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How To: Preparing for a Festival
Cutting Scenes

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How-To: Selecting and Cutting Scenes

1. First rule of thumb: Pick a script that you AND your students will like!

2. Aim for a script that can be performed in 15 to 30 minutes. Keep the ideas and concepts that are most essential, but do not expect to be able to catch every nuance.

3. Find something for everyone in your class to do. For example, the three witches in Macbeth can become twenty with clever line redistribution.

4. Read the script to yourself at a conversational pace and imagine stage action and pauses. Time it four or five times to make a guesstimate of how long the script will actually take to perform. Keep it to 10 to 20 minutes (elementary) or 20 to 30 minutes (secondary).

5. With a well-cut version of the original text and some careful handling, students do NOT need Shakespeare’s language watered down for them or “translated” into modern English. Trust the original! You may, however, use modern language as introductions or bridges between scenes as long as it is not more than 10 percent of your presentation.

6. Once you have a scene or a script, read through it and decide which ideas are most essential.

For example, take this passage from Romeo & Juliet, 2.2:

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy,
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And, for thy name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself

This cut passage loses lines, but not meaning, and keeps the language:

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
O, be some other name!
Romeo, doff thy name,
And, for thy name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself
Shakesperience: NJ, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

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