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Stage show caps Shakespeare lesson



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Romeo, Stephen Brown, and Juliet, Meredith Deighton, perform for Clarkston Junior High School students. (click for larger version)
February 13, 2013 - The stage lit up as ninth graders prepared to see Romeo and Juliet brought to life at Clarkston Junior High School by the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, Jan. 31.

"I have been teaching Romeo and Juliet for years," said Erin Shaw, a Language Arts teacher at the junior high. "This particular group of students had a lot of fun talking about how it was staged and how characters carry out lines and the feeling and emotion behind the lines."

Students from Language Arts and theater classes watched as the company performed Willian Shakespeare's words as they would have in his era - the actors wore their own clothing and played multiple parts. Also, there were no elaborate sets during Shakespeare's time since plays would turn so quickly there wasn't time to build sets.

"Their interpretation was a lot different than the movies are," said Maria Trembley after the performance. "I like how they put style and humor into it without making it so serious."

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"They did a good job keeping our attention," Abby Wilson added.

The cast also answered questions from the students after the performance. They explained they performed a First Folio of the classic - which is the first writing of the Romeo and Juliet - so it seemed like things were added or changed from the version the students knew.

They also explained how they work with their partners in the sword fighting and how they made the sword stabbing so realistic. They also discussed how they were able to play different characters by changing mannerisms and tone of voice and how they talk.

The actors also shared their thoughts on why Shakespeare is still being performed today.

"It is still relatable," said Sarah Leahy. "It's just life and something we can relate to and beautiful language. It's popular in any language."

Shaw found out about the school tours the Michigan Shakespeare Festival had and brought them in with help from the junior high school's PTA.

"This is what the PTA is about," said Barb Sowers, PTA Treasurer. "We try to provide curricular activities the students wouldn't otherwise get. There wouldn't have been the general fund at the school to have money to do this type of thing. We are always requesting the teachers. We have the money available and they must submit a mini grant request for type of things like this. The more students we can reach with a mini grant the happier we are."

Shaw's classes finished studying Shakespeare and are now studying novel units and reading Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 911. For more information, please visit www.michiganshakespearefestival.com.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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