Poetry Friday: “Romeo+Juliet (abridged)” + Interview with Julie Rowan-Zoch

Romeo+Juliet abridged by Renee LaTulippe, illustrated by Julie Rowan-Zoch

Good friends, you are well met!

No Valentine’s Day would be complete without a good tragedy, and never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo. Ah, I have a long and tearful history with this play, so unbearably beautiful and frustrating and heart-wrenching. Zeffirelli started it, of course, with his five-tissue-box film of absolute perfection.

Romeo and Juliet by Zeffirelli

Then I cried, from start to finish, through the NYC Ballet production some years ago, itself unbearably beautiful in its silence and longing.

Romeo and Juliet Greta Hodgkinson Jason Reilly pDavidCooper

I even cried when my ninth graders rewrote and performed the Tybalt-Mercutio sword fight as a battle between single quotation marks and double quotation marks. It was a mournful day for punctuation.

Copyright 2013 Tagxedo.comR&J word cloud copyright 2013 Tagxedo.com

I love this play deeply, so it is no surprise that I would approach a poem and video about Romeo and Juliet with great seriousness and dignity. My first duty was to ask an illustrator I admire to create appropriate art to accompany my somber poem, and I’m so glad that

Julie Rowan-Zoch

agreed to help me out. Julie has a very distinct style that has been catching my eye for a year now, and she didn’t disappoint. First she sent me this portrait of our star-crossed lovers

Just look at those baleful expressions! GAH! 

Romeo+Juliet illustration by Julie Rowan-Zoch
Romeo+Juliet by Julie Rowan-Zoch

Then she sent me an ingenious graphic that appears below the poem and right above my interview with Julie. (And if you missed my interview with Shakespeare, you can find it right here.)

But first I beg your patience as I continue my solemn tribute to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with this very special episode: 

“Romeo+Juliet (abridged)”

as told and performed by finger puppets


He loved her.
She loved him.
Chance of marriage?
Pretty slim.

Nothing doing:
family feud.

On his side,
smited down,
fatal blow.

On her side,
doting Nurse.
Friar tries:
things get worse.

Plodding donkey,
racing steed:
message mixup

He loved her.
She loved him.
Future outlook?
Pretty grim.

LOVE MC2 by Julie Rowan-ZochLOVE MC2 by Julie Rowan-Zoch

I told you it was ingenious!

[heading style=”1″]SNICKERVIEW™ with Julie Rowan-Zoch[/heading]

How faireth Mistress Rowan-Zoch

Illustrator Julie Rowan-Zoch

But soft, Mistress Julie(t)–who are thee, from whence dost thou come, and for how long hast thou been a rogue and fool-born artiste?
I am but a dreamer, a devoted admirer of picture book craft, filled with a passion to create mine own. I am mother, wife, and artist, born nigh the shore, by the great city once known as New Amsterdam. (On LongGisland; now you know how I really tawk.) I have desired to bring to life that which I could imagine ever since some whipper-snapper challengeth my coloring book world, noting it be not a worthy skill to coloreth within the lines.

(Enough — I can’t keep this “langwich” up!)

Ought not a blogger who bloggeth on poetry wonder wherefore you snatch from the heavens such inspiration as thine eyes and mine hath ne’er seen heretofore? Forsooth! I do wondereth! Pray tell, fair maiden.
Looking to convey a feeling beyond sadness, I imagined Juliet’s face, starting with the head position and the eyes — windows to that heartbreak. Then, as usual, thinking-through-drawing kicks in and a sketch “forms.” The mess of broken lines represents the loss of control over their own lives. Recently I have been posting on the illustrator’s FB critique forum, which Sylvia Liu pulled together with 12×12 members. It has been really helpful to have a reaction/comments before I complete a piece. The LOVE piece evolved in much the same way, only I started thinking about symbols, the crest of the House of Capulet or Montague simplified with the letters C and M. I switched the letters and my brain wanted to read “E=mc squared,” so I fiddled with it to see if I could make it work.

Thou hast methods and style new and wondrous to mine eyes, an art that screameth “’Twas Julie(t) who birthed me unto this world!” Wast thou tutored by the very stars that shineth upon your head? Or is thy pure-driven talent innate as the thumb-sucking of a babe?
I studied advertising design at F.I.T. in NYC, then continued in “Grafik Design” at the Hochschule fuer Bildende Kuenste in Braunschweig, Germany. I had little training in drawing, painting, illustration in general, and none in digital work (yep, that old). I have “developed” the style by trial and error. For me, style is like voice in writing. Yes, each person’s is unique, but a mouse living under the floorboards doesn’t sound just like a fish near a turn-of-the-century beach resort. I sketch in pencil, scan it in, and “trace it” with my mouse in Adobe Illustrator, because that is the only program I’ve got! I used to be able to do lots in Word though. If necessity is the mother of invention, then limitation is a trebuchet for imagination: the path is narrow, but some ideas can go pretty far! (Touché on the use of trebuchet, fair maiden!)

How now dost thou create such marvels?
I hope to answer that question one day. I mean, I hope to have more than one computer program, one set of old watercolors (learning with my kids’ school supplies), No.2 pencils, and a couple of markers. Wait — I did splurge on a big set of colored pencils, but I had a super-coupon!

Hast thou sent thy work into the realm of words and pictures? Hath it been immortalized by the spongy, swag-bellied flap-dragons named publishers?
No publications. Sad, I guess, but I’m still learning. So far, I have only “put forth my creations” via my blog and Facebook artist page. I am working on a PB book dummy and hope to send that out in the next couple of weeks. Last year was a draft-writing flurry — I managed 45 (Zounds!) with the support of the 12 x 12 in ’12 challenge, and this year revising and submitting is my priority. Last year I joined an online crit group and started a local crit group, and at this point I can say that the act of critiquing has catapulted my own writing skills. Highly recommend it!

A beslubbering friend once sayeth to me that love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind. Wouldst thou, then, paint winged Cupid blind? If nay, how would you painteth said cherub?
The way we all love — with all the senses!

Now that thou hast borne witness to the cruel fate of our star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, what soft or stern pearls of advice wouldst thou have given them hadst thou been a citizen of fair Verona, where we laid our scene? Or woulds’t thou have bestowed upon them a painting and called it a day?
I received very wise advice on how to deal with teens, star-crossed or not. Just two words: shut up. Living “forever in the moment,” a young heart can listen, but not hear. I got good advice as I was falling in love for the first time. Did I follow it? Exactly! That’s why I keep it zipped! (Wouldst that the Capulets and Montagues hadst been of a mind to zippeth it!)

At what day and hour mayst we appeareth at your banquet table for the masked ball? Forsooth, we trust thee to keepeth away the poison and daggers.

I dwelleth here:

Blog/Website: Julie Rowan-Zoch
Twitter: @JulieRowanZoch
Facebook Author Page: Artist: Julie Rowan-Zoch

My deep-welled thanks for thy kind visit, Julie(t), and for thy many gifts of art upon which we may feast our eyes.

[heading style=”1″]Extension Activities for “Romeo+Juliet (abridged)”[/heading]

  • Writing
    • The poem “Romeo+Juliet (abridged)” uses very short lines to tell a very long story, and each stanza summarizes a key moment in the play. Write a summary poem about one of your favorite stories. Start by making a list of all the major characters, plot points, conflicts, and scenes. Craft your list into a summary poem of the story. It doesn’t have to rhyme!
  • Reading/Performing
    • Read and perform Romeo and Juliet in class. Teachers, a wonderful resource for teaching Shakespeare through performance to middle school students is The Folger Library series Shakespeare Set Free. The lessons are easily adapted to high school, too. (And I know from experience that kids of all ages love this program!)
      Shakespeare Set Free: Romeo and Juliet
  • Creating
    • Put on a finger puppet show of your poem. Make your own puppets with felt or paper, then record your production for posterity.
    • Illustrate your own poem, or trade poems with a friend and illustrate your friend’s poem.
  • Eating
From eChocorange.com. Click pic for recipe.
From eChocorange.com. Click pic for recipe.


I must also thank Julie for creating and surprising me with this marvelous graphic for No Water River to celebrate the blog’s one-year anniversary. The gal’s got style!

NWR graphic
NWR graphic by Julie Rowan-Zoch

parting is such sweet sorrow,
that I shall say good night till it be MORROW…

…when Lady Linda inviteth thee to her banquet table at TeacherDance. Have a turkey leg for me.

Thou desireth to receiveth such posts as do summon interest in your heart, sayst thou? Dip your quill in the ink and sign up!

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Video Location: Imagine, if you will: fair Verona, town square, church, road to Mantua, tomb.

See more poems in my poetry video library.

“Romeo+Juliet (abridged)” © 2013 Renée M. LaTulippe. All rights reserved.
Illustrations © 2013 Julie Rowan-Zoch. All rights reserved.

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  1. I reallly need to brush up my Shakespeak cuz I ‘l having a very hard time coming up with something that befits the merits of this blog post.
    I love Julie’s illos and I’ve been admiring them on facebook for awhile now. It was great to get to know you a little more, Julie. (I spent some time at FIT, too– a long time ago).
    And Renée, as always you slayeth me! Finger puppeths! I mean, puppets! This is by far the most original and daring interpretation of Romeo and Juliet to date. Move over, Claire Danes and Leo DiCapprio.

    Thank ye (or youse), dear madams!

  2. Well done, Renee! Love the last lines: “Future outlook? / Pretty grim.” In fact, that stanza pretty much sums up the entire play! Thanks for sharing – looks like it was fun to put together. I expect we’ll get to see other finger puppet productions of other classics, as well? There’s “The Odyssey,” “Moby Dick,” “50 Shades of Grey,” as well as each of the Canterbury Tales…you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you!

  3. As always, fabulous. You are talented and inspirational. I loved EVERYTHING about your posting today and THANK YOU for letting us get to know Julie. How did you come to meet her? I must investigate! (The cake is tempting, have you tried it yet?) I am going to forward this to the teachers I know who might find it valuable for teaching lots of books. Who knows you may start a trend with these fingerpuppet poems!!! Can’t wait for what you have next, Renee. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, love!

  4. Hi, Renee. Perfect post for Valentine’s Day. I love the artwork. And that graphic, “LOVE=MC2,” so clever.

    I’m going to share your poem and puppet show with the folks at our local Shakespeare company. They’ll get a kick out of it. Have a great heart day!

  5. Love ambushed by trebuchet
    Made Juliet so upset

    Passion and woe, peppered with pain,
    Young couple, ne’er to love again.

    Bravo little puppets, to Renee and JRZ! Fabulouso celebration for St. Valentine’s Day!

  6. OMG! You guys are a riot! 🙂 Seriously, your (abridged) version of puppet Romeo and Juliet should be required viewing for all high school freshman reading R&J! 🙂 Favorite line in the whole interview? (Wouldst that the Capulets and Montagues hadst been of a mind to zippeth it!) You are genius with these puppets! I sincerely hope there are more classics to come!!!

  7. Renee, I loved the poem and the entire theme today! Lovely and humorous. And, of course I am a fan of Julie’s work. I just need to spend a little more time on your page Renee and not be so timid about poetry. I enjoyed your collaboration a lot! Happy Valentine’s Day to both of you!

  8. Methinks I need must practice before the morrow, Renee! Thank you for all the tomfoolery! (Is that a proper word?) We are doing “Midsummer Night’s Dream” this spring; our drama director loves Shakespeare & I know he will love your poem & puppets, as will other teachers who’d like their students to show off a book or two. I also love the graphics by Julie. I think I need someone to be my tech friend for some new design. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  9. Julie, your art has a this gorgeous, unique feel to it. I love the finished Romeo and Juliet piece!

    And the abridged Romeo and Juliet with felt puppets was so funny! Ethan and I enjoyed it very much, Renee.

  10. This was so great Renee! I loved learning more about Julie and her artwork, and still love your poem. Now that I see this performance, I think you need to expand the idea — maybe one poem per act? Complete with illustrations? And maybe bundled with the finger puppets? I’m seeing a cottage industry here…

  11. I wanted more! More art! More poems! More finger puppets!

    This post was thoroughly entertaining and showcased two amazing talents.0

    Julie, your illustrations are just beautiful. You truly have you own, unique, wildly creative style…WOW!!! Like I said, they were all beautiful, but Romeo+Juliet is my favorite. You captured it!

    Renee, your gifts are unlimited, aren’t they???? Thanks for sharing them on you blog for our enjoyment.

    Parting is such sweet sorrow…because I wanted more!

  12. Your puppet show and poem were fabulous – you’re SO creative!! I loved your clever interview too – and Julie’s Love=MC2!! After a long day at work, this is just what I needed!!

  13. This is fantastic, Renee and Julie! As a high school English teacher who teaches Romeo and Juliet, these are great ways to get the kids engaged visually and beyond. Thanks!

    1. Miranda, that is good to hear! I had teachers in mind with this one and would love to hear how students react to both Julie’s art and the puppet show/poem. Let me know how it goes if you share this with your students!

  14. Every aspect of this Valentine’s post fit together perfectly, Renee…your blog is just a treat to visit. This is such a creative way to respond to literature…my sixth graders will be inspired by today’s ideas, I am sure.

  15. Renee, you are simply something else entirely. That interview just made my day. You are a woman after my own heart.
    Starcrossed lovers – absolutely perfect for Valentine’s. True Love, Tragedy, Mixed Messages. Death. Perfection. As this post is.
    That poem is lovely and the illustrations are a glorious match to the somber note, the classic sadness that runs through one’s veins like a dirge. And finger puppets and that video clip – I mean is there anything that you can NOT do, Renee, honestly? 🙂

  16. Oh – my – star – crossed – stars!!!!! This is A – MAZ – ING!!!! If all the world were filled with the likes of thine talented two we should always be mirthful with senses delighted!!! Okay – that’s the extent of my poor Shakespearese. My husband teaches Shakespeare – I know he will appreciate this – and JULIE – your graphics are awesome. I am soooo impressed by your talent. And Happy Blogiversary!!

  17. Zounds! I could just sit and look at that illustration until the morrow.

    The poem is very clever. I particularly like:

    “message mixup

    That sums up … most everything, doesn’t it?

  18. Ooh, there’s oodles here to think about. Love,love love the Romeo and Juliet poem. Happy firs year of your blog. I am so happy to have gotten to know you.

  19. Wow! So much to take in here! I love the artwork, the Romeo+Juliet (abridged) poem, everything. I now have a new place to visit to feed my poetry fix. I found you via the Kid Lit Blog Hop, and so glad I did. Please visit me ta one of mys sites and say hello.

  20. Those illustrations are pretty brilliant. The expression on their faces says it all. Will you be doing more finger puppet plays? That was fun! It’s always a joy to read your posts Renee! Thanks for joining us in the Kid Lit Blog Hop! 🙂

  21. What an inspirational post! I loved the poem, play, and was completely blown away by the artwork. Wow. Thanks for contributing this post to this month’s Carnival of Children’s Literature.

  22. It’s like Xu Meng head fiercely poured cold water. Xu Union will be more deep resentment can imagine, he stared fiercely a full Feng Ting Liu Yiyi chest, eyes can not wait to dig into from the cleavage of the last helpless sigh, talk about a girlfriend so tired even point Consolation not give. Thanks to his endurance. Otherwise, early yellow.

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