University Players’ “The Nerd”

Okay, so I know this is a long time coming, and no lies, I have very little excuse as to why I haven’t written this review yet. But better late than never!

This experience was very interesting for me, as I got to see the final performance of the final show of the University Player’s season. And while this play was not what I’d call a traditional comedy, it was wonderfully funny, and is well worth seeing if it’s ever on in your area.

The Nerd is the story of a man who for his birthday wants to invite the man who saved his life during the war. However, the guest who arrives to his dinner party isn’t quite who he seems to be. The hilarity that ensues is almost too much to bear! Honestly I thought my sides would split or my lungs would give out I was laughing so hard. The comedy is physical, witty and tension based humour that just had us all on the edge of the seat!

The performances were wonderful. The contrast of characters involved in this play made for easy and hilarious comedy. Everyone’s performances were fabulous, and for Alice Lundy, Andrew Iles and Hailey Joy it was a wonderful show to end their University Player’s careers. Special mention has to go to Isaiah Kolundzic who played Rick Steadman, the ‘war hero,’ the absolute absurdity of his character was amazing, and I honestly had to be talked into the fact that it was Isaiah at all. His mannerisms and characteristics so perfectly contrasted the other characters that I just had to laugh.

I don’t really want to spoil the whole show, because honestly I hope it gets done more, but the end few moments make the whole play worthwhile. I was so disappointed that the couples beside me left at intermission, because they truly missed the punchline of the play! While it’s not all that conventional, it made it all the more fun for me. I love getting to experience new plays, and while I normally like to read the play beforehand, I was so happy to have taken the advice of my friends and just went and experienced it. It made it so much more enjoyable.

I’m looking forward to many new experiences with next year’s UP selections.

Shakespeare in Community – “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time” – Final Project – Hamlet 3.1

For my final project for this course, I decided to do an adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most well-known plays, Hamlet. I chose the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy for many reasons, one of them being that it is a soliloquy I had taken upon myself to learn a few months ago. With it being one of the most recognizable soliloquys in the cannon, I thought I should probably know it in full. However, choosing to recite this soliloquy for this project opened my mind to the myriad of possibilities that there are with this play, and how my adaptation fits into the current conversation around Shakespeare in both the scholarly sphere and what has been discussed in this class.

First, I want to talk a bit about the soliloquy itself, why it speaks to me and then I’ll move into my adaptation. As I began to learn this soliloquy I found that I really needed to dig into the language and look at each word on its own to really have it sink into my memory. But what was more than that was that I found a way into the soliloquy that I hadn’t before. I used to be very content with the high school answer of “Hamlet’s contemplating suicide” but the more I read it, the more I spoke the words myself and really made myself feel those words, I realized just how much more than that is really going on. Hamlet isn’t just contemplating suicide for himself, rather the concept of suicide as a whole, and even the larger concept of death, and how humanity views those things. I think that part of Hamlet’s frustration isn’t so much that he thinks he shouldn’t commit suicide, but that he realizes that he can’t just like how most of us can’t. And he discovers in his musings one of the deepest truths of humanity: you don’t know with any sense of certainty what happens after you die. It is truly “[t]he undiscovered country from whose bourn/no traveller returns.” There’s that inherent fear in dying, one that most people have, because of this lack of certainty. And I think that’s where Hamlet gets the ideas for the next lines as well, that because we don’t know what’s going to happen, we get scared, and so we don’t do anything about our rotten lives, and even when we could, we don’t. We also get a fabulous glimpse into his mind in the list of injustices that Hamlet thinks are unbearable or cause for deep unhappiness. Thinks like “the insolence of office” or “the law’s delay” or “the pangs of despised love” give us a good indication of the things that are going on in Hamlet’s life, things that we know are going on, but that we see how heavily they are all weighing on Hamlet. Hamlet is trying to work through the issues in his life pretty much on his own, and being a man of logic doesn’t seem to be helping him much either. I would argue that while this is one of the most logical arguments of the play, it’s also one of Hamlet’s most emotional soliloquys.

Part of the reason this soliloquy means so much to me is because two years ago one of my dearest friends committed suicide. It was shocking and heartbreaking and awful. And yet in learning this soliloquy I realized how Shakespeare had so perfectly put into words all the thoughts and emotions that I was going through trying to deal with this loss so perfectly into one soliloquy. In performing it, I really felt a connection to the words, especially the lines “and by a sleep to say we end/The heartache and the thousand natural shocks/That flesh is heir to; ‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.” I feel like part of what these lines are saying is how hard it is for the people left behind as well as the people who have passed, and unfortunately I am all too familiar with how that feels.

Now I’d like to discuss the particular choices I made in my adaptation of this soliloquy. I think that having a female Hamlet is a totally viable option, and opens the door to many interpretations of the play. In terms of the macro level of the play itself, I think that by having Hamlet and Ophelia be childhood friends rather than lovers fills the void that many scholars point out of a lack of female homo social relationships in Shakespeare. Losing a good friend can be just as devastating as breaking up with a lover, and the box of remembrances that Ophelia has from Hamlet could just as easily be notes and gifts and things that one friend would give another. It shows how many kinds of love there are, and that friendship fits into that world as well. Having to change he/his/him to she/hers/her wouldn’t be a huge issue, as it doesn’t disturb the iambic pentameter, however changing prince to princess does. So I think I would leave it as price, and make it a tribute to Queen Elizabeth I who had the heart and stomach of a king. I think that Hamlet would need to demand the same respect as Elizabeth I had to. I think it makes Claudius’ ability to take the kingdom right out from under her a lot more understandable as well.

In terms of the filming itself and my choices there, I wanted to film it in the hallway because hallways are such liminal spaces and therefore it’s easy to be overheard as Hamlet is. I made sure to leave the end door open a crack, to imply that Claudius and Polonius are listening just beyond it, yet Hamlet is so distracted that she doesn’t even see it. While Hamlet’s dress was black, I wanted to make sure that she also had something on overtop to represent the cloak that Hamlet and Gertrude talk about at the beginning of the play, but the stripes also imply the seeming madness that is to come. I wanted it to be a private moment that Hamlet is having, totally unaware of the potential for other people to hear her.

I truly enjoyed performing this soliloquy, and would love to have the opportunity to perform it again. I think that this play is one of Shakespeare’s most famous for a reason; it deals with so many elements of life and human nature, the moments of truth are frequent deep and profound, and Hamlet is easy to connect with if we put ourselves in his shoes. I’m looking forward to experiencing this play again this summer, and hopefully many more times in the future.

Assignment #4 – Google Ngram viewer (my new fave thing)

So I wanted to try something new for this project, despite my new-found love for Wordle, and so I checked out the Google Ngram Viewer. Being able to see the mentions of words or phrases over such a large span of time is absolutely amazing.

So I started with looking at “William Shakespeare” and “Much Ado About Nothing” just to get a feel for how the app worked, and to see if there was any correlation between the author popularity and title popularity. While there wasn’t an obvious correlation, I found it interesting just how many books mentioned the Bard’s name, and then how high it peaked about 13 years ago.
Here’s the link to that graph: https://books.google.com/ngrams/interactive_chart?content=William+Shakespeare%2C+Much+Ado+About+Noth

So next I thought I’d look at the names of the 4 main characters: Beatrice, Benedick, Hero and Claudio. Beatrice without a doubt has the most mentions over the past 200 years or so, peaking around the 1840’s. If only they let us know why or how many books it was mentioned in (because now I’m sooo curious). But what’s almost more interesting was that Claudio was rather popular in the early 1800’s, and then just dived right off, while Hero and Benedick stay fairy even throughout. Honestly, I thought Hero would have the most mentions because it has multiple meanings.
Here’s the link to that graph as well:https://books.google.com/ngrams/interactive_chart?content=Beatrice%2C+Benedick%2C+Hero%2C+Claudio&ye

I think what I learned the most from this little experiment was the impact that Shakespeare has had in literature and the written word in general, even 200 years after he was gone. Not only his own name, but the names of his characters remain prevalent today, almost 400 years after his death. I guess to me it just seems astounding that one author, and just looking at 4 characters from one play, has been able to have this much of an impact on our consciousness. He seems to have infiltrated every day life, whether we know it or not. And children who have names like Beatrice, or Katherine, or Sebastian, or maybe even Henry, have these amazing Shakespearean characters to look at and know that part of their name comes from this amazing author.

“Butterfly” – Shakespeare in Community Assignment #4

Before I talk about how I broke my project, I want to talk a bit about the speech itself.
I chose Helena’s “How happy some o’er other some can be” speech from Act 1 Scene 1. It’s one of my favourites because I think it is one of the most true to life depictions of love in Shakespeare. I feel like Helena because of this speech. It talks about loving and being hurt by that love, and shows that love isn’t totally perfect. She speaks from a place of experience rather than one of innocence. However it does have other interesting qualities that I’d like to discuss.
The most important thing is that it consists of rhyming couplets. This rhyme scheme is generally found in the forest, at first spoken by the fairies and then later by the lovers as they spend more and more time in the forest and under the spells of the fairies. What strikes me as the most odd is that this speech isn’t spoken in the forest at all, it’s well before they all leave, so why is there the rhyme scheme? Is it because she’s speaking about love? Or because this is where the main plan is laid to get all four lovers into the woods?
I feel like she takes a big risk with this speech. She knows that there’s the potential to really hurt her best friend Hermia, but she’s felt so hurt by Demetrius (and therefore Hermia) that it’s worth the risk. And it’s worth the risk for her also to hopefully win back Demetrius’ love.

Butterfly
To destroy this beautiful text, I decided to cut it up, and make it into 4 small origami butterflies. I think of butterflies as the closest thing to fairies that exist, and also something that would exist in the forest which she discusses. I chose to do 4 of them for two reasons: because it forced me to cut up the speech even more, and because it represents the four lovers (even though Lysander isn’t mentioned, he is implied by her talking about “their flight”).

So I started with a printed version of the text, in a font that I thought was beautiful and feminine like Helena herself.

Next I cut the majority of the paper into a large square from which to make the four small ones. The last 4 lines got left on that cut off piece, and so therefore weren’t even a contender in being analysed with the rest of the text.

Here are the four squares all cut up and ready to be folded. As you can see, there are only a few words per sheet, and some of them have even less than others because the lines don’t run to the edge of the page.

And here are the finished products! When I talk about them, the top left is #1, the top right is #2, the bottom left is #3 and the bottom right #4.

#1 only has writing on the right 2 wings. While there aren’t many words that are whole on the page, the one that is is “o’er”, which places that butterfly as the first one of the speech.

#2 It similarly only has writing on the right two wings, but I can’t make out any whole words that help give me any indication of place in the speech.

#3 The left wings this time have the text on it, but the top one hardly has any words at all. However, the word “Cupid” is on the bottom wing, so that gives it a sense of place in the speech “thus is winged Cupid painted blind.”

#4 This one also has the left two wings with text, but it has plenty of text on each one. the words “oft” and “heat” appear in whole. But the butterfly for some reason ended up formed funny (I don’t know what I did wrong).

This method really broke up the text in a funny way, and made it so that I could barely tell what part of the speech it was from. But what I love is how much more text is on the bottom of the butterfly. When you flip them over, they are full of text, but they similarly have broken up words that make it very hard to tell where it’s from.

Heart’s Home by Janine Marley (Where The Heart Is)

I am thrilled to have had a poem I wrote recently published on my friend’s blog!! It’s an honour to be recognized by a young woman who is such a great writer herself.
And of course, it’s theatre related 😉

inmanywordsorless

There’s always a

flutter

Rounding the corner

Sneaking a peek

There’s always a

thumping

Exploring a universe

Meeting new people

There’s always a

beat

Silencing the crowd

Anticipating the action

And then it begins! With the toll of bells

And the turning down of lights. Our brand new

Adventure commences; comfortable

Sense of the foreign fills the hazy air.

I am finally where I belong.

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Shakespeare In Community: “The Fairies’ Midwife” – Assignment #2

I loved the idea of making a Wordle of the Queen Mab speech from Romeo and Juliet, as I had heard about this as a teaching tool at SAA. However while some of the elements of the cloud didn’t surprise me at all, I was still left with a few puzzles to tease out.

I know the one element of this speech that many people seem to be surprised by (which I was as well) was how large the word o’er appeared on the Wordle, and actually it appears twice. The ways in which the word is used helps to give Queen Mab’s travels amongst humans that giant quality that we would use to describe climbing a mountain. But to me, the use of o’er gives the story one of the many fairy tale qualities that pervade the rest of Mercutio’s the speech.

Many of the words that are the largest evoke this feeling of a fairy tale: night, fairies, dreams and dream are some of the largest words aside from Mab herself. It gives the speech a very ethereal feel, and fits well with the late night setting of that part of the play. However it also shows the boyish foolery of Mercutio and Romeo and their friends as they use this story to make fun of Romeo. But Mercutio’s language and imagination show his (im)maturity and intelligence.

The one word the stuck out to me the most, however, was the word “nose.” Despite many body parts being mentioned within the little tale, “nose” is the only one that warrants being larger. But why the nose? The only think that I could think up was that smells were a central element to humoral theory that pervaded the consciousness of the population of Renaissance England. I wonder of the nose was an easy access point for Queen Mab to have an effect over her subjects? Victims? Humoral theory is one of the elements of Shakespeare that fascinates me the most, and I think this is a worthwhile pursuit in terms of academic analysis of this piece.

I loved this way to analyse one of my favourite speeches in Romeo and Juliet. I have a little funny story to accompany this assignment. The Stratford Festival put on a phenomenal production of Romeo and Juliet in 2013, with Tim Carroll at the helm. When I went to see it was my family (which was my second time seeing the play) I was eagerly anticipating seeing this speech again. Just as Johnathan Goad, the actor playing Mercutio, was about to start…THE POWER WENT OUT! The whole room goes dark and all we hear is Mr. Goad say “Ah!” and next thing we knew the lights were back on again! He continued like nothing happened, and I believe we all applauded when the lights came back on. It made us all laugh and was definitely one of the more memorable performances I’ve attended.