Happy Birthday, Juliet

A fun tidbit from Shakespeare’s Globe today:

According to the play, today would be Juliet’s birthday.  In Act 1, Scene 3 the Nurse says: “Come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen.”

According to my research, Lammas refers to two feasts formerly celebrated in England:

  1. during which bread from the season’s first wheat was consecrated at Mass in thanksgiving for the harvest.
  2. in commemoration of Saint Peter’s deliverance from prison.

Both were celebrated August 1. 


Sacramento Shakespeare Festival: Julius Caesar

P1080572Last night, Adam and I attended the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival‘s production of Julius Caesar.  

Every year, the festival performs two of the Bard’s plays (this year: Caesar and Twelfth Night) in the amphitheater in William Land Park.   Performances start at either 6pm or 8pm, just in time for the overbearing heat of the Sacramento summer to start to be tamed by the coming of night.  People come with their picnic baskets in hand, and munch happily away while watching that night’s production.

This performance of Julius Caesar chose to make Caesar a woman, and the actress playing Caesar was fantastic.  Hands down, she was the best actor on stage.  What I wasn’t sure about was the choice to make her “Julia Caesar” and therefore change Shakespeare’s text throughout the play.  “He” became “she.”  “Man” became “woman.”  Now I know that I said in a prior post that Shakespeare isn’t sacred — we can edit it.  What I’m not sure about is changing his words completely — it throws off the meter of the line in some cases.  I almost wonder if this actress could have just played a man’s role — I mean, the Globe did an excellent job of that in their all-female production of Taming of the Shrew.

Chatting with my husband on the way home from the production, I happened upon an idea: Why not try to see all of Shakespeare’s plays performed?  (And, at the same time, get all of them read.)

My current “have watched” list:

  • Julius Caesar — Sacramento Shakespeare Festival (2013)
  • The Tempest — Shakespeare’s Globe (2013), and Sacramento Shakespeare Festival (2008)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream — Shakespeare’s Globe (2013)
  • The Taming of the Shrew — Shakespeare’s Globe (2013)
  • Macbeth — The Mondavi Center, UC Davis (2006)
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona — Sacramento Shakespeare Festival (2006)

And I’m very excited to announce that in early 2014, I’ll have the opportunity to see The Sacramento Theatre Company’s production of Romeo and Juliet.  So that would leave just… thirty more plays to go?

Photo Post #7

These photos are from our free weekend during the Globe Education Academy.  Photos include the steps of St. Paul’s, a random garden I discovered, The Sherlock Holmes museum, a blue police box outside of the Earl’s Court tube station, The Who Shop, studying lines while in the queue for the London Eye, and views from the London Eye.

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Globe Education Academy: Day 10

Our last day at the Globe started with iambic pentameter.

Margo had us start by galloping around the rehearsal space.  Literally.  Gallop to the left!  Gallop to the right!  Gallop some more!  And now lay on the ground and feel your heart.  She had us tap out our heartbeat on the ground as we lay there.  She explained that there is a rhythm in our bodies, one that we have heard our entire life.  This is the rhythm that Shakespeare chooses to use in his writing.  She then had us stand and stamp out our heart beat in unison.  dum DUM dum DUM dum DUM dum DUM dum DUM.

She then told us, “We stress the words we want the world to hear.  Let’s use that sentence.”  So we stamped our foot on the stressed syllables: “We stress the words we want the world to hear.”  Then, we looked at lines from Shakespeare, again stamping our foot on the stressed syllables. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” “But hark! What light through yonder window breaks?”  

Margo explained that it’s much more interesting to look at when lines deviate from iambic pentameter, and to look at why.  She passed out Macbeth’s famous “Is this a dagger which I see before me” soliloquy.  Each of us were given a line from the soliloquy.  Going around the circle one-by-one, we would each read our line, stamping together on the stressed syllables, and determine whether it was in iambic pentameter or not.  If it was too long, we would stand.  If it was perfect, we would kneel.  It if was too short, we would lay down.  In the end, it created a cardiograph of sorts.  This provided us a visual that we could use to look at the soliloquy and start to analyze why Macbeth would deviate from iambic pentameter.

To provide a second way to analyze what’s going on in Macbeth’s mind as he speaks, Margo had us read the soliloquy while walking, changing direction on the full stops.  She then had us repeat the process, but change direction at all punctuation.

The rest of the day involved logistics or saying goodbye.  We met for awhile to finalize plans for our students’ performance of Taming of the Shrew.  We finalized which teachers would be in charge of what pages of our script.  We discussed logistics like how long we get, how many students we can bring, costumes, etc.  We then completed final reflections.

P1080519We had had a brief amount of free time before celebrating our accomplishments with a reception at Theo’s and a final banquet at The Swan at the Globe.  Later one of these receptions, I would learn that David Tennant was married at the Globe and that his reception was at The Swan.  But before that knowledge was bestowed upon me, a group of us decided to take one last walk along the Thames, enjoying the damp London weather and the view of St. Paul’s.

Later that evening, we would take one final walk home from the Globe.  The Millennium and Blackfriar’s bridges were lit up.  The dome of St. Paul’s was likewise aglow.  It was a Friday night, so restaurants, pubs, and cafes were still bustling at that late hour as we made our way back to Farringdon Rd.  It was the perfect walk back on our very last evening in London.

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Photo Post #5

These photos are from our second day at the Globe Education Academy.  Included are photos of the copy of the Roubiliac Statue of Shakespeare (1758) at the British Library, the Shakespeare Head Pub, the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, the John Soane Museum, the Shakespeare Monument (1912) at St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe (as well as a photo of St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe), Southwark Cathedral and it’s Shakespeare Monument, and the Globe’s photo of Shakespeare as a 13-year-old (as created by police sketch artists).

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Globe Education Academy: Day 9

Before classes started on Day 9, I grabbed a mocha from Paul and walked with Sue and Rhiann to Borough Market.  Works cannot express how much I love Borough Market.  I bought tea for my husband, discovered Spice Mountain and wanted to stay there all day, tasted Rhiann’s chocolate croissant… And then realized that we had to get ourselves to class.

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We began with a debrief of our performances from the night before, and was followed with some practice at cutting scenes.  In November, our students will be putting on a production of Taming of the Shrew in Mondavi’s Studio Theater.  We have been told that each of our scenes (remember, we’ve divided Shew into twelve scenes) can take no more than 5 minutes.  This means we will need to cut–a lot.

P1080479To practice, Margo gave us the wedding scene from Much Ado About Nothing, where Hero’s chastity is called into question.  We first divided it into mini scenes, and then as small groups chose one of those scenes to cut.  We then “performed” each of our cuts to the rest of the group.  Margo’s consistent feedback was that we did a great job cutting, but that we probably could have cut a little more.

This idea of “cutting” Shakespeare was, well, freeing.  Sometimes I think we look at Shakespeare and think, “Oh.  He’s cannon.  He cannot be touched.”  But really, who says that you can’t pare things down and make it more accessible for your kids–especially if they’ve never read Shakespeare before?  Kids need to feel success with something small, before they can build up to something larger.  If that means cutting a scene and looking at just that small part in depth, then so be it!

After quickly eating my Waitrose salad, I ran back to Borough Market with the rest of the group.  We picked up some French cheese, yogurt, and strawberries to have as snacks during the performance of The Tempest.  I also tasted Helen’s toasted cheese sandwich.  Apparently, it’s the “best toasted cheese sandwich in the world,” made by Kappacasein.  (It was pretty amazing–and I’m not even a huge fan of melted cheese.)

Photo courtesy of Kelley

Photo courtesy of Kelley

Then we made our way to the Globe for a reward: The Tempest.  This, hands down, was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.  They really made use of the entire theater.  A character descended from heaven.  Another came up from under the stage (hell).  Characters not only entered through the groundlings, but could be seen in the balconies listening in on conversations.  When some characters stood in the upper galleries and threw out flower petals that rained down upon the audience, I was entranced!  It even rained during the performance, and I know this sounds silly but I felt like that made it more of an authentic experience.

The actor who played Ariel was Colin Morgan, Merlin on the TV show “Merlin.”  I was sitting behind a few rows of British schoolboys, and when he appeared on the stage one of them excitedly turned to his friends and whispered, “Is that Merlin?!”  To make my day even more complete, a young woman–a groundling dressed in a bright pink shirt–would sigh and bat her eyes at Mr. Morgan every time he came on stage.  For a while I forgot to pay attention to the performance and just watched her for awhile.  She was rather amusing.

I had tentatively planned to stand in line after The Tempest to see if I could get return tickets for Macbeth (which would be performed that evening), but after such a long week I could feel the exhaustion hitting me.  I didn’t even walk home as usual.  I hopped on the bus.  Thank goodness Rhiann was with me and kept me talking, because in spite of that I felt myself falling asleep.

If she hadn’t been there this would be a completely different blog post, where I discussed waking up somewhere in the middle of London on a double decker bus and having to find my way home.  But alas (for you), I lived the more boring version: doing laundry, packing, eating Waitrose’s tomato and basil (with a touch of balsamic vinegar!) soup, enjoying a snack at the Betsy Trotwood, reading, and sleep.

Photo Post #4

These photos are from our first day at the Globe.  First, there are photos of the Globe itself, and then photos from our walking tour of Bankside with Patrick Spottiswoode.  These include the site of the original Globe Theater, Winchester Palace, the Golden Hinde II, Southwark Cathedral, and The George.

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Photo Post #3

The following photos were taken the day before the Globe Education Academy started.  We did a little exploration of the area, walking to the Globe so that we would know how to get to “school” the next day.  Included here are photos of St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate, the Old Bailey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Globe, the Tate Modern, and Smithfield Market.

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Globe Education Academy: Day 8

Day 8 started with Voice.  Sarah’s goal was to give us pointers for outside voices (to help with our performance) and class control.

Sarah told us that “the Globe isn’t outdoors–it’s a theater without a roof.”  We would benefit from the fact that the Globe is intimate and enclosed.  That said, there were some tricks she wanted us to remember for being on stage:

  • Articulation is key.  Your intention needs to be clear and your direction (both physical and vocal) needs to be clear.
  • You cannot wander.  You cannot let your head float.  Turn your head and body together. You have to direct your audience.
  • If it is very noisy (an airplane flying overhead, for instance), give yourself a break.

As for voice and class control:

  • Prepare your voice daily.  It will last longer and help you be heard.
  • The daily semi-supine position will help you find your breath, relax, and cultivate a sense of calm.
  • Proper alignment and straight posture is key.
  • Don’t lock your knees — it affects the voice by stopping the breath.
  • Quiet, firm speech is more likely to get people’s attention (vs. raising one’s voice).
  • Make them come to you.  Don’t go to them.
  • Think about the value of silence.
  • No one can compete with 30 young kids.  A quiet, positive voice will bring calm.  Be very clear.  Imbue your words with color (pitch/range).  Think before you speak (this gives time to calm yourself).
  • When you’re sick: Use steam for sore throats.

Then it was off to Movement with Gylnn!  After a really good stretch, Glynn had us do a run-through of our scenes so that she could see them.  Then it was time for sitting in a circle for a pep talk to get us ready for the evening performance.

That evening, we had thirty minutes with Margo to calm our nerves and four hours of rehearsal to finalize our performances.  Then it was off to the Globe stage!

P1080491I actually walked onto stage without feeling nervous.  It was amazing.  I hate being up in front of people.  Once, I had to present something at a conference in front of 1000 people, and I couldn’t eat all day.  This, though?  I had been so well prepared by everyone at Globe Education that I was just ready.

Yes, I forgot a line — which completely frustrated me.  I knew my lines cold, and I had since our first rehearsal.  I think I got so caught up in the moment that I looked at Helen (playing Tranio) and it just went right from my head.  This is where I learned to true value of team work, Helen picked up with the next line and the scene was saved.  I was able to get right back into things and stay in character, all because my teammate had my back.

I applied to this program, because I wanted to challenge myself.  I wanted to do something that I was completely not comfortable doing.  Traveling without my husband to London, spending two and a half weeks with people I barely knew ahead of time, and standing on a stage acting pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me a lot about myself and about teaching:

  • Being comfortable in front of a crowd isn’t necessarily a personality trait.  It’s something that we have to build as teachers.  The practitioners at the Globe provided a safe, nurturing environment where I felt comfortable taking risks.  They then provided structured practice time so that we could practice our performance until we were all on the same page and knew our parts cold.  As a teacher, I’m constantly asking my students to get up in front of the class and give presentations, but I’m not sure if I do as good of a job making that as effortless for them as the Globe did for me.
  • When I was on stage, I knew that my team had my back and that we could get through any difficulties.  When things didn’t go as planned, they were able to pick up the slack and the performance moved on.  There were hugs backstage at the end of the performance.  We were a team, and we had grown close not only because we had a common goal and had spent so much time together, but because our director made sure from the beginning to do acting games and warm-ups to start developing that sense of team.  She said that this was a play, and that we would play together.  I think that’s a lovely idea to bring into teaching.  My students work in “teams” all the time, but how often do I let them play together in order for them to build the trust that they need to actually work together?

I’m so glad that I applied to this program.  I’m glad that I was able to stretch myself as an individual, and that I was able to learn so much from some great teachers.  You too can apply by clicking here.