Advanced English students re-imagine ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at Coughlin

By Mark Guydish - [email protected]
Lylah Lopez explains how she decorated masks to represent Shakespeare characters at the Mackin school in Wilkes-Barre. - Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
Abby Colleran shows a book she made in her English class at the Mackin school, a former elementary school that now houses Coughlin’s ninth and 10th grades. - Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
Teacher Jenny Carlo and student Trenten Zavada hold a book Zavada created in advanced English class. - Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
Masks made by ninth-grade students for an advanced English class in conjunction with a reading of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ are on display at the Mackin school in Wilkes-Barre. - - Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
Jaylin Perez speaks about her English project that represents her understanding of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ - - Aimee Dilger|Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — One of the masks representing Juliet included images of wedding rings showing her desire to marry, and chains showing the control of her father. The “Verona Gazette” included Tybalt’s obituary and an ad for therapy services from Friar Laurence. The Veronopoly game board didn’t have a jail square, but did have a “quarantine” space.

On Friday, Coughlin High School ninth grade advanced English students got to show off, and celebrate, a wide range of projects spawned by their study of William Shakespeare’s iconic saga of star crossed lovers. About 114 students took turns having mini-parties on stage at the high school’s second location, the former Mackin Elementary building now housing grades nine and 10. They ate chips and drank punch while surrounded by masks, poems, comic strips, collages and coats of arms inspired by “Romeo and Juliet.”

“It was hard to read,” Lylah Lopez conceded, “but I liked it.”

“I liked the ending,” Brooke Fisher said. “I liked the romance.”

Fisher and Lucas Debiasi were the brains behind Veronopoly, a board game clearly aping Monopoly, complete with “Community Chest” cards and locations such as “Apothecary Apartment” and “Montague’s Mansion.” Both admitted they don’t actually play Monopoly, but thought the basic design of the game fit aspects of the play.

Teachers Jenny Carlo and Cindy Gavin said the students were all required to do a writing assignment and to chose three project types from at least two of five categories: verbal, such as a poem; visual, including acting out a scene or making a video; artistic, which included making board games, masks, collages posters or other items; a newspaper or comic strip; or musical, which required picking a modern-day song for each of four different characters from the play.

In that last category, “modern” turned out to be a pretty broad term. For Romeo, one person picked the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There.” While it begins “she was just 17,” thus making it apropos to the teenage tragedy, it was first released in 1963, decades before any of these students were born (though admittedly still “modern” compared to Shakespeare’s play).

Many of the masks visually played off a key trait for the character they represented: Red was a favorite color for the hot-tempered Tybalt, white for the virtuous Juliet. Peace signs or doves were common for Benvolio, Romeo’s cousin who unsuccessfully tries to stop the third-act carnage.

So, did reading “Romeo and Juliet” turn any of these youngsters into lifelong Bard-o-philes? Of six asked the question, all admitted it had not.

Fisher plans to be an orthopedic surgeon, Debiasi a dancer, and Lopez a nurse practitioner. Other classmates: Hannah Chocallo is looking at orthodontics; Laci Kostelnik wants to be a psychologist, and Abigale Collum an anesthesiologist. Nary a poet nor playwright in the pack.

But fear not, they aren’t done with the man Ben Jonson dubbed “the Sweet Swan of Avon.” Next up: “Macbeth.”

“Lay on, Macduff, and damn’d be him that first cries “Hold, enough!”

Lylah Lopez explains how she decorated masks to represent Shakespeare characters at the Mackin school in Wilkes-Barre.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_TTL060918romeo1.jpgLylah Lopez explains how she decorated masks to represent Shakespeare characters at the Mackin school in Wilkes-Barre. Aimee Dilger|Times Leader

Abby Colleran shows a book she made in her English class at the Mackin school, a former elementary school that now houses Coughlin’s ninth and 10th grades.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_TTL060918romeo2.jpgAbby Colleran shows a book she made in her English class at the Mackin school, a former elementary school that now houses Coughlin’s ninth and 10th grades. Aimee Dilger|Times Leader

Teacher Jenny Carlo and student Trenten Zavada hold a book Zavada created in advanced English class.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_TTL060918romeo3.jpgTeacher Jenny Carlo and student Trenten Zavada hold a book Zavada created in advanced English class. Aimee Dilger|Times Leader

Masks made by ninth-grade students for an advanced English class in conjunction with a reading of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ are on display at the Mackin school in Wilkes-Barre.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_TTL060918romeo5.jpgMasks made by ninth-grade students for an advanced English class in conjunction with a reading of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ are on display at the Mackin school in Wilkes-Barre. Aimee Dilger|Times Leader

Jaylin Perez speaks about her English project that represents her understanding of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_TTL060918romeo4.jpgJaylin Perez speaks about her English project that represents her understanding of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
Coughlin ninth-graders study ‘Romeo and Juliet’

By Mark Guydish

[email protected]

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish.

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish.