Come Let Us Reason Together ~ Early Evening Thoughts ….

Often, for me anyway, I get somewhat random thoughts as very random times.  Unfortunately, it’s often when I either can’t pursue the thought (just drifting off to sleep) or where writing the idea down is either impossible or unfeasible (inside a very noisy club or … well … you get the idea!)

One of the reasons I enjoy the TED talks and TEDEducation videos, is so often they manage to hit one something I’ve had a stray thought about and never thought about again.

I also have decided that if my teachers had presented concepts this way, my grades would certainly have been better.  I can only hope, that when I was teaching in India ~ some of my students felt I had reached out this way ….

This video tackles invisibility … what, where, when and quite a bit of why … bear with the beginning – it will pay off shortly after the video starts.

The Course Of – Whatever – Never Did Run Smooth (5) ~ Early Evening Thoughts

–continuing from night before last and posts prior

So,leaving the awe-struck Julius Caesar cast behind as they work on the Parker Hall stage, let us pick-up a bit on the star-crossed cast of Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The problem with Shakespeare at any time and any of this plays is quite simple. In the comedies (and portions of the tragedies) he is quite a lewd..uh..crude..um..socially unacceptable..OK…earthy writer. One of the joys of teaching Shakespeare in High School is that the students absolutely “get it.” Many parents, School Boards and even some English teachers fall into the trap of placing an aura around The Bard.

Yes, he did manage to write much that was tremendously powerful and amazing lyrical poetry within the structure of his plays and theater, as well as his sharp, unerring and amazing understanding of power, people and life … however … and it’s a big however … the “groundlings” and even those in the boxes had so much competing for their attention outside of the theater that he had to make sure they were completely entertained in a manner they were accustomed … raunchy, ribald humor at that!!

Once a student discovers that aspect of the plays ~ the hunt is on! And I absolutely pity any teacher who has no idea just how raunchy and ribald Shakespeare can get trying to handle a class full of “hormones in tennis shoes” reading the comedies…or discovering the meaning of “the two backed beast” in Othello.

On of the advantages I had in my High School Shakespeare Tragedy classes was that I knew what was ahead. And I basically headed it off at the pass. My classes were so busy with themes, character work and dramatic archs – or lack thereof – that while I was unafraid to acknowledge their “amazing” dirty joke discoveries, I’d pull the discussion back to the matters at hand.

To me, his ability to write low and high-brow in the same play was nothing more than another example of his intellect and writer’s gift. OK, it also was a tribute to the ability of the acting company at the time to adapt some of what he wrote – but as far as I am concerned, most of the work was his. And also, his ability to write wonderful humor that people in his day would understand, but not let it get in the way of what else he had to say, is nothing short of awe inspiring to me. And remember, he did have to be careful of what he said, lest he get into political trouble ~ which did occur upon occasion.

So now, as I faced adapting one of his wildest romps to an age appropriate level, the teacher and I did decide to play on the “aura” that surrounds his plays. I made the more obvious deletions and took some of the “in” out of the wilder “innuendos.” And as far as the more subtle things? We took the course of ignorance just might be bliss, and quite forgivable.

I’d mentioned that one of the biggest problems was Bottom’s line about “a man would be an ass.” The was just one word that, for whatever reasons, had to either go or be changed. We tried all sorts of things. We tried leaving it out ~ big hole to anyone who knows the play. We tried using the word donkey ~ that just didn’t even elicit a giggle from anyone.

As I mentioned before, when I was left in the hospital with my arm hanging straight up, the answer came to me and quite frankly it had been staring me from the page the entire time. When I told the teacher my solution, we both laughed. When I shared the solution with the person playing Bottom, I was rewarded the one of the deepest guffaws I’ve been blessed with in all the plays I’ve directed.

The passage in question ~

BOTTOM ~

[Awaking] When my cue comes, call me, and I will
answer: my next is, ‘Most fair Pyramus.’ Heigh-ho!
Peter Quince! Flute, the bellows-mender! Snout,
the tinker! Starveling! God’s my life, stolen
hence, and left me asleep! I have had a most rare
vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to
say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go
about to expound this dream. Methought I was–there
is no man can tell what. Methought I was,–and
methought I had,–but man is but a patched fool, if
he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye
of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream
was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of
this dream: it shall be called Bottom’s Dream,
because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the
latter end of a play, before the duke:
peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall
sing it at her death.

The way we adapted it ~
BOTTOM[Awaking] When my cue comes, call me, and I will
answer: my next is, ‘Most fair Pyramus.’ Heigh-ho!
Peter Quince! Flute, the bellows-mender! Snout,
the tinker! Starveling! The have gone away and left me asleep!

I have had a most rare vision.

I have had a dream, past the ability of man to
say what dream it was: I thought I was– I thought I was,–and
I thought I had–but man is but a complete fool, if
he will say what I thought I had…If any man tries to tell this dream, he is but an (he reaches up and feels for his missing ears – then shrugs at the audience.)
The eye of man has not heard, the ear of man has not
seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream
was.

I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of
this dream: it shall be called Bottom’s Dream,
because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the
latter end of a play, before the duke:
peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall
sing it at her death.

There were other people who were involved in getting this play ready for performance.
The 4th grade class decided (on their own I might add) to take on the project of doing the scenery for Midsummer Night’s Dream. This consisted of burlap type fabric tubes that could be used for columns at the various interior places in the play … they would be able to be raised and lowered … and a delightful enormous burlap tree (cut-out ~ based on the school symbol “The Lyre Tree) that was painted and decorated, which would suffice for all the forest scenes. This could also be raised and lowered. The raising and lowering was not as smooth as a Broadway or East End production, but they were incredibly pleased anyway.

–more Sunday.

I will be attending Gamer Musicon 90 at the Symphony tomorrow which consists of two different concerts using music from on-line and Xbox/Playstation games and various vendor demonstrations of new games. There are also two panel discussions with people from Blizzard and such. It will be fun and quite long. The first concert starts at 3:00pm and the second at 7:30pm ~ this concert will end at 10:00pm. I will end most likely shortly after that!!

The Course Of – Whatever – Never Did Run Smooth (4) ~ Late Evening Thoughts

–continuing from night before last and posts prior

As I said, there seemed to be a battalion that came and got me out of the bushes and up the side of the path (a nice, basically straight down drop) and without too much yelling in pain on my part, took me and my broken arm to the hospital. There was the usual checking-in process, and then the Doctor arrived. At that point, he discovered that I had eaten dinner, so ~ knocking me out with anesthetic and setting the arm was not going to be possible until the morning. My arm was placed in a cloth type tube and I was attached to an IV stand … the arm is now straight up (well, as straight as a completely broken arm can be) and I’ve been left in the bed. He ordered some pills to take away the pain – and allow me to get some rest.

The pills didn’t work. Well, they did numb the pain, but wired me. There was no sleep that night. In a sense, this was a good thing because it gave me a lot of time to think … about the plays, about what caused the break and to finally come up with two wonderful solutions. The first solution was the problem between the teacher and I and the second – even more important – solution was how to handle Bottom’s infamous line about a “man may still be an ass.” The first solution came from my addled, wired brain ~ the second from my arm hanging straight up in the air.

After what seemed as if The Longest Day have become The Longest Night, the nurses came and got me and off I went to surgery. The arm was set, put in what seemed like an ENORMOUS cast – and I woke up absolutely starving!! I was finally released and sent off to head back to my apartment for the rest of the day. Well, I should have gone directly back to my apartment for the rest of the day ~ but I stopped at the Quad at school to see the two teachers and let the students know that I was doing fine. A bit woozy, but fine.

The 6th grade teacher and I sat down and done what I should have done in the first place – we talked. My solution was actually quite simple (aren’t most of them?) I would have her sit in at all the rehearsals and she would not put in/take out anything unless I was either there or we talked about it. Big smiles all around. Then I dropped my solution for Bottom’s line ~ and we both laughed out loud over it.

The next day (as I remember) there was a rehearsal for Julius Caesar, and the actors were quite anxious to show me what they had accomplished and ready to begin the battle scene. Our elementary rehearsal space was simply not going to be good enough, and Parker Hall was available ~ so ~ up we went to the High School and to rehearse on the “big” stage.

Usually, the only time the elementary students performed on the stage was for music or dance recitals and once a year for the elementary talent show. So, getting “on the stage” was a big deal, and regarded with appropriate awe.

–more tomorrow

The Course Of – Whatever – Never Did Run Smooth (3) ~ Late Evening Thoughts

— continued from July 10th ~

I had — in a moment of mental aberration — left the 5th grade students aware that there was going to be at least one battle scene in their production of Julius Caesar … this was followed by a battle with the 5th grade teacher. At the time, I had not formulated in my mind exactly how it was going to happen, but assured her it would be safe for everyone — including the audience and provide some excitement to those watching.

The major problem was going to be weapons — cardboard was not going to work, and i certainly wasn’t going to try and round up a bunch of swords to place in the hands of my joyous and raucous 5th graders. Little did I know ~

The High School Science teacher a couple of days later (as I remember) talked to me in the staff dining room (where an incredible number of things seemed to be forever being discussed and/or decided) about the play and his interest in it. We got around the the battle scene and he told me that he had discovered a cache of bayonets at the kabardiwalla (I’m not sure of the spelling – forgive me) — which means the local 2nd hand shop and he was sure I would be able to borrow them for the show.

Off we went to the shop, and there they were … in all their nasty and dangerous glory. Unfortunately, the danger part really didn’t dawn on me … didn’t even enter my thoughts. I immediately saw the scene in my mind and the realization of how much fun it would be to put together pushed all other concerns out of my mind.

They were triangular basically black – and – most exciting of all, they gave off sparks when struck together. (cue music from the beach assault in The Longest Day here.) At this point I lost all shred of sanity as far as the production was concerned, and the battle scene was about to become something that probably belonged in a movie about advancing on the beach at D-day!!

Now Midsummer Night’s Dream was certainly not left out of the process. There was still the problem of Bottom’s line about a man may still be an ass and then I found out that I would put something into rehearsal and the 6th grade teacher would take it out. This had been going on for sometime before I found out about it. I was getting frustrated with the students not remembering what I wanted them to do/say and them not wanting to tell me what was going on in the classroom.

So now we were down to two super-sized egos .. I was of the opinion that you don’t mess with my show and she was of the opinion that you don’t mess with her class. I found out late in the day and I got more and more angry as I went down the hill (literally) to the High School boys dorm where I was assistant supervisor and had my apartment. The longer I thought about it, the more angry I became. I decided, at that point, that I would go over to the High School girl’s dormitory (where she had an apartment) and have it out with her – once and for all time!!

Now, if you look at the picture you will see a building on the hillside at the left edge. That was the starting point A — the building on the hill on the right of the picture was finishing point B … with a path and the middle school boys dorm hovering around the middle. Part f the path was lit, and parts were narrow and not. It was a path that everyone did several times a day on some days – and once a week, the High School boys make a treck to the High School girl’s dorm for a dance. It was a path I knew well. I also knew that at that time of night, I needed to take a flashlight along, but I did not.

I am now charging along the path, heading to the middle building readying in my mind exactly how this was going to work and what I was going to accomplish or else!! That’s when the “or else” happened in a moment. To this day, I’m not completely sure what happened – all I knew was that I ended up down the “chud” (pronounced cud .. again, I apologize for the spelling — it meant cliff literally) as it was called with a broken arm. Unfortunately, I was too far entangled and too far down and hurting FAR too much to get myself out … I began to yell for help. Finally, one of the workers heard me and tossed down what looked like a piece of twine. I finally convinced him that I was going to need more help then that … and in due course, some kind of battalion arrived and got me to the hospital which was about a half-mile away.

—more tomorrow

The Course Of – Whatever – Never Did Run Smooth (2) ~ Late Evening Thoughts

—Continuing from last night

While Bottom’s ass, or rather his line containing the word ass was becoming a major sticking point between the teacher and I concerning the Midsummer Night’s Dream script adaptation … the 5th graders were beginning to get VERY interested in just what and who Julius Caesar was going to be and what kind of play this might turn out to be.

This was going to be a first for both classes, before plays had been done in the main auditorium Parker Hall, but these were going to be done with scenery, lights, costumes and above all else ~ programs. Big stuff…as this meant there would need to be rehearsals outside of class and a performance outside of the elementary school quad area and timetable. The dining room (students and staff) , four dormitory staffs (5th-6th grade girls and boys, high school boys, high school girls), staff and administration all wanted their piece of the action and planning.

Parker Hall was the school’s main purpose “rumpus” room – as I like to call it. There were innumerable concerts, recitals, meetings, plays and such. One year in the last four weeks of school there were 18 different events … all of which required several rehearsals, settings, lights, a dress rehearsal and ticketed performance. As most of the seats weren’t numbered and were plastic stackable chairs at that – this entailed a lot of number/row painting on the floor. If you think that politicians have turf wars, just imagine trying to standardize performance seating charts for each of the departments of a school that had been going their merry way for over 150 years. As the saying goes: “It was so not going to happen … in anyone’s lifetime.”

I assembled some props, and the 5th grade students were given their scripts to read. Now, here comes the part where real life intersected with the class room. These students worked not only on their regular school work, which was intense but also time in the day was found to read the script and after the casting was done to learn and rehearse the script. I saw these students once a week for a little over an hour, so much of the work was going to fall on the classroom teachers. Fortunately, this is something they were aware of and welcomed (at first anyway).

I meet with the 5th graders and showed them the cute little paper model of the Globe theater and did my story about what plays would have looked like and sounded like during that time. We laughed over the fact that King Lear and Hamlet take four hours to do the complete script today, but at that time they managed to get through them in a little under 2 hours. (that was my story, and I’m sticking to it!!) I also talked about the children’s troupes that used to perform Shakespeare to highly appreciative audiences and we talked about what that might have been like.

In all honesty, I was not looking forward to a discussion of the play. I was thinking that it was going to be somewhat difficult to explain the over reaching theme(s), the types of people these folks were, etc. I should not have worried … I told them we would start at the first scene and talk about the play. I decided that I would ask a (what I was sure would a rhetorical ) question about the crowd in the first scene. Almost everyone’s hand went up. I chose a smiling young lady who informed me that “The crowd represents just how fickle people can be. They are all excited and thrilled with someone and want them to be everything to them and then just a quickly can turn on them and want them dead ~ or kill them themselves.”

All I could think of was the fact that I had high school students taking my Shakespearean Tragedy class that took a couple of days and a lot of coaxing to figure out that one concept. At that point I knew we were not going to have a single problem figuring out the play.

The next point that had to be dealt with was the fact the 1) there were a large number of girls in the class and 2) there were only two parts for women in the show neither of which was exactly lengthy. I assured them ~ in a moment of total brain failure ~ that they would not only be able to participate in the crowd scene(s) but the battle(s) as well. The look from the teacher will simply be recorded in this space as “the look.”

–more tomorrow

which may include the story of the bayonets and the battle of the ages

The Course Of – Whatever – Never Does Run Smooth ~ Late Afternoon Thoughts

Marja at her delightful blog “Dutch Corner” did a 4th of July post about being introduced to one of Shakespeare’s zanier comediesMidsummer Night’s Dream.” And I had left a comment about “Years ago (in a galaxy far away) my 6th grade drama students did an adaptation of this wonderful play.” –> her post is here <–

This week as I was moving things around, under the guise of “getting rid of somethings” .. I found the “gift” they had given me after the performance. And for a second time a flood of memories charged back demanding to be written down.

This occurred while I was teaching in India.

At that time, I was a teacher of English, Speech and Drama. The English, Speech portion involved grades 10-12 and Drama was divided up into Creative Drama grades 1-6 and Drama grades 10-12. Yes, there was a three year gap, but neither my schedule or the syllabus allowed for much more than doing a week long intensive theater performance with the 7th graders once a year.

The Shakespeare “experiment” started, as things so often do, on the way to somewhere else.

The 5th and 6th graders had done short plays before, and I was really not thrilled with what we had done, and they were a little dissatisfied with the level of plays available to be done. I was a little gun-shy about writing a couple of plays for them. I had done that twice for my High School students and while they loved them and “got” them, the administration was not terribly enthusiastic about them. ‘Twas a quandary…and a puzzlement!!

I don’t know how many of you are acquainted with “My Weekly Reader **but when I was growing up, it’s arrival in the classroom (we each got our OWN copy) was 2nd only to the Weekly Reader book sale ~ as I remember, once or twice a year. For years in school, this little newspaper brought fun, learning and insight to all who received it. When I was teaching at Woodstock School, I knew that it was available, but didn’t realize that the students enjoyed it just as much as I had.

As I remember, it was in the staff dining room where the 5th grade teacher showed me a issue that contained a very short (10 or 12 lines) of one of the speeches from Julius Caesar and the article accompanying the adaptation (if that’s the right word for it) about Rome and current affairs. As we were talking, (cue the theme from ANY Judy Garland, Micky Rooney “Let’s put on a show” movie here.”) One thing led to another, And I had agreed to adapt the play to their level, and do a Shakespeare segment as their drama classes. The 6th grade teacher, not to be outdone, wanted a play for her class as well. Well, why not (cue violins from Psycho shower scene here) … why not a comedy – Midsummer Night’s Dream wasn’t being done anywhere around … so, why not.

The major “why not” was the script(s) … my agreement meant that I not only had to come up with two adaptations of major theatrical works, but would now need to stage them as well. Any student of Theater or Theatrical Literature knows the Julius Caesar text to use – and I don’t think the cover has changed much in over (a certain number of years) … And Midsummer Night’s was available almost anywhere, so I set to work. Interesting enough, it was the adaptation of Midsummer Night’s Dream that proved to be the most difficult.

As a play that is basically one big “romp” … it is full of sexual innuendos and some not-so innuendo. And taking away completely everything that might ring slightly off would turn the play into a big nothing. Then, there is the magic, fairies and sprites wandering around … this being a school high in the Himalaya Mountains depending on mission boards for teachers, support and some income (to say nothing of a stream of students!!) was somewhat vexing.

The teacher and I worked closely and sometimes contentiously about the wording. The most amusing part was what to do with Bottom’s famous line (after being released from his donkey’s head) that “sometimes a man might still be an ass.” That line went in and out of the script more times than most people breathe in a day!! And was still a problem up to the final rehearsals …

— more to come …

** FYI ~ (My) Weekly Reader has been in continuous publication since 1928 ~ to quote Wikipedia: The first edition was produced for the fourth grade, and appeared in September 1928. Its cover story was entitled “Two Poor Boys Who Made Good Are Now Running for the Highest Office in the World,” and focused on the childhoods of Herbert Hoover and Al Smith.

— and yes, that is a picture of Woodstock School … I just wish it was mine!