Stories have been an important form of communication since the early development of language, and William Shakespeare’s plays are still considered some of the finest examples of storytelling.
The timeless themes, complex characters, and engrossing plot lines present in all his works are continuously adapted and re-imagined for contemporary audiences around the globe. One particularly well-trodden story is Romeo and Juliet, a story re-interpreted for generation after generation, and translated to film five times over the past century. The most profitable incarnation was found in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 version of Romeo + Juliet, a highly-stylized, ambitious film that belongs as much to popular culture as it does to Shakespeare’s canon. Studying these films, this workshop provides challenging and fun activities to accompany a Romeo and Juliet film screening, and encourages dynamic discussion among participants. Participants will explore the classic themes of Shakespeare’s play as it was written centuries ago, drawing parallels to modern-day social critiques portrayed in West Side Story and the Baz Luhrmann film version. What is the effect of contemporizing the story while preserving the original dialogue? What lengths do studios traverse to use soundtrack, stars and imagery to market this classic story, and how successfully do these elements appeal to the teen demographic?
1. Explore the possibilities and limitations of Shakespeare’s plays as experienced in different mediums and film interpretations.
2. Connect the themes and social commentary of the original Romeo and Juliet to various film versions, especially the 1996 Baz Luhrmann interpretation.
3. Recognize the approach taken by movie studios to target teen audiences and transform past works into fresh, relevant, and lucrative features.
[Media Literacy Workshop designed by Hayley Gauvin, Liz Schulze + Wendy Chen]