Creating Character: Romeo, Juliet and didactic challenges with improvised modern scenes
Abstract: This essay describes an action research project conducted twice in the same high school with second year students within the subject English. Students are often unwilling or unable to relate to Shakespeare and his language. It is boring, they say. It is difficult, inaccessible and has nothing to do with us, they say. But how is falling in love unrelatable and boring? How are gangs and families far away from today's society? Romeo and Juliet is relatable and as current today as it was 400 years ago. The subject English in the Swedish curriculum requires different literary time periods and dramatic text as well as living conditions, attitudes, values, traditions, social issues as well as history, politics and culture from the world where English is used should be integrated into the teaching. Which means that Shakespeare is perfect. Teaching English using drama is a challenge with students who do not see themselves as ‘actors’, the didactic challenges themselves being of interest in this essay. Students are asked to create a modern devised version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet where they work on character using for example Stanislavsky’s methods and improvisation. The aim is to see which didactic changes need to be made for character work and performance to be effective, run smoothly and be fun. The aim is also to better understand how it feels for the students to take on a character. The results show the importance of relevance for the students, leading them slowly into using drama as a method. The play has to be relatable and have a connection to the students own lives. In conclusion, in-depth character work linked to improvisation and devising is important for the development of character.
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