Draw an outline of Juliet on the board. "Here is Juliet, and let’s divide the space around her into two categories – “Go for it” and “Forget about it”. Who are the authority figures in Juliet’s life who might want her to “Forget about it?” As students come up with the authority figures, write them down. "What might these authority figures say to Juliet as they make their case?" As the students come up with lines of dialogue, write them and make the connection to the larger value at play. "Okay, so her parents might appeal to her sense of loyalty, or duty" etc…
"Now let’s think a little bit about the authority figures who might want her to "Go for it! What about internal forces— internal sources of authority, like Juliet’s "heart" or "conscience"?" Solicit answers – i.e. “her heart”, “her conscience”, “her desire” – put these on the opposite side of Juliet. "What might these authority figures say to Juliet as they make their case?" Write them down, and make the connection to the larger value.
Transition: "It sounds like Juliet might have had some pretty conflicting messages going through her head. Let’s explore this a bit further."
Procedure: Ask everyone to come to center of room, shake out their bodies to warm up. Then split the class into groups of two by counting around the circle. "Great. Now in just a moment, we’ll engage in a brief improvisation. Partners, please pick one of you to play Juliet. The other one of you should pick one of the authority figures who might not want Juliet to be with Romeo—parents, nurse, etc. Remember that boys can play girls in this improvisation, and vice versa."
"Will all the Juliets raise their hands? Now when I say go, you’ll find a place in the room to begin your improvisation. Juliet, you’re brushing your hair and getting ready for bed. Other character, please enter and start the scene. Your job is to convince Juliet that Romeo is not a good match. Juliet, your job is to convince the “authority figure” that it’s okay for you to be with Romeo. I encourage you to use the dialogue on the board to get you started. And remember—be firm in your position but open to persuasion."
"Any questions? Great, let’s begin." Instruct students move to different spaces in the room and act out their scenes with each other. If there’s time, “spotlight” certain group’s conversations: stop class to show a brief moment of conversation between a few students who are improvising and then allow the class to go back to improvising again.
After about three minutes of improv, give a one-minute warning. When one minute has passed: "Great, everyone, now I’d like you to take one of the pieces of paper and pens in the middle of the room and write a brief diary entry, in character, reflecting on the scene that just happened. What did you feel? Were you successful in making your case— why or why not? Did your scene partner make any convincing arguments?" Take about four minutes to do this.
Transition: After four minutes: "Take one more minute and finish up your diary entry." After one minute: "Great, folks, now from where you are, let’s go around the room and we’ll read out one line from your diary entry. Take a few second to pick a line that you’d like to share, and let’s read them out, starting on the left side of the room."
"Fantastic. Let’s get up, shake out our characters, and join me again in a circle in the center of the room. "
"We started today by talking about the “authority figures” in your own life, and then we thought a little bit about some of the “authority figures” in Juliet’s life. Then we talked about the internal sources of authority, the emotions of thoughts or values inside of all of us. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet chooses to disobey the external authority figures in her life and follow her internal authority figures—the ones telling her to follow her heart."
"As you reflect on the play, I encourage you to think more about these sources of authority, both internal and external. Is Juliet right to follow her heart and disobey her parents? Have you ever faced a similar conflict? How might you react, if you were in Juliet’s shoes—which source of authority would you choose to follow?"