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Story Behind the Story #19:
Rome and Juliet Together (and Alive!) At Last

Romeo and Juliet Together (and Alive!) At LastWhen my older boys were in elementary school—it was a small school—they both had a fourth grade teacher who was enamored of Shakespeare and wanted to bring the Bard’s brilliance to her students. That was why every year her class did one of Shakespeare’s plays. To be sure, these were not full-length productions but culled from any number of abridged versions of which there are many designed for young people to perform.

Now I can see youngsters performing an abridged version of Midsummer’s Night Dream; Bottom with his donkey’s head, and Queen Titania falling in love with him. However, a fourth grade version of Hamlet or Macbeth is another matter.

The productions were, frankly, absurd and often, while not meant to be funny, were funny. Very funny.

In the audience, parents suppressed smiles, while the kids tried to follow the plots. To hear a fourth grader say, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” didn’t exactly work. That said, in schools, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is one of the most often-read of Shakespeare plays.

All this should suggest the origin of Romeo and Juliet Together (and Alive!) at Last. Also consider that I had a cast of appealing actors—so to speak—from S.O.R. Losers. It was immensely fun to write the garbled Shakespeare lines and anyone (mostly the kids) who has had any connection with the production of school plays will recognize this slap-stick production. Some books are enormously entertaining to write. This was one of them.

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