Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Survey Says

I am writing a play about, among other things, awkward teenage experiences. I sent out a questionaire to my friends on Facebook to inquire into their connections to Shakespeare, and to ask incredibly nosy questions about their high school romantic experiences. I am deeply curious about all of them, and have absolutely loved the responses I had today. I'm still hoping for more, but my greatest discovery so far has been the absolute universality of Teenage Awkwardness. Despite the fact that I very carefully wrote my whole entire teenage life down on paper as it was happening, or immediately before it happened to insure that it WOULD happen, it was still far more awkward than romantic. More frustrating than gloriously joyful. But boy...when the joyful parts came, I was more than ready, and welcomed them with open arms...and awkwardly placed noses and intercepted notes and misunderstood comments. It was all part of the package.

The play deals with Romeo and Juliet, and as much as I admire the poetry of the play, I want to just slap the two of them upside the head. Really? Poison, Juliet? Married at 14 to a fickle boy you met like twenty minutes ago? Come ON. But still...one thing that chimes through is that teen love is without sense, without limit, and utterly without the belief that anyone can possibly understand the depth of feeling that pulses through your particularly hormone-laden veins. I had two boys that I "loved" in high school - one, unrequited, ill-advised, and really only created in my mind because he once danced with me to Frankie Valli singing "You're Just Too Good To Be True" under twinkling lights at the South Shore Music Circus. It was ridiculous, but I was Sixteen, and it was Time to Fall in Love. That was a disaster.

When I really truly fell in love, it was with the Boy Next Door, the one who had been waiting for me, who was right there all along, the one who...insert 80's romantic pop ballad song lyric here. But is was real and true and as deep a feeling as I've ever felt in my whole entire life. How lucky I was to have that, but how inevitable for a girl like me, born of showtunes and romantic novels, to have been blessed with such a relationship. Would I have taken poison for him? In retrospect, I certainly hope not. But had you asked me circa 1989 as he kissed me behind the lighting booth in the high school auditorium...hell, yes. And I would have offered my diary for the script of the teenage movie of the week that you could have made of the story.

So...while I am doing my best to try to make the script of this play as non-corny as possible, I will attempt to honor that other universal theme - that teen love is messy, awkward, embarrassing, laced with ridiculous moments and a particular delicious rosebud sweetness that never, ever comes again.

Below is the survey I posted, if you care to chime in.

My Dear Friends,

I am writing to ask a favor of you. I am currently working on a theatrical project for my high school, and I am seeking some very specific input. I am writing a play loosely based on the You’ve Got Mail/The Shop Around the Corner/In the Good Old Summertime formula of being in love with a pen-pal whom you actually despise in real life. It’s set in a modern high school, specifically in an AP English class working on an advanced study of Romeo and Juliet. I am looking for some perspective – both current and revisionist – about the experience of reading Romeo and Juliet in particular, but Shakespeare in general. I am asking you, if you are willing, to share your points of view. You can answer some or all of the following questions, or simply write back and say “No, thank you.” Either way, I hope that you will allow me to use some parts of your opinions in my play. I’ll totally give you all the credit.

The first few questions are about Shakespeare, but the last ones are about high school experiences in general, from the humiliating to elating. Again, you don’t have to answer all of them, but any little tidbits that you can offer will help to deepen the reality of the play. Oh, you can just reply here if you don’t mind sharing your answers, or cut and paste and reply to me privately in a message. Totally up to you!Thanks so much for participating!!

1. When you hear Romeo and Juliet, what are the first images that pop into your head, positive or negative?

2. Did you read Romeo and Juliet in high school? If so, what did you think of it? Has your opinion changed as you’ve gotten older? Did you relate to any parts of it? Did you really read it, or fake/Cliff-Notes read it?

3. If you read it in school, did you do any projects or writing activities in class that made an impression?

4. Have you ever seen a film or stage production of Romeo and Juliet? What did you think of it?

5. Did you ever use any aspects of Romeo and Juliet, or Shakespeare in general, to impress a guy/girl you liked? How?

6. If you are gay, did/does that have an impact on your experience of the play? How so?

7. Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play? If so, which one is it and why? If not, why do you think that Shakespeare did not connect to your life?

Here are the more personal questions:What is the craziest thing you ever did for someone that you had a crush on?

What was your first kiss like? Was it romantic? Tender? Awkward? Embarrassing?

Did you ever have a secret crush that you were afraid people would discover? Why did you keep it secret? Did you ever end up telling the person, or did you get caught in your feelings by anyone?

Describe a negative elementary school experience with a peer that stands out in your mind. Did you ever have a fight with a kid that made you absolutely vow to hate them for all eternity? Did you keep that vow, or forgive them later?

Anything else romantic or traumatic you would like to share? Names and circumstances will be changed to protect the innocent or guilty, but it might feel awfully good to purge the energy from that by seeing it enacted on the stage!! Thanks for your support, my friends.


  1. 1. Positive. I remember the UMass production with that hot guy? What was his name again? Yum.

    2. Not until college. I never could relate personally, but I still love the romance.

    5. I once memorized a sonnet for a certain man we both know and recited it to him in a fluffy white bathrode in a romantic hotel. Didn't really work though. Maybe something skimpy would have been a better choice. Live and learn, huh?

    My first kiss was fun. Sweet. Romantic. He is on facebook too. He looks like all the other men I have loved. Funny how that works. We were sitting under the basketball hoops at camp, and I was looking at the stars. I knew when I looked down he would kiss me and I was so scared. But I did. And he did. And he was tender and sweet and perfect.

    Secret Crush? Um, No. I am pretty transparent, aren't I?

    I always loved deeply. And Many. I usually had a list of three top protential boyfriends, you know, just in case the top one didn't work out. I carved their names in hearts all over my books without care that they would see. I told anyone who would listen about my crushes, as if the boys wouldn't hear or more likely, because I didnt care if they knew. My crushes weren't really about the boys themselves I suspect but about my romantic idea of how teenage life shold be. I was a Flirt with a capital F. All pink and lipgloss and pop 80's music about boys. In facebook, the internet, cell phones, etc had been around back in my hayday, I would have been out of control. Who am I kidding, I was out of control. With those tools, I might have landed in jail.

  2. I'm so behind in my work... totally don't have time for this... but GOD I couldn't help it:

    1. A couple kissing on a balcony with ivy growing all around

    2. Yes I read it in school but before that had seen the balcony scene many times in movies, plays, dance. I'm a romantic and have always loved the story... except for the suicide part. Always thought that was a really stupid choice.

    3. I remember reading the story out loud in class... folks outwardly snickered but everyone was genuinely moved by the story. Even the icky boys.

    4. Always love watching the balcony scene revisited in all sorts of creative ways, comic and tragic.

    5. No, I've had it used on me though... but big turn off when the guys would get it wrong. I'm a tough critic.

    7. Romeo and Juliet was always my favorite until my mid twenties when I finally found a lasting love. Then I moved on to something else.

    I once wrote a poem on parchment paper, burnt the edges, and sent it anonymously. Found out many years later that the object of my affections thought it was really cool and always wondered and wanted to know who it was from.

    First kiss was completely unexpected at my front door after a first date that had been imposed on both of us by our parents. Which is why I didn't expect the kiss. It wasn't a romantic date and this kiss was given as a matter of course rather than romantic inclination.

    Yes, I sent the letter above to my secret crush. I used to write a symbol everywhere that represented this crush based on TLA (true love always). My brother figured it out and teased me mercilessly.

    Tiffany Barker. Made my life hell from elementary school to jr high. Almost committed suicide over it. As much as I would like to let go (and she even sent a letter of apology two years back), I can't.

    Liana's most romantic moment: Highschool, April of Senior Year. First true love. Used to write me love letters. Would bike to my house 5 miles away (in the opposite direction) to leave them on my doorstep before school. I would read them in Trig class. Got a D in that class because I just couldn't pay attention. The grade may have knocked me off the honor roll. Worth it.

    YES, I'd love to attend... been meaning to see one of your shows for ages!