Today marks my fourth day teaching The Romeo and Juliet Project with Tennessee Shakespeare Company and I couldn't wait any longer to share with you the amazingness that is happening through this project.
The Romeo and Juliet Project was created and directed by Stephanie Shine. This nationally-acclaimed residency uses Romeo and Juliet, its characters, and its many pivotal decision moments as tools for Freshman students to imagine and rehearse life-saving choices in the face of armed violence, peer pressure, prejudice, and inadequate guidance.
Working in concert with educators, TSC teaching-artists interweave these strategically-placed sessions, creating a positive and enthusiastic first impression of Shakespeare through students playing the play. During The Romeo and Juliet Project every freshman class receives three visits from TSC Teaching-Artists. Over the course of three sessions, students develop language to articulate their feelings, gain greater empathy and compassion for one another, and explore life-saving methods of non-violent conflict resolution.
Thus far, this experience has moved the text off the page and created an active encounter with the play for over 13,000 students.
It's hard to put into words what happens to these kids when we come in and invite them "up on stage," with us. We walk in and students will be sleeping, or listening to their ipods, or working on other assignments. And then we start sharing the story of Romeo and Juliet with them and we have the kids play the characters, and before we know it everyone is enthralled and laughing and having a great time! Students who were shy to participate make character choices that have all of us clutching our stomachs with laughter, others who enjoy the lime-light had a venue to practice their performance skills, and even teachers were answering alongside the students when we would engage the audience and ask them questions.
I come home every evening tired and smiling from ear to ear. It is hard work teaching these fast-paced lessons five sometimes six classes in a row. Often I've got pit stains from where I've been sweating and my eye-lids feel as if they're made of lead. But my being feels invigorated!