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We spent this week watching the 1968 film version of Romeo & Juliet. I had been opposed to watching the film early on in our process, since that tends to give people an idea of how characters “should” be played, and we wanted to find our own interpretations. But the majority still wanted to watch it at this point, so we did.
It turns out that this was actually a really good point in the process to do this. The women all a deep enough understanding of the play and their characters to resist the temptation to “copy” the actors in the film, while pulling some good ideas from this adaptation. The woman playing the Nurse, for instance, said she had some different ideas about her character. She likes some of her ideas better than what she saw, but certain scenes seem to work better with another interpretation. She’s mulling it over.
At times the film felt a bit like a sing-along, with one or more of us speaking lines at the same time as the actors on screen. That was fun, and it became even more apparent how well the group knows the play.
We got into a discussion after we finished the film about which character bears the most responsibility. One woman feels that the parents bear the most blame, since the feud originates with them. Others feel that the burden lies on Friar Laurence – the marriage and subsequent events could not have happened without him, and he repeatedly takes a less than direct route to try to achieve a goal. “Why didn’t he deliver the note himself if it was so important?” one woman asked. That said, none of his conspiracies happen without the feud in the first place. “How the most impulsive people ever all found each other is beyond me,” said one woman. We talked a bit about mob mentality as well, and how the smallest argument can blow up into a huge conflict (i.e., the fight between Tybalt and Mercutio).
We also were very interested in the cuts that we had made vs. the cuts in the film. While some of the cuts in the film adaptation are not ones we feel we can make, since our storytelling medium is so different, there are other cuts that we actually liked. We all realized that the scene between Capulet, Paris, and Lady Capulet is not really necessary. Those of us who were present have no qualms about cutting it, but since the women playing two of those roles were at other programs, we are waiting to make the final decision until we discuss it with them.
All in all, we were all glad that we came to this compromise of watching the film midway through our process. The women agreed with me that, had we watched it very early on, it would have hampered their creativity, but they also proved to me that it can be a useful tool once we are solid in our own unique interpretation of the play.