Photo Post #2

The following photos were taken on Saturday, June 15.  They include the Tower of London, my realization that the Queen was celebrating her “official” birthday on my birthday, and dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen.

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Photo Post #1

The following slide-show is from my first full day in London, including photos of The British Museum, Trafalgar Square, Admiralty Arch, Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park, Westminster Abbey, and The Houses of Parliament.

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Globe Education Academy: Day 7

Many apologies for so many days between posts.  Our schedule at the Academy didn’t leave a lot of room for blogging, and the jet-lag that I’ve been experiencing didn’t leave a lot of motivation to blog.  I’ll be catching up on the last four days of the Academy throughout this week.  I’ll also be posting photos–yes, long overdue–from my trip.

On Tuesday, we returned to the Globe well-caffeinated, and ready to work.

We started with a two hour session with Margo on “Creating a Production.”  For the first time, we sat down together to tackle the task of putting together our own production of Taming of the Shrew with our students.  Our first goal was to split the play into 12 parts.  (Each of us will be responsible for casting and directing one of these sections, our students eventually performing on stage at Mondavi.)  Margo split us into two groups to come up with a list of sections.  As always, she had us practice what we were learning: creating a tableaux for each of our scenes.  We then compared our lists and compiled one master list.  This was e-mailed to all of us so that we could take a look at it on our “spare time” and come back later in the week to finalize.

Our next session continued our Globe Education Practice.  We worked with Romeo and Juliet.  First, Margo split us into groups of three.  Each group was given three strips of paper that contained key lines from the text (each line representing a separate moment in the play).  We came up with a tableaux for each of the lines.  Then, Margo had us sit in a circle, and began to tell the story of Romeo and Juliet as if it were a fairytale.  When she got to each of the major moments, a group would go up and create their tableaux.  One member of the group would read the line.  They would then sit down and Margo would continue with the story.

I thought that this activity could be great at the beginning of a Shakespeare unit: to preview the play.  It could also really work at the end, to summarize what was learned.  You could also do this for individual scenes.

Next, we turned to a particular scene in Romeo and Juliet (the beginning of 3.1, starting with Tybalt’s entrance).  After reading the scene through with a partner, Margo introduced us to five signs:

  1. To accept: We opened our arms wide
  2. To block: We crossed our arms in an “X” in front of ourselves
  3. To hook: We moved our arm like we were hooking an object
  4. To probe: We pointed and twisted our finger from one side to another
  5. To attack: We made stabbing motions with our pointing finger

We then worked in groups reading the same scene (each person taking on one character).  Our job was to decide which actions went with the words we were speaking.  After time to decide and practice, Margo had groups demonstrate what they had come up with.  What was interesting to note was the different–and valid–reasoning between groups.

Knowing that there would be differences between groups, Margo introduced a protocol in order to ask questions during a group’s demonstration.  We could clap to interrupt and ask a question.  Allowing the class to interrupt and ask a question holds the group presenting accountable to the actions that they had decided upon.

To finish, we looked at a scene between Banquo and Macbeth.  In pairs, we read through the scene.  Margo then introduced the following idea:

  • When your character is attacking, take a step towards your partner.
  • When your character is retreating, take a step away from your partner.
  • When your character is trying to figure things out/maneuver, step to the side to circle your partner.

Again, this got us thinking about the intention behind dialogue.

After two hours of historical dance, we had an hour for dinner and then three hours of rehearsal in preparation for our performance Wednesday night.

Globe Education Academy: Day 6

I have to admit that I’m a little delirious while I write this. We finished our work at the Globe this morning at 1:15am and were woken up by the maids cleaning our flat just after 9am. A large coffee is definitely needed. Maybe two.

That said, please don’t expect genius in this post. And please forgive any errors that I may make in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and whatnot.

Yesterday began with an hour with Giles. We ran through our lines and he gave us suggestions for how to read our lines based on the text. Immediately afterwards, my group met at Theo’s Cafe to run through our lines and continue our memorization work. I have to say that I’m feeling quite good about our scene.

Movement with Glynn followed. Then Voice with Sarah. During our voice session, we worked with Act 1, Scene 1 of Titus Andronicus, specifically the opening speeches of Saturninus and Bassianus. She gave us a few ideas for activities we could do in our classroom:

(1) Have one student read the speech. The group says each pronoun with him/her. (With this, it was interesting to see the contrast between the focus of each speech.)

(2) Have people stand up on a chair or table in order to read the speech. Have the class react. (With this, it was interesting to see what rhetorical devices are being used to excite an audience and draw them in.)

(3) Have people sit in a chair and read the speech as if they are on TV. (With this, it was interesting to see how the speech is appealing to people on a more personal level.)

My favorite idea came as an off-handed comment. Sarah mentioned His Girl Friday and that the characters speak quite fast, but are exceptionally clear. You can’t play that scene slowly. Her idea was to get the dialogue from the movie (knowing how long it takes Grant and Russell to speak the same amount of dialogue), and have students practice the scene trying to speak it as fast as they do (and still be clear).

After our last session, we went to Tas to celebrate Sarah’s birthday, and then made our way to the Globe to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was fantastically hilarious.

Our evening ended with rehearsal…ON STAGE. Words cannot describe how incredibly awesome that was, so I will not try.

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The Weekend

First, I think it is important to know that as I write this I am eating salt and malt vinegar crisps. Now that that’s taken care of, my weekend:

Yesterday was deemed “Nerdvana.”

After breakfast at Gail’s Bakery, Anne and I made our way to the Underground. Our mission? All things Dr. Who.

We first wanted to find one of the few blue police boxes in London. Outside the Earl’s Court station stands one such police box. We had a slight detour when the Tube’s doors opened at Baker Street. (Really, how can you pass up a chance for some Sherlock Holmes nerdiness?) Eventually we found ourselves outside of the Earl’s Court station, and just next to a newspaper stand stood what we had been searching for. Anne screamed–literally–with happiness. We then, for about ten minutes or so, amused the kind woman who ran the neighboring newspaper stand.

We then made our way to the Upton Park station to visit The Who Shop–the first and only Dr. Who Shop. It was, in a word, amazing. Inside stood two TARDISes that were used in the filming of the show. There was a Dalek as well. And, to our delight, there was everything Dr. Who you could possibly ever want to purchase. I would describe my purchases here, but as my husband is a reader to this blog and I do not want to spoil any surprise gifts for him, I will refrain.

Other highlights of Saturday included grabbing tomato and basil soup at Paul, shopping at Forbidden Planet, finding a tea shop, and eating Thai on Exmouth Street.

This morning, Bradley, Anne, Danielle, and I made our way over to Westminster Abbey to attend the 11:15 service. As an added bonus, we got to sit in Poet’s Corner. It was a little distracting, I have to admit. While the choir sang, I would find myself examining the stained glass and the next thing I knew I was geeking out over the fact that there were monuments to Gerard Manley Hopkins, Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Dylan Thomas, and the like.

Rhiann found me outside of Westminster, which I thought was a particularly impressive feat given the hordes of people outside of the church. We ate a quick lunch at BB Bakery, and then bought tickets to ride the London Eye. We timed our ride perfectly. The line wasn’t as bad as we had seen it just the weekend before. We even used the (shortish) time in line to work on memorizing our lines.

The view from the Eye is spectacular. What struck us first was just how vast London is. Then we realized just how much of it we have covered on foot. No wonder my feet hurt.

We stopped in a few touristy souvenir shops on our way back to the Underground, stopped at Waitrose for some groceries, and now I plan on reading, memorizing, eating, and Skyping with my husband this evening. I also plan on heading to bed much earlier than I have been. After we head to the Globe tomorrow morning, we won’t return until past 1am on Tuesday. But more on that later.

Globe Education Academy: Days 4 and 5

Thursday was a day that flew by with few breaks. Our day began at the Globe’s library. I want to see if I can arrange some time to head back there to really examine what they have. Besides books, you can view performances from every production the Globe has had since it was rebuilt, look through the archives, read journals… It’s only open two days a week, though, so getting back may be a bit problematic.

We met again with Margo to continue with our Globe Education Practice sessions. We worked with a scene from Macbeth (the same one that I observed students working on the day prior). Margo told us not to be afraid of editing the text for our students. They need to be successful with a small bit first. People learn in spirals. She had cut the scene so that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth get a single line each.

Each of us received one line, which we read aloud. We were then asked to pick one “powerful” word from the line to represent that line. That was shown around the circle. Next, we had to create a gesture that went with the word (and demonstrate those around the circle).

Margo lead us in the yes/no tactic activity (see the post prior to this one). She then had us read our line with a partner and determine what tactic Lady Macbeth and Macbeth were using in those two lines. We practiced them and then performed those two lines (in sequence) as a group.

Margo did these activities in a circle. I might do this with them lined up and facing each other. It might make it easier for my students to visually keep track of who is Lady Macbeth and who is Macbeth.

We practiced this again with one of Macbeth’s soliloquies. The soliloquy was split into sections. We chose powerful words, and then acted each section out as groups. Margo then told us to imagine that there was a line going down the center of our rehearsal room. The left side represented the idea that Macbeth won’t kill the kind; the right side represented that he will. Putting ourselves in the shoes of Macbeth at the end of the soliloquy that we just worked with, we needed to place ourselves on that line. I could see this final activity being great for debates and justifying answers using quotations.

In the afternoon, we met with Giles Block (whose new book I subsequently purchased). Giles is brilliant. Here are a few tidbits that I picked up from him:

-Verse is made up of two components: rhythm and line length (what one can easily say in one breath).
-When people say something that they hold dear, they often say it in iambic pentameter. Charles Dickens in a letter he wrote in 1844 discusses how he falls into blank verse when he is “very much in earnest.”
-Where the line ends is never arbitrary and always of interest. There is a reason why it is there. It captures speech. It is connected with breath. (You leave people with something of interest before breathing.)
-Trochees surprise us. The stress comes when we don’t expect it.
-It is the rhythm that conveys the emotion.
-We need to stop teaching that characters of “lower orders” speak prose and “higher orders” speak verse. These characters of “lower orders” are traditionally comedic. They use prose because the stresses fall unexpectedly and it runs faster.
-Verse carries the sound of sincerity. Prose is not sincere.

After a Q&A with the cast of Taming of the Shrew, we attended Tony Howard’s session on Shakespeare on Stage and Screen. He ran us through several film and television versions of the play, demonstrating how the gender issues presented in the play were treated differently over time. Fascinating!

Our day ended with rehearsal. Jo wanted us to think about how our characters related to each other in terms of status. She had us play a few games with playing cards to get us up and moving. With the first, we chose a card and walked into the room trying to project the amount of status we had (the King was the highest status; the ace the lowest). Others then had to guess what we had. A second incarnation of the game had us walk through the room not knowing what our card was. Others treated us accordingly. We had to guess what we had. We then arranged ourselves in a line from highest status to lowest status, arranging our characters.

The rest of the time was used to work through the scene. We used a ball to point towards who we were talking to, and gave the ball to them when we were asking a question. This really helped us determine whether we were talking to another character, a group of characters, or the audience.

Friday was a bit slower paced. We started with classes in Movement (with Glynn MacDonald) and voice (Sarah Case). Both did wonders for my self-esteem.

We spent the afternoon pouring over resources provided by the Globe. If you’re a teacher, you should head to the Globe’s website and check out their Adopt an Actor program, their Playing Shakespeare resources, and their archives of previous productions. You should also consider getting your hands on their Dynamic Learning editions of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Much Ado About Nothing. They are fabulous.

I’ll try to post a bit about the weekend a little later today.

Globe Education Academy: Day 3

I’m afraid that the past three days were so full that there wasn’t really time to blog. Wednesday and Thursday night I left The Globe around 10:30pm, without a huge amount of breaks. I’m a little overwhelmed about trying to relay all of that information, so I’m going to focus on Wednesday and try to catch up this weekend.

Wednesday began with a “Lively Action Practice” with Globe Education Practitioners. Basically, we got to see what we were learning in action. I watched Susan teach Macbeth to a group of 11-12 year olds. What was great was that it wasn’t going to plan. Students were a little disengaged or really shy to participate. To me, that was far more beneficial to watch than a session that just went perfectly. The reality is that things don’t go perfectly every time, and observing someone navigating that was incredibly valuable.

Just as an overview of the activities that Susan did:

(1) She started with some acting games: sending a clap around the circle, and a variation of that where they did it with their eyes closed. I thought the variation was interesting in terms of team work and collaboration. She also had them do a second game where when she told them to go they walked, stop they stopped, stomp they stomped, and clapped they clapped. She then slowly began mixing this up. (So, for example, when she said “go” they would stop and when she said “stop” they would go. This got them up and active, and got their brains going.

(2) She then placed students into pairs. Person A was told that they really wanted B to do something (give them money, go away, kill the king of Scotland–remember this is for Macbeth). Person B was told that they really, really don’t want to do it. A needed to use as many tactics as possible for B to do what they wanted them to do, with the catch that the only word they could use is “yes.” The only word B could use in response was “no.” They could use gestures, voice, body language.

After letting students play with this, she had a few volunteers demonstrate what they did. She had the other students identify the types of techniques that they were using to either convince or deny their partners, asking them, “What is he doing as a verb?”

She then did a variation of this using lines from the text. A would say, “When you durst do it, then you were a man.” B’s response was “We will proceed no further in this business.” Prior to letting kids loose, she unpacked the language with them. Again, volunteers were asked to demonstrate what they did.

(3) She gave the students the scene between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth that the above quotes came from. It was about 1 page of texts. The students read the scenes in pairs, and afterwards they unpacked it as a group. She asked them first to tell her what was happening in the scene. Then they went through the lines dissecting it. Once the lines have been explained and dissected, they went through the scene again. She ended the session with a pair showing what they had been working on.

What I’ve noticed about everyone at the Globe is their vocabulary: Everything is so very positive. They’ll tell you, “Thank you for that offer” and “Brilliant!” after a response. When they are asking a question they might say, “What does this mean? Someone please be brave and give it a try.” It’s lead me to think a lot about the vocabulary that I use with students. You can create such a safe environment for people to work in simply by altering your vocabulary and being positive. The way that Margo explained it today is that in order to progress, you have to feel a little success.

Our day on Wednesday ended with a four hour rehearsal. My group will be performing 3.1 of Taming of the Shrew, and I will be playing Baptista. For this first rehearsal, Jo Howarth got us up and moving first and then gradually inserted lines to get us comfortable with the language in our scene.

-We walked and used the space.
-We continued walking but high-fived each other (saying a line to each other when that happened)
-We walked and would lean against each other, saying another line.
-We held hands and leaned back, finding a balancing point…and again would say a line to each other.

She used lines throughout the scene from various characters, and basically told the story of the scene. It got us up and moving, we learned a few lines, and we started to get really comfortable with each other as a cast.

Our second activity was to actually look at the script. We split our edited script into sections (based on entrances and exits). We read through each section and then worked together to name the scene. When this was done, we created a tableaux for each scene (so that we would have a physical memory of what happened in it). We went back through the scenes and picked one line from each section that summarized the essence of the scene. We then combined the tableaux with the line.

I think this activity could definitely be used in my classroom. It’s a great way for students to physicalize what is happening in the scene. It also gets them to work with the same piece of text in multiple readings.

Our day ended with watching the Globe’s performance of Taming of the Shrew. I loved it! We were groundlings, and got to lean against the stage for the entire performance, looking up at the actors. Never have I been so close to the performance, and I think that’s really what made it a bit magical. You almost start to think that you’re in the action. This performance of Shrew was interesting because it was done by an all-female cast. What’s funny is that I actually forgot that they were women. They did a wonderful job sucking me into the story.

What I most liked, though, was how they played the ending. Shrew is a bit difficult for modern audiences, because of the gender issues brought up in the play. In it, Petruchio “tames” Kate by starving her, not letting her sleep, and making her look like a fool. As I watched the performance, I kept wondering how they were going to play the final scene where Kate is “tamed” and she gives a speech about how women need to be subservient to their husbands. This company turned this comedy into a tragedy. Kate is absolutely broken at the end. The reaction of the other characters is, “Oh, crap. Look what we’ve done.” They realize that they’ve lost something, and they’ll never get it back. You could hear a pin drop through the final scene, and when the characters left the stage the feeling was one of awkwardness. It’s hard to know what to do with that sort of an ending as an audience member. It was fantastic.

Globe Education Academy: Day 2 (Continued)

After I published last night’s post, I had a thought about how I would incorporate yesterday’s activity in my classroom. It would be very easy to replicate it, without having to visit London.

Students could be split into groups, and given the exact same prompts/tasks that we were given before we set out on our cross-London adventure. Rather than sending them out into the world, they could be provided with copies of the images from each location, with brief histories/explanations (much like those found next to images in art galleries).

After students are given time to look through the images and respond to the prompts, their job as a group would be to argue which is the truest image of Shakespeare. We were assigned one to argue for, which I don’t think is a bad idea at all. Whether we believed what we were arguing or not, we had to find a way to argue for it. That’s a good skill for kids to develop.

I could see using this at the beginning of a Shakespeare unit, as a way for students to learn about the man named William Shakespeare. I could see using this in place of the documentary that I showed this year.

Globe Education Academy: Day 2

I am exhausted.  I’m hoping that this will be the night that I finally really sleep, so I am going to make this short and sweet:

Today did not start at the Globe.  Rather, we were given the task to travel around London searching for images of William Shakespeare.  We would find him commemorated in stone, stained glass, alabaster, oil, and print.  His image would be found in churches, pubs, libraries, galleries and squares.  He would be remembered all throughout London.  In the end, we were to determine the following:

  • Who is the “Shakespeare” that each artist is seeking to remember?
  • How does the medium shape or influence each artist’s message?
  • How apt and appropriate are the locations in each representation?
  • Which image in your view comes closest to the actor/poet/playwright/theatre owner/landlord that was William Shakespeare?  Why?

Bradley, Connie and I formed a group and traveled to our list of locations:

  • The copy of the Roubiliac Statue of Shakespeare in The British Library
  • The First Folio Engraving (British Library)
  • The Bust at the Shakespeare Head Pub
  • The Shakespeare Statue in Leicester Square
  • The Chandos Portrait at the National Portrait Gallery
  • The Shakespeare Monument at St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe
  • The Shakespeare Gallery at Sir John Soane’s Museum
  • The Plaque at Park Street, Southwark
  • The Shakespeare Monument and Window at Southwark Cathedral

It was fascinating!  (And I apologize for my lack of photos.  I have no way to get them off of my memory card and onto my iPad.  I’ll be posting photos once I’m back in the States.)  My group later argued that the bust at the Shakespeare Head Pub comes closest to the real Shakespeare, because his writing and his plays were for everyman, and what better location to represent everyman than a place where anyone can gather: a pub.  The churches represented the religious.  The galleries, museums, and libraries were highbrow.  A pub, though?  That’s where we can all gather together regardless of class or education or religious affiliation.  We also loved that the bust is located outside above the crowd, looking down and observing.  And isn’t that what Shakespeare did?  He observed and wrote about those observations of people.

Besides images of Shakespeare, I saw the Magna Carta.  I learned about John Soane.  I saw the music for Handel’s Messiah.  I saw the portrait of Princess Diana.  I sat quietly and took in the magnificent architecture of the Southwark Cathedral.  I ate fish and chips.  I saw Jane Austen’s writing desk.

And I also got quite good at navigating the Underground.

Globe Education Academy Day 1

Classes started today at the Globe, and I am so extremely excited about the next two weeks!

Our group walked the 30 minutes to the Globe from our flat through London’s rush hour foot traffic.  The first part of our day was largely an orientation.  There was a welcome receiption with tea and coffee, had a brief orientation, and was introduced to Globe Education.  We also got our first look inside of the Globe itself, and learned some fun tidbits:

  • The groundlings weren’t called groundlings because they stood on the ground, but were named after a fish (that similarly left its mouth agape).
  • Underneath the stage is called “hell” and is reserved for things of evil like the witches from Macbeth or Hamlet’s ghostly father.  The stage itself is earth.  The upper region is heaven (and yes, an actor can be lowered from heaven on a rope).
  • There were gentlemen’s boxes closer to the stage with comfier seats and a higher price.
  • There were lord’s boxes (think the same area as Juliet’s balcony).  You would be behind the actors, so the goal wasn’t necessarily to watch the play but to be seen by others.

After a quick lunch at a nearby restaurant (Greek!), we got a chance to actually get up and learn some activities that we could take back to our students.  My favorite revolved around dialogue.

Margo Gunn (previously mentioned in this blog) first lead us in a few of the theater games that she had introduced us to at our first workshop back in the States.  She then got us working with Shakespeare’s text.  We started with Romeo and Juliet’s first exchange of dialougue.  She split us into two groups: a group of Romeos and a group of Juliets.  We stood facing each other on opposite sides of the room.  Dialouge in hand, we would read our lines, starting with “If I profance with my unworthiest hand…”  To see what Romeo and Juliet were doing in this part of the play, she had us step towards the other group when our character rhymed.

This lead to a fascinating discussion regarding Romeo and Juliet and their initial reaction to each other.  Romeo begins by taking two steps towards Juliet, but she responds with three steps towards him.  Romeo, almost in shock, pauses.  She pauses too.  But then he advances two.  She plays a little hard to get.  He advances again and kisses her.  In 14 lines they’ve gone from their first words to a kiss, four more lines and a second kiss.  Who knows what would have happened if the nurse didn’t walk in after that.  I loved this, because it makes reading the text physical.  Students can see Romeo and Juliet’s reaction towards each other, which I think would lead to some lively conversations.

Our day ended with an assignment (“Remember Me” Day — more about that tomorrow since that’s tomorrow’s full day activity), and a walking tour around Bankside.  We saw the original location of The Rose Theater, the original site of the Globe, and the site where the last remaining brothel (building still standing) was, amongst others.