By Nicole Hennessy
“Romeo and Juliet” is commonly called the best love story ever written. Enduring its antiquated use of language, modern audiences still bask in the tragedy, romanticizing the main characters’ eventual suicides.
High school students forced to read it stumble through sentences until slowing down to inhale the timelessness of its passages.
Act II, Scene VI: “These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which as they kiss consume.”
“What does this line mean?” an English teacher who’s many times memorized these words might ask his or her students expected to devise understandings.
Then there’s “Bardstock” — a songwriting competition offered by the Great Lakes Theater and 90.3 WCPN ideastream and open to Ohio middle school and high school students — which is more interested in how the play inspires.
It’s been 10 years since “Romeo and Juliet” was Bardstock’s theme, and eight years since a Westshore-area student won.
“My buddies and I were never really a band before,” said Vince Orlandi, a past Fairview High School winner, who is amazed that it’s been eight years. “We were just four good friends. We still are.”
It was their sophomore year when Orlandi and his friends heard about the competition, which wasn’t officially endorsed by any of his teachers, but was mentioned. They thought it would be fun, so they recorded a song about “Julius Caesar,” that year’s theme.
“I remember, we were jumping around,” he thought back to the letter informing him they won.
The prize was, and still is, $250, a professional recording session and airtime on 90.3’s “Around Noon” program.
For a high school student to have the chance to make a professional recording is, well, cool. Orlandi reaffirmed this.
Now playing keyboard for a living, he can be found at the Powerhouse in the Flats or basically any place out of town that will pay for him to travel.
“It’s a great opportunity for a good idea that you have to come into fruition,” he said of the competition. “That you can actually see something that you and your friends thought about, as high school kids,” is a unique opportunity.
Orlandi doesn’t remember hearing much about the competition in subsequent years, and finds this unfortunate.
For financial reasons, the theater has not offered Bardstock for the past two years, but prior to that it was an annual event, said Daniel Hahn, the competition’s organizer.
“We give the kids cash prizes,” Hahn said. He also said students are encouraged to produce music of “any genre that sounds interesting, well thought out and put together.” This includes rap, country, classical, jazz, blues, rock or anything else imaginable.
To enter, there are no fees. Prospective contestants are asked to sign up by Feb. 15, and the deadline for submission is March 16.
“This is the only contest I’m aware of that’s focused on literature,” Hahn said, in terms of music. “A lot of great musicians have used Shakespeare as their inspiration.”
Themes/high schools of past winners
2012: “Romeo and Juliet”
2009: “Comedy of Errors” — Lake Ridge Academy, Mayfield High, Cranbrook Kingswood School, North Ridgeville High
2008: “The Crucible” — Mayfield High, Howland High, North Ridgeville High, Home School
2007: ”The Tempest” — Home School, Lake Ridge Academy, Laurel School
2006: ”Love’s Labour’s Lost” — Orange High, Stow-Monroe Falls High, Home School, Cleveland School of the Arts
2005: ”As You Like It” — Laurel School, Chardon, Revere, Home School
2004: ”Julius Caesar” — Fairview High, Kimpton Middle, Boardman High, Cleveland School of the Arts
2003: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — Revere High, Fairview High, Cardinal Mooney, Home School
2002: ”Romeo and Juliet” — Maplewood High, Cardinal High, Revere High, Hawken School