Romeo & Juliet on the Border

ABS fifth graders know that theirs is a big production. The challenges are great, the production values are high, the roles are juicy, and the whole process is a blast. The expectations are made clear and they always exceed them. The production is our original adaptation of Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet on the Border. Performers will use the original language, plus scenes with student-improvised language using the vernacular of the cowboys and vaqueros of the late 1800s. In preparation for auditions, I conducted a workshop where students learned that during an audition, as in a job interview, a candidate is judged from the moment they enter the room until the moment they exit.

Fidgeting, giggling, shifting from foot to foot create an impression of insecurity. Standing tall, walking with purpose, distributing weight evenly on both feet create an impression of confidence. If you don’t feel confident, act like you do. We practiced. Each student entered, announced their name, said thank you, and exited, knowing judges would be looking for three main things: vocal projection, expression, and focus. I let them know that when casting the play, I would also take into account the opinions of Ms. Adams and Ms. Heidi, based on her observations from dance and combat classes, and the opinions and reports from the classroom teachers, including behavior.

The students prepared audition pieces using techniques actors employ when reading “cold copy.” They read through the material, read it again and underlined the most important word in each sentence. They practiced by reading the lines in contrasting ways: angry, excited, laughing, downcast. I reminded them that in casting a show, my job as director is not to reward the best behaved or the “best,” but to consider how to place each individual so that we can most effectively and powerfully share the story as a team. Disappointment is inevitable, but as actors each student pledged to give all they can to the role they are given. Auditions were delivered before winter break with focus, energy, and abundant talent, and rehearsals begin next week. And we’re off!