Mrs. DeRose and Mr. Ross switched classes to complete two presentations at Hopatcong High School this past month, bringing to the table a Hamlet performance for English IV classes and a family military involvement presentation for English II classes.
As Mr. Ross’s sophomore English II class had just wrapped up Cynthia Rylant’s I Had Seen Castles, a novel about the hardships and impacts of World War II on a young couple, and Mrs. Derose’s junior English IV class had concluded Shakespeare’s Hamlet; the two teachers found it apt to take a day to switch classes for a period and execute separate presentations on the topics at hand.
Mr. Ross, being an experienced and passionate speaker and performer, found presenting a handful of Shakespeare’s soliloquies to be right up his alley. In fact, Mr. Ross has performed these speeches for over 50 years, and these specific soliloquies happen to be among his Shakespearean favorites. On the other hand, Mrs. DeRose had experienced the struggle of having to part with a loved one going off to war. She was able to provide first-hand experience of the hardships and effects that war can have on families and relationships. Overall, both teachers had abundant background on and interest in each of their subjects, making it perfect to apply their knowledge to a presentation for one another’s classes.
A total of three soliloquies were performed by Mr. Ross before Mrs. DeRose’s three English IV classes. He had already been very well-acquainted and experienced with such performances; interestingly enough, Mr. Ross tells that he had auditioned successfully for the Actors Studio in 1963, playing the contrasting Claudius/Hamlet speeches. It goes without saying that he was the perfect figure to perform these acts for the students.
First, Mr. Ross performed Claudius’s first speech to Hamlet: “Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet…” Ross depicted this scene twice, once playing Claudius “feigning his caring for Hamlet,” and then a second time with Claudius as an “out-and-out villain.” After this, he performed Hamlet’s monologue regarding Hamlet’s hatred toward Claudius: “O that this too to solid flesh…” Lastly, he wrapped up the presentation with Hamlet’s most distinguished monologue, “To be or not to be.”
The classes seemed to be well-engaged with the performances, fascinated to hear such speeches enacted by an eloquent, professional actor of many years. Afterwards, the classes were asked which version of Claudius’s speech they liked best, and followed up with a few questions and discussion about the art of acting.
For Mr. Ross’s sophomore English class, Mrs. DeRose had prepared a powerpoint all about her son, Richard’s wartime experience in Iraq, as well as the effects it had on Mrs. DeRose and her family. Mrs. DeRose has shown this presentation to her classes for years; it has been so long that she wonders if the span of time affects the presentation. However, she says, “My son has been home for eight years now, and I see that the effect of years does not erase the ramifications of deployment.” It goes to show that the impact of war leaves a lasting impression, making the results a timeless subject; DeRose only hopes that students without families in the military can perceive this.
DeRose tells that each year she presents her set of slides, she “relives the experience through Richard’s words and deployment e-mails.” As much time as has passed, she admits that the feelings remain unchanged, recalling them as a “memory of a difficult time and true thankfulness that Richard made it home safely.”
Many topics were discussed in DeRose’s slideshow; she related her personal experiences to the story of Rylant’s I Had Seen Castles, described her own hardships in enduring the pain of her son’s deployment, and even shared some of her son’s e-mails that he had sent her and her family while deployed. These authentic and powerful messages describing his living conditions and inner thoughts were both chilling, as well as uplifting at times.
One of DeRose’s personal favorite elements of the presentation were the pictures Richard had attached of himself and several children that he met when guarding a meeting in Iraq. She tells that the photo is “a near replica of a photo I have of my dad who served in WWII,” and that “the two photos hang side by side in my living room at home.” To Mrs. DeRose, the photos serve as a reminder of the truly devastating effects that war can have on families to this day.
All in all, the DeRose-Ross switch for a day was an apropos and a powerful one!