Ms. Schuler’s High School literature class has been reading Carmen, a novella by Prosper Merimee. To bring this text to life, Ms. Schuler has instructed her students to act out the story using props and accessories.
Ms. Schuler is engaged to Mr. Gary, the music teacher who is also working on Carmen by composer George Bizet. Storytelling, music, and dialogue overlap between the two classes.
As Ms. Schuler’s class reads, they find themselves in the town of Seville, Spain. Students quickly get into character as soldiers, children, and women working at the cigarette factory and military base nearby
The song Habanera marks Carmen’s entrance as all eyes are on her. The 1st of three Carmen’s from Ms. Schuler’s class is a dancer with a captivating presence.
Carmen is not impressed with the attempts of young men to woo her or hold her attention.
As she dances to a contemporary arrangement played by Mr. Gary’s class, Carmen notices Don Jose who has not given her second look. She becomes laser focused on winning his gaze through a fast paced dance of beckoning
Carmen throws Don Jose her rose but he returns it to her, just as his fiancee Micheala enters. He quickly explains his intentions and reassures Micheala.
Carmen exits going to work at the cigarette factory, but gets into a huge fight with another coworker.
As the guards attempt to break it up, Carmen gets into it with Captain Zuniga, which gets her arrested for a night in detention to cool off. Guess which soldier is assigned to take her to lock up? Don Jose.
On the road to lock up we meet Carmen #2 from Ms Schuler’s class. As Don Jose is taking her to jail, Carmen is batting her eyes trying to get him to set her free...and free himself from his mousy little girlfriend, Michaela.
As Don Jose leads Carmen down the long road to lock up, we start to wonder who’s leading who. Carmen gets Don Jose to let his guard down, and when he does, she runs away.
Don Jose has lost his prisoner and is about to lose his job. The Captain has him put in detention for this.
While he’s in jail, Carmen writes to Don Jose saying she really does have feelings for him and hates that he’s there because of her. Feeling heart sick over this new guy, our Carmen #3 from Ms. Schuler's class has become a downer to her two friends Mercedes and Frasquita.
In the song Carmen Blue, her two best friends are able to lift Carmen's spirits enough to do a rousing dance of their own.
Amid a shrill of screaming girls, the famous matador and hometown boy, Escamillo, enters the room.
It doesn’t take long for him to notice the most captivating woman there.
Carmen, still pining over Don Jose, is torn between returning to her old ways of partying with the richest, most popular guy in the room, or waiting for Don Jose who has truly captured her heart.
Just then, a letter carrier enters with a message for Carmen. As she opens it, lights fade up on Don Jose from his jail cell.
At that moment, one student interrupts the action, Dominic. “This isn’t just a story from a book, this is my sister’s story”. Ms. Schuler, knowing Carmen’s end, asks if Dominic would like to stop or continue. Act 1 ends leaving Dominic with a decision to make.
In Act 2, Dominic has decided it’s important to tell his sister’s story, in his own way. He raps a narrative introducing his sister, our 4th and final Carmen, and the neighborhood they’re from.
It’s a run down part of town with abandoned buildings, a mix of working class, drug dealers, and gangs. The storyline and characters are the same, but the names have changed. Don Jose is DJ, Micaela is Miki, and Escamillo is Big E.
As narrator, Dominic is unseen or heard by the other characters. His opening rap ends with his sister receiving a letter from her boyfriend DJ who is coming home from juvenile detention.
When DJ returns, things are good for a while…
... but when he has to cut the night short to obey his curfew, they argue outside of Carmen’s apartment. Big E and his crew are also on the block.
As DJ attempts to hurry home, police sirens flash and some of Big E’s crew take off running. Caught in the commotion, Carmen grabs DJ and they run with the crew to their hideout.
Furious about being in this situation after just getting out of juvy, DJ goes off on Carmen who is not about to apologize. DJ walks away and Carmen turns her attention to her two best friends Mercedes and Frasquita who are reading tarot cards in the hideout.
Carmen is dealt the card of death three times. Being very superstitious, she retreats from the group to consider what this means. Ominous whispers of what’s to come send chills during the song “He’s Coming.” By song’s end, Carmen is resigned to what seems inevitable and decides to live it up while she can. She grabs a drink and pulls Big E into a corner. At that moment, DJ returns ready to make up with her, only to find Carmen in the arms of Big E.
Even after finding her in the arms of another guy, DJ still wants Carmen back. Carmen has lost interest in this clingy, needy DJ and has moved on to being Big E’s girl but DJ just keeps texting.
DJ bumps into his ex-girlfriend, Miki, who is an old family friend, but what DJ doesn’t know is that Miki still has feelings for him. We hear her true affection in her rendition of “Say Goodbye.”
When DJ comes to Carmen’s apartment, Big E is already there. DJ approaches him and the two start a Hip- Hop dance battle. Carmen watches amused by the young men battling over her.
When a shoving match turns into a punch, Carmen races between the two men to stop the fight. Grabbing Big E by the hand they walk off, heading to the club.
Music is thumping at a hype club. Carmen is with her girls while Big E is mixing music and rapping to a cheering crowd.
DJ enters unnoticed and manages to pull Carmen away from the crowd. DJ’s frustration with Carmen’s rejection is expressed through movement amid the loud pounding of club music.
The movement escalates to a choreographed physical altercation. The energy builds as all four Carmens and Don Joses take to the dance floor for a dynamic remix of Carmen Blue. The dramatic duets culminates in the death of Carmen at the hands of DJ.
Dominic enters looking at the place where his sister’s body lay. As the club scene transitions out, Ms. Schuler and her class transition in. Students and teacher move to comfort Dominic.
In the days to come, Dominic’s fellow students plan a memorial to honor Carmen’s memory and support him in his loss. They each choose a word to describe his sister and present it to him at the memorial.
Dominic recites a poem he wrote for Carmen as her two best friends sing soulfully by his side.
At the end of the show the cast stays on stage to talk with the audience. Students facilitate a dialogue starting with this question:
Q. What did you notice about how the characters responded to conflict? Do you relate to any of the reactions and responses people had?
Facilitator answers first to demonstrate/model. Each licensing package includes prompt questions and feedback models for your post-show discussions.