Professional actors from Portland Stage treated eighth-graders at Lincoln Middle School to a performance of an abridged version of “Romeo and Juliet” this month.
The play, performed on Sept. 23 at the school, was fully Shakespearean in language, tone and content. The actors played multiple parts in the play using minimal sets and subtle costume changes.
The following day, students also got to experience an acting workshop in their English language arts classes led by the actors. The workshop was very interactive, allowing time for each student to speak, listen to and perform lines of Shakespearean text.
Lincoln staff, working with Anita Stewart, Portland Stage executive and artistic director, and Carmen-maria Mandley, Portland Stage literary and education manager, piloted this project in the district last year.
Portland Stage, with financial support from Culture Club-Portland, wanted to reach all three middle school grade levels with the programming. A decision was made to offer in-school programs to seventh- and eighth-graders. Based on curriculum connections, it was decided that the eighth grade performance would be “Romeo and Juliet,” working with English language arts, and the seventh grade performance would be “Antigone,” working with seventh grade social studies.
Sixth-graders will see either “A Christmas Carol” or “The Snow Queen” (offered in alternate years in December) at the theater.
Beginning this year the seventh- and eighth-grade in-school programs are being offered to other Portland middle schools through Culture Club-Portland.
Phyllis Hey, Lincoln’s community coordinator, helped to coordinate this month’s event with Lincoln eighth-grade ELA teachers Antona Briley and Jane Lombard.
Portland Stage filmed the play for the National Endowment of the Arts and videotaped interviews with six students following the performance.