I firmly believe in exposing my kids to theatre. And testing the waters with a little free Shakespeare? Culture + my personal interests + FREE = yes please. It’s not Shakespeare in the Park season, but there is a group in my region that tours slimmed-down, hour-long versions of Shakespeare ( with a 5 person cast, no less!) each fall/winter around local libraries and community centers. [The world would be a better place if everyone had access to this.] I’ve certainly dragged my daughter to her fair share of theatre, including the Bard. This month, I tried an experiment that had failure written all over it: I invited my kid’s Daisy Scout troop to attend as well. That’s right – 12 first-graders, many with parents and siblings in tow, actually took me up on this event. I was utterly surprised to find that this simple outing would push me out of my safety zone, just by sharing an interest with some casual acquaintances. As a result, I feel like I'm the one who ended up in the fun-land that is Illyria.Read More
Right now, the first months of 2017, is the strangest time in politics and government that I have ever witnessed. I know, I know. I already did a Trump comparison of a Shakespeare play. I promise this isn’t going to focus on a specific person in power…more the idea of power itself.
The Merchant of Venice is a love story, a friendship story. But it’s equally a tale of power, prejudice, commerce (both monetary and emotional), and negotiation. The plot hinges on laws and how to interpret them. Oppressed Shylock tries to use the law to his advantage and fails. As many laws are up for reinterpretation or change here in the States under a new administration, I wondered how fair Venice’s laws were to its people. What happens when the law doesn’t exactly protect or serve the citizens? What are we supposed to do then (i.e. now)?Read More
I started a new reading while on a mini-vacation with some old girlfriends. I rarely take time away from my family. And I wanted to travel light. So my Folger paperback copy of the sonnets got to accompany me. It was a lovely break from the plays. I decided to read them as a singular work (realizing full well that may not have been how they were intended to be read), and I’m writing about them as such. It seemed a bit easier than 154 individual mini-posts for each sonnet (even my nerdy self doesn’t want to read that). Besides, it makes for a juicy narrative! These sonnets have now been my companions throughout the end of autumn, which seems oddly fitting. Nights are getting longer as the poems get darker. And it helped me work through a problem that's been nagging me for weeks.Read More
Why This Play?:
I wanted to try something new for this reading. First, some backstory: about 10 years ago, I was living in Los Angeles and my parents were out in Scottsdale, AZ. It’s a roughly 6-hour drive between the two cities, so I would road trip out on occasion to visit them. During that period, I amassed a number of audio books on CD to help pass the solo drive. One I picked up on the cheap happened to be the Arkangel dramatic reading of Love’s Labour’s Lost. I listened to it once on a desert drive, tucked it away in my car, and promptly forgot about it for a decade. [I solemnly swear I’ve cleaned out my car multiple times in that decade, I just always kept hold of it in case I had another long solo drive.] I stumbled upon it again in recent months, and I’ve been saving it for this blog post.
For this reading, I unearthed my old 2007 Macbook, popped in the CD, and followed along with my written copy. What a fantastic way for the language in this one to come alive! LLL is infamous for being heavy on the Elizabethan wordplay, and this really helped with my understanding far more than footnotes could. I may have to dig up more of these at my local library! This play is about what happens when four men desist their contact with women, but women happen into their lives anyway. There’s a stupid, cliché adage that love only comes when you cease to look for it. The thing is... that's actually what happened that led me to my husband.Read More
I love a good romp in the woods. It’s still, in today’s world, an ideal we hold: escape to the wilderness to get away from it all. Shakespeare already explored this idea in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where the lovers of Athens escape from the oppressive court to wild fairyland to find their romantic happiness. While reading AYLI, I was on vacation far away from my busy California home, visiting my parents in the mountains of North Carolina (hiking Pisgah National Forest, visiting Sierra Nevada’s Brewery, and taking in all the fresh, green quiet of early spring). We slowed down and got away from work and schedules. Focused less on rules and more on fun. We all need rejuvenating periods like this to reflect, assess, and just blow of steam. But everyone gets back to reality at some point – even Rosalind will leave the forest and return to court. So, spiritually speaking, how does one balance a courtly life of duty with a frivolous forest life?Read More
Some Twitter pals and I got involved in a fun little online project this week. Lovely online antique book retailer, Buzz Bookstore, hosted a fun project. He's collected 154 volunteers, just everyday people (not necessarily scholars or actors), to create short videos performing/reading one of the 154 total Shakespearean sonnets: the Buzz 154 Project. Sounded like fun, so I made contact and was assigned a fun little ditty about the power of poetry to make one immortal. Be sure to check out the whole project! My little performance is here:
Huzzah for poetry! Enjoy!
Why This Play?:
It was the penultimate play that my FutureLearn class tackled. I’m still trying to stick to the reading schedule for that course, despite the fact that it ended earlier this month (luckily, the lesson material is still online, so I’m slowly but surely going to finish the course!). The holidays and other recent events have thrown my schedule for reading/writing off course, and my alone time has greatly diminished the past few weeks. I have firm plans to get back on track in 2016!
Antony & Cleopatra is like Romeo & Juliet, all grown up. Because they’re grown-ups, the stakes of their doomed love are much higher -- they’ve built much bigger lives and have a broader scope of influence than a couple of teenagers. They manage to screw up entire empires over each other. And throughout the whole ordeal, Antony has a friend who’s watching helplessly as it all unfolds. It’s an epic love story, and an epic disaster story. So what happens when you’re the one who’s trying to keep everything from burning to the ground? It’s a Type-A’s nightmare, y’all.Read More
Why This Play?:
Half my life ago, I was a teenager on her first trip to Europe. My English teachers took a group of students on a two-week literary tour of Ireland and the UK. In many ways (e.g. my pop culture preferences), I’ve been trying for 17 years to chase the magic of that trip. On the southern border of Scotland, I purchased a huge, pale pink, perfect cashmere sweater. Ever since, it’s served as my personal security blanket, and is one of my prized (if battered) possessions. It’s warm, filled with great memories, and always there when I need it.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is my literary equivalent of that sweater. It’s the first Shakespeare I ever read, back in my dreamy, very bookish twelve-year-old days (eh, what's changed?). The play that always makes me still kinda-sorta believe in fairies. It’s the last play in which I performed…although hopefully that is not forever the case. This is the play I read in the winter when I’m dreaming of warm days and long hikes in the woods. It’s not necessarily my favorite in all of Shakespeare, but reading or seeing it is always like greeting an old friend.Read More
Why This Play?:
Two reasons. 1) After both the Henry IV plays, it was nice to round out the Falstaff saga. Now I can dust my hands of the man! 2) My MOOC on Shakespeare was diving into this play last week, so it all aligned nicely.
Merry Wives is a wholly underestimated work. It doesn’t receive enough credit for the trope of “strong females” when Shakespeare’s heroines are discussed and analyzed in literary criticism and lectures. This is also the play that is the most…well, normal, in its premise. The one that’s most similar to the lives of Shakespeare’s actual audience in the London theatres (as opposed to royal viewers at court). No royalty, no wars, no Italy, no murder, no magic. Just married folks in a quiet English town, ready to throw down the nasty varlet who arrives to upheave their steady lives for his own gain.
Plenty of critics call it boring, but The Merry Wives of Windsor may just give the stamp of approval on being content with a simple life. Does that really have to be so boring?Read More
Why This Play?:
Mostly, it was just time for another history play. I know I’ve been going at these plays in no real order thus far…and that’s probably going to continue. There are sure to be 0.43 readers out there who are rolling their eyes that I didn’t do Richard II prior to this play. I don’t really have any defense – my week’s selection is either based around available performances (ahem, my Netflix queue) or mere whim. While I know the basics of the War of Roses that make up 8 of the history plays, I’m also trying to write posts that would help make sense of it for someone new to the plays who had zero background knowledge (hi, Hubs!!). I promise in the case of true sequels (i.e. the Henry plays), I will not read them out of order. Probably, maybe.
Certainly the first part of Henry IV is a play about growing up. There’s Hal, messing around and acting the fool, mentored by the ultimate drunken Peter Pan. Even at the beginning of the play, Hal admits to himself that this time has to be short lived. He knows that he will eventually take up his royal obligation, and he even states of his time in the tavern: “If all the year were playing holidays,/To sport would be as tedious as to work” (I.ii.201-202). And good Lord, doesn’t every one of us know that from experience?Read More
Why This Play?:
Behold, the play that everyone studied in high school except for yours truly (my lone wolf teacher pressed Hamlet upon us instead). For the life of me, I had trouble seeing why this one is so prevalent among tenth grade English classes. Most kids have studied Romeo and Juliet the year before – how about switching in one of the comedies instead of Caesar? I mean, let’s grant the youth of America a respite from the suicide motif. Perhaps teachers spin this play as a cautionary tale against hanging with the wrong crowd? Not being wrongly influenced by dumbass friends? I searched the Internet for teaching guides on this play, and found my hypothesis to be pretty spot on. Julius Caesar, warning kids of the dangers of peer pressure for decades. Don’t let your friends talk you into killing a potential tyrant, kids – you may end up causing a civil war and killing yourself over it!Read More