Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I've learned a great deal this year about the power of asking for what you want in life. I'm not generally one who asks for things for herself. I want plenty of things, sure, but my modus operandi is to work hard and just hope that those things I want are given to me. 

But in March, I asked for a thing I wanted--to be the research assistant to the head of the program. And I got it. And that was a strange experience. 

And then in October, I asked to be the TA for my favorite class/professor in the spring. And I got that, too. 

And I asked to be admitted to the third year of my program. And they let me in. 

And I asked for an increase in my merit funding. And I got it. 

And then I submitted a paper to a conference. And I was accepted. And I was thrilled, and also baffled. 

It can't really be this easy, can it? To just ask for what I want, and then get it? I mean, it's probably backed by my quality of work and my committment to doing things well, correctly, and on time. Right?

I want two more things before the academic year is out: I want to pass my defense without revisions, and I want to win the award for outstanding thesis. Let's see what happens come April. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

I'm always thankful for the blessings in my life, particularly because they've been made so wildly apparent to me over the last 15 months or so.  But because it seems to be tradition, I'll list them today.

I'm thankful for:

  • My amazing, loving, supportive, hilarious, strong, protective husband, Tim.  He gave up his entire life to follow my 3000 miles across the country so I could pursue a dream.  I think I'll keep him forever.
  • My sweet, cranky, geriatric kitten.
  • My intelligent, proficient, and kind instructors.
  • My brilliant (academically and sartorially) thesis adviser.
  • Being financially stable enough to pursue my dreams and my graduate degrees without going into crippling debt (let's be clear--I'm going into some debt; it's just not crippling).
  • Living in a country where I don't have to choose between safety and an education.
  • My talented, witty, clever, and caring classmates and friends.  (Especially Marshall and Merlyn.)
  • The friends I've found or re-found on this coast, who will be sharing the holiday with us: Haylie and Ross, Dan and Macy, and Ben.
  • My family, especially my incredible in-laws.
  • My friends back home who are cheering me on from afar, especially Ellen.
  • A reliable car that allows me to see my husband regularly.
  • A cozy apartment close to campus so that my walk to class in the winter is short and sweet.
  • Fuzzy blankets, fluffy pillows, and a comfy mattress.
  • Indoor plumbing.
  • My bathtub.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sir, she came in great with child, and longing--saving your honor's reverence--for stewed prunes.

Finally received thesis feedback from my advisor, and it is GREAT.  Direct quotes:

"You're on to a winner."
"I'm not certain that I've adequately impressed I am by the range of research and clarity of writing....Great work."

Now I just have to do some massive restructuring, write a little new material, and send off a second draft in the middle of October.  For the moment, though, I'm free to turn part of my attentions to preparing my monologue for the audition for the third year of my program, which takes place on October 3rd.  Bonus points to you if you can identify the character and/or play from that line!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Second Year Success!

Tomorrow begins the second week of my second year.  And while I'm even busier than I expected to be, I'm already kicking ass.

Despite a hiccup in which only six of the eighteen new students decided to volunteer for scenes for the directing class, we're off to a great start.  I expect thesis feedback from my adviser this week (which will be both soul-crushing and motivating), and I've managed to keep on top of my insane reading load and also manage to be just a bit ahead of the game.  Seriously, I have two classes.  How do I have so much reading?  Oh, right, because I'm also auditing a reading-heavy class.  That's how.

My motto for this semester is "always be working".  If I have a spare 30 minutes, spend it in a book, not on the internet.  If I have a spare 15 minutes, spend it answering emails, not Instagramming my surroundings.  If I have a spare 5 minutes...well, in that case, I'm usually eating.  Once rehearsals start on the 20th, I will have no spare time at all, so I'm trying to get as ahead as possible right now.

My thesis-research trip to Richmond was exactly as unhelpful as I expected it to be, though I did get to see some really cool documents and playbooks, and I came away with a couple of things I can hold up as general time period examples, though they're either not Shakespeare or not Civil War.  Worth a trip, but I'm glad I was able to cancel the second day I'd scheduled to be there.

So.  Thesis roundtable is on the 15th, M4M rehearsals start on the 20th, Clyomon preproduction starts on the 20th, I go to Asheville on the 26th to see a pal in a production of Midsummer, and MFA auditions are on the 3rd.  Let's get after it, second year!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Adventures in Thesis Land, part two, in which I talk about my progress and my plans for the upcoming semester

Mostly I'm procrastinating right now, but the fire alarms in my building are being tested, which means I can't focus on anything productive to save my life.  So I'm doing this instead.

I've completed (more or less) the research portion of my project, and I've been writing every day since the beginning of August.  I expect I'll still be reading for some time to come, but only in little bits and pieces here and there.  Next week I'll be spending a couple days in Richmond at the Virginia Historical Society.  I'm really looking forward to digging through their archives and (hopefully) doing a touch of sightseeing.  The more time I spend in Civil War Richmond, the more anxious I am to actually visit.

I've completed a 35-page draft of my thesis, four and a half months before the first draft is officially due.  I'll spend the next few days revising it, and it gets turned in to my adviser on the 1st.  There was a girl in last year's class who managed to complete a draft of her thesis during the summer, and she ended up being the first student in program history to pass her defense without revisions.  She also won the award for outstanding thesis.  I want both of those things, so I really worked hard this summer to follow her example.  Even when I was traveling to and from Oregon for my best friend's wedding, I was reading articles and taking notes.  Even when I was fighting for 12+ hours a day, I was reading newspapers and dissertations and books in every spare minute, morning, noon, and night.  Since the end of thesis symposium in mid-May, I think I've taken a grand total of twelve days off from actively working on my thesis, and even on those days where I wasn't reading or writing, I was still thinking and talking about it.

Every night as I'm falling asleep, I think about my thesis.  Often I'll have to sit up to write down a genius thought, and then begin the falling-asleep process all over again.  It's annoying, as I'm already prone to insomnia, but also gratifying.

I go back to Staunton on Thursday next week.  As soon as I arrive, I help with Orientation, attend a lecture from a visiting Shakespeare troupe, hole up in the library, do a massive amount of housekeeping (laundry, groceries, unpacking, making big batches of food to freeze, etc), have dinner with my gal pal Sara, attend the second-year back-to-school BBQ, organize the thesis roundtable, memorize a sonnet for my directing class, get my oil changed...the list goes on.  I thought I was being really smart by coming back to town four days before classes start.  I thought I was going to have all kinds of time to get all my stuff done.  Now I think I might not have enough time.

I'm stage managing a really cool production of Measure for Measure in the fall, and rehearsals start on the 20th.  I don't want to toot my own horn (yes I do), but the rehearsal schedule I created is a thing of beauty.  It completely acknowledges and avoids everyone's conflicts.  Our Isabella isn't available in the evenings, our Escalus isn't available in the days,  our Angelo is only available three varying days a week, and I managed to schedule around everything.  The exciting part, though, is that our script is based off the Padua folio cut.  The director (my very dear friend Marshall, who was most recently referred to as my "program spouse") and I are really excited to begin the rehearsal process, and we hope we'll be able to write a conference paper or a journal article based on our experience.  

We also have plans to co-author a paper/article on our production of Clyomon & Clamydes in the spring, but that's another story for a different day.  

I'm terribly excited to be back in Staunton next week.  I'm ready to get back to the grind, to have structure and order to my days, to have projects that require my attention, and to have regular social interaction.  Yes, the fall semester is going to be unbelievably busy, and I will probably cry and complain and tear my hair and gnash my teeth.  But I wouldn't trade it for anything.  I love this program, ever so much.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Thesis Post-its

I'm circling ever closer to an argument for my thesis, which is encouraging.  I think I'll be able to start writing soon.

Even though I have a full three and a half weeks before I head back to Staunton for the new school year, I'm nothing if not ahead of schedule, always (at the beginning of July, I emailed one of my professors to ask if he thought I'd be able to miss a class at the END OF NOVEMBER to attend a workshop in Des Moines.  He emailed back, slightly incredulous at the amount of warning I was giving him, to let me know that yeah, with four months' notice, he thought we could probably make that work), and so I'm cleaning up and organizing all my things to get ready for the move back to Virginia.  I cleaned out my post-it note graveyard (for three months I've been shoving discarded post-its into the corner of my desk rather than recycle them, because Tim keeps his recycling not conveniently placed next to the desk), and thought I'd share some of the better ones here.

"on actors and the art of acting, 1875 (GHL?)"  This was a book I was trying to track down back in May.  It was not helpful.

"vitiate sententious gallimaufry paucity paean vagacity bowdlerize autochthonus ephemeral inimical"  No idea.  Not a list of words I don't know, because I do know most of these.  Possibly just a list of really great words.

"Macbeth as morality play?"  Still an idea I'm mulling over.  I'm pretty sure this will feature in the body of my paper somewhere.

"Julius Caesar?"  Friends? Romans? Countrymen?  I come not to praise Caesar, but to write his name cryptically on a discarded post-it note.

"Title: the place of early modern drama on the Civil War stages of Richmond"  This is not my title.  This is not even my project.

"Shkspr's virtues extolled.  Find this!!"  I provide this without comment.

Finally, to reinforce my point about being crazy ahead of schedule at all times, I just received an email from my department admin reminding us all that today is the first thesis deadline, and that she needs the names of our committee members from us by the end of the day.  To quote: "I already have Jess Hamlet's.  Everybody else, please make sure to email me by 5pm."  Too right she already has mine.  I emailed them to her in the middle of May.  BAM!  

(Also, I totally have the best committee members.  The.  Best.  Best, as in "coolest," but also best as in "smartest, wisest, most qualified.")

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Well.  Hi.

I'm back from three weeks at the National Stage Combat Workshop, aka the Actor Combatant Workshop, aka fight camp.  I'm ever so thrilled that I went, and ever so sad that it's over.

At the urging of my dear friend/mentor/teacher/spirit guide Ellen, I first attended the National in 2006.  It was a much smaller thing then.  I learned lots, made good friends, and had a great time, but I was not prepared for what I experienced this time around.  I expected the pain (which came, but was in different places than it was last time), and I expected to learn, and I expected to be frustrated, and I expected to make a few friends.  

What I did not expect was to fall in love with roughly 30 people.  I did not expect to leave with inside jokes, and theme songs, and catchphrases that will shock and unsettle the people in my regular life.  I did not expect to be texting fight friends during the intermission of Comedy of Errors or Macbeth or Cyrano to complain about fights.  Perhaps most of all, I did not expect that I would ever be so desperately sad and utterly bereft to be back in Staunton, a place that I love more than anywhere else I've ever lived (excepting my hometown).  

After three weeks of pain, anguish, delirious happiness, many bruises, several scrapes, hundreds of falls, a few tears, and six very unfortunate mosquito bites, I tested on Friday in Rapier & Dagger, Unarmed, and Broadsword.  I think I and my amazing partner, Jered, did well.  Results are due sometime around the beginning of August, but I'm not concerned.  More important to me, much, much more important to me, are my memories and friendships forged in steel (and aluminum, because I'm dainty and steel is heavy).

#bootybruise #binddownforwhat #shunt #safdgotthatswagger

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Observations on spending a weekend in Oregon after living on the east coast for a year:

1. I am officially an east coast driver.  I have enough Oregon in me (and always will) to still use my turn signal and not cut people off, but I was zipping down 26 at 80 mph, changing lanes like a boss, and generally being a highly defensive driver.  Partly good, partly bad.  (Yes, I slowed down as soon as I realized how fast I was going.  But 60 feels so slow!)

2.  Oregon is my home, and there is nowhere I'd rather be.  I'll take the cold June and the wet summers and the allergies over Virginia's humidity any day.

3.  Burgerville is delicious and life-affirming.

4.  Evergreen trees are the only kind of trees worth having.

5.  Rain in June is correct.

6.  Trying to coordinate things from 3000 miles away and on a three-hour delay is hard.  

7.  Friends are great.

Friday, May 30, 2014

A Very Big Day

Today was a Very Big Day.

Today I got to live out a life-long dream.  (And by "life-long," I mean "since I was about 18".)

Today, at the Library of Congress, I spent several happy, happy hours touching every single page of a First Folio.  I recorded interesting marginalia, I looked up all my favorite lines, I looked at chain lines and watermarks, and I breathed in the delicious, musty smell of 400 years of beautiful poetry.  

Also I took a selfie.  Because life dreams, man.

The title page is actually a forgery, but someone, somewhere in the six owners of the book before it got to the LoC, found an actual copy of the Folio, cut out the Droeshout portrait, and pasted it on top of the forged one.

Secretary hand.  I can read a little bit of it, but not very much.

Gorgeous cover that I can't imagine is anywhere close to original.  It's been owned by the LoC since 1930, but I think the cover predates that.  Possibly was added by the book's fifth owner, H.G. Wells.  No big deal.

Italic hand.  Much easier to read!

This was at the very end of Othello.  Beautiful.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Adventures in Thesis Land, Part One

...In which I briefly recap what I've learned so far in the hopes it will help me find an argument.

Subject: Shakespeare in Virginia in the Civil War
Topic: Hamlet, Macbeth, and Richard III (and others, briefly) in Richmond in the Civil War.
Predicate: ?
Object: ?  Something about cultural heritage and historical preservation, maybe.

What I'd originally hoped to be able to argue was that Southerners were using Shakespeare's regicidal tragedies as a way of expressing their frustration with Lincoln, the North, etc.  That just doesn't seem to be the case, however.  They needed no such subtle method of complaining about Lincoln; they used satire and did that outright (especially in an original piece entitled The Royal Ape).

What I know was happening is that they were performing Macbeth (often), Richard III (regularly), and Hamlet (semi-regularly).  Romeo & Juliet, Othello, King Lear, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, and The Taming of the Shrew were also performed occasionally in Richmond during the war.  Curiously (or perhaps not?), there were zero performances of Shakespeare's works during the last months of the war, January-April 1865, and only a few during the beginning months, April-December 1861.

The plays, especially Richard III, were probably not the "true and originall copies," or even anything close to that.  Richard was Coley Cibber's version, Hamlet was probably David Garrick's version (in which Hamlet dies, but Laertes lives to rule Denmark with Fortinbras.  It's hilariously awful).

There was no shortage of comedy on the Richmond stages, but it mostly came from non-Shakespearean sources.  AYLI was performed four times, and all times dismissed by the papers as being quite bad.  Shrew was performed semi-regularly, usually under some variation of the title "Katherine and Petruccio."  Plays were almost always followed by a farcical after piece or two, and people stayed at the theatre from 7pm until midnight.  

The tercentennial of Shakespeare's birth took place toward the end of the Civil War, in 1864.  I've found no record of any celebration thereof in Richmond, though I imagine it must have been marked in some way.  It was celebrated with much ado worldwide, and accounts abound of celebrations in Germany, New York, Stratford, London, and elsewhere.  Still on the hunt for Virginia, or, failing that, Augusta or Charleston.

Shakespeare received more productions in Richmond during the war than any other author.  (I imagine this is probably still true, in most places, today.  Homeboy was prolific.)  But nationwide, Macbeth, Hamlet, and Richard III were the most popular plays during the war.  Richmond is not an anomaly there.

So.  What can I learn from all this?  Where's my argument?  

My thesis adviser keeps saying it's not about what Shakespeare meant, but about what Shakespeare was doing for audiences during the war.  I agree, but I can't see any argument here that would be specific to Shakespeare instead of to theatre in general.  One paper in 1863 said this:  "If people must be amused sometimes, listening to the poetry of Shakespeare is certainly better amusement than bluff, poker, and rotgut whiskey."  I agree, though I doubt if I can turn that into a 50-page argument.

For three weeks, my adviser told us that "this is a thing" is NOT an argument.  And he's right.  But right now, "this is a thing" is about all I've got, and I'm getting nervous that I need to start writing in eight weeks and I don't yet have anything more concrete.  (And yes, I realize how ridiculous I sound since I have EIGHT WEEKS before my self-imposed date of beginning composition.  But as I'm losing five weeks of research and reading to travel and workshops, eight weeks away feels a lot more like three weeks away.)

Man.  Where's my friend Marshall when I need him?  He's always good at talking me off the ledge and helping me figure things out.  I know there's an argument there somewhere.  I just know it.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

All the thesis, all the time.

I've had a really productive day of thesising (anthimeria!) so far, and I'm getting ready to take a break, even though I'm having a thesis-free Sunday tomorrow and should use all the time I have available today.  But it's Saturday, and my prospectus is finished, and I have 100+ citations in my bibliography, and I need a nap.  So I'm going to do that.

Tomorrow is the final meeting of hashtag brunch club before we all go our separate ways for the summer, and in the afternoon/evening, several of us are going to Cville to catch the National Theatre broadcast of King Lear.  I'm excited, and sad that this is the last time we'll all be together until late August.  

I've had such a great year, I'm gearing up for a great summer, and my thesis is taking shape.  It's good to be me.

Friday, May 9, 2014


First, another true gem I found while researching my thesis:

From the Southern Literary Messenger, March 1864: "A fracas took place at a fashionable restaurant in Paris, owing to a well-known dramatic author abusing the beefsteaks of the proprietor, who retorted that they were not so detestable as the pieces of his customer." 

Second, I think I learned an important lesson this week: if you want something, ask for it, because you just might get it.  I rarely ask for things I want in life, because I don't want to seem greedy or demanding or self-important or etc.  I prefer to work hard, do a good job, and hope someone offers me the thing I want.  I think this (enormous) part of my personality stems from my childhood--putting Mom's needs first was so important that I never learned to assert myself.  I mean, shoot, I won't even ask for extra butter for my bread at a restaurant.

But a month or so ago, I asked the director of my program if I could be his research assistant for next year.  And on Wednesday, we finalized the details and made it official.  I wanted it, I asked for it, and I got it.  It feels incredible, and bizarre.  How is it possible that getting what I wanted was that easy?

So look out, world.  I also want the Andrew Gurr Award for Outstanding Thesis, and I want to get into the MFA portion of the program, and I want to go to a great school for my PhD, and I want a really good scholarship for my doctorate work, and I want my thesis to get published, and I want to present papers at conferences over the next couple years.  These are the things I want.  And I'm going to get them.

And I also want my friend Ellen to go to SAA next year (in Vancouver!) because I'll probably be there in my research assistant capacity, and we can be friends in Real Life!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Thesis gems

I'm coming across all kinds of gems while traipsing through Civil War-era newspapers searching for Shakespeare.  Here are a few of today's greats:

From a review of Chapman, Dekker, Webster, Middleton, Marston, and others, 1863:

Chapman's worth is based on his "wonderful" translation of The Iliad, though his own dramatic work is dismissed out of hand thusly: "The best of his surviving plays, if the epithet 'best' can be applied where all is bad, are..."
Dekker is discussed for his authorship of a play with "a title too strong for ears polite" and his quarrel with Ben Jonson.
Webster gets this lovely sentence: "The 'Duchess of Malfy' and the 'White Devil' are powerful dramas, but are stuffed too full of horrors to suit the taste of a modern audience."
Middleton: "His name would hardly have been kept alive by his dramatic performances, although they were twenty in number, but for a single circumstance...The conclusion, taking into account the relative powers of the two authors, is irresistible that he filched from Shakespeare, not the other way round." (Regarding Macbeth.)
Marston: "He was a rough and vigorous satirist, and had the honor of seeing one of his satirical performances burned on account of its licentiousness."


From 1863, directly below an advertisement for the last night of the "play in five acts, Jack Cade":

NOTICE: I forewarn all persons from harboring or entertaining my wife, MRS. HATTIE MILLER, as she has been seduced and eloped with a scoundrel by the name of William Alvin Lloyd, and I will not be responsible for any debts contracted by her.--SAM K. MILLER.


From 1864, directly below an 
advertisement for the play "Trying a Shrew, or, The Day After the Wedding":

MATRIMONY.--Two young gentlemen, who are both good looking, intelligent, refined, and tried soldiers of Pickett's Division, are desirous of commencing a series of correspondence with any young ladies who may have a view to matrimony after the adjustment of existing troubles.  The ladies must possess similar qualifications.

Friday, April 11, 2014

All the happy.

Or, a love letter to the ASC.

Though I'm not officially on summer break until mid-May, it feels like it's the end of the year, because it is, kind of.  Spring term is over on April 17th, and after that, people start leaving.  One in my cohort is leaving for good, two are taking gap years, one is working through the degree on a many-year plan and won't be in classes with us next year, one is probably leaving for good, one is skipping May Term and won't be back in Staunton full-time until next January. Whether we like it or not, we're starting to say goodbye to people next week.

And while that's just a little bit sad, I have had just THE BEST year here.  The only thing that could have made it better is if Tim had been able to live with me and share my experiences.  I have made some incredible friends here, friends who I now cannot imagine my life without.  I feel like I've had the kind of year that people always tell you you're going to have in college, one of those "it'll be the best time of your life" kind of years.  I feel incredibly loved, supported, lucky, and blessed to know and love the people in my cohort.  I am learning all kinds of things, about Shakespeare, yes, but also (and perhaps more importantly) about myself.

Last Sunday afternoon, the ASC closed the incredible, beautiful, wonderful, magical Actors' Renaissance Season, and in the evening, they held a riotous, rollicking, rambunctious benefit concert.  It was absolutely wonderful.  I danced/bounced/sang along in the upper gallery sandwiched between Jordan and Marshall, happy as a clam.  Overflowing with joy.  It was a magnificent evening.

But as the ARS ended, we had to say goodbye to some of the actors, maybe for good.  Some won't be back at all next year, some are moving to the touring troupe.  Congratulations to them; I'm sure they're all off to bigger and better things, but these people (who have no idea who I am) have become a part of my Staunton family, and they hold a place in my heart, and saying goodbye to them feels like an ending.  How do you say thank you to people who don't know you?  How do you express all the things they meant to you?  (Erotema.)  I don't have an answer.  I only have love.

Tim, why do you have so much soul?  Where do you keep it all?  Why are you leaving me for the tour?  Why can't you stay and do a one-man As You Like It?  Why are you so cosmically wonderful and talented?  

Andrew.  Your Corin.  I gave me feelings.  You were so sweet, so lovelorn, so pure.  I know the tour is a good gig, but I wish you were staying here, because you're so delightful.

Josh, I just need to tell you that the mustache/hair combo you had going on this season was so intensely sexy.  Also, your Apemantus was so dry and cynical and perfect.  You were so well-cast this season, and I just fell in love with you.  I need you and your sweet, soulful, sensual cello playing in my life.

Chris, you are a perfect, wonderful, talented surfer-dude kind of guy.  Don't ever leave me.

Jonathan (aka Beardy McNewGuy), I'm sorry it took me so long to learn your name.  I plead distraction--your shoulders are too perfect for words and I couldn't stop staring.  But aside from your physical beauty, your talent is blinding.  Your Jacques was melancholy and cynical, your Alcibiades was deliciously acerbic, and your King in Maid's Tragedy (who I'm sure had a name) was greasy and skeezy and wonderful.  I hope you're staying for the summer.  Also, can you just play the piano soulfully forever?  Because yowza.

Alli, can you please just be my best friend?  I think that everything you do is magical.  You're ever so incredibly talented, you're beautiful, you're genuine, and you're kind.  Of all my ASC-actor-interactions this year, the one I had with you was my favorite.  So...pedicures?  I promise you'll like me.  I'm kind of rad.

Rene, your performance as Timon gave me chills absolutely every time I saw it.  You were beyond superb.  It was riveting, it was compelling, it was raw.  If it were in my power to give you every single major award for it, I would, because that's how good you were.  I wish we could extend the run, and I wish more people were open to seeing such a little-known play.  You were just brilliant.  You ARE just brilliant.  I adore you.

Greg.  Gregory.  Darling, wonderful, handsome Gregory.  You are so talented, and I feel so lucky to be able to witness your power on the stage.  You clearly love what you're doing, you love the audience, and we love you right back.  You pour all of yourself into every performance, which is so brave of you, and so gratifying to witness.  I love that you give yourself over to the craft completely whether you're rehearsing, performing, or just singing a sweet, sad song with a friend.  I'm not looking forward to the day I leave Staunton for good, and can't find your gorgeous face and incredible talent at the playhouse whenever I like.  I don't have the words to express what you mean to me.

ASC, thank you.  Thank you for being part of the best year of my life.  Thank you for sharing your talent with me.  Thank you for helping me figure out that I don't love Troilus & Cressida, but that I do love Timon of Athens.  

Now then.  I'm leaving Staunton in 2016.  Can you please, please, please do Two Gents, The Importance of Being Earnest, Midsummer, and King John before I go?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Five-iversary musings.

April 5th is our five-iversary, of which I'm incredibly proud.  People always say that marriage is hard, marriage takes a lot of work, but that's something that I just haven't found to be true.  (My theory on this is that if you do something (or someone) you love, you'll never work a day in your life (or marriage).)  This is not to say that our lives have been all sunshine and rainbows since the day we got married; far from it.  We've had some personal and professional challenges, but none of that affected our marriage or how we feel about each other.  Because why should it?

Shout out to the monumentally dear Ellen Margolis, who performed our wedding ceremony with grace, charm, wit, and aplomb, and who taught the class in which Tim and I met lo those many years ago, when I was only 19.  Dearest, darling Ellen, I cannot even begin to express how very lucky we feel to know you and your Noisies, and how very grateful we are that we continue to know and adore you with each passing year.  You, my dear, are just the bee's knees.

I feel exceptionally blessed that we still have deep and abiding friendships with all members of our wedding party, Tiffanie, Hilary, Sara, Nathan, Frank, and Natey (who is probably too old now to be called Natey, but he can just deal with it).

On this five-iversariest of all five-iversaries, I'm attending a conference on Shakespeare biography at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC (my house of worship).  I'm rubbing elbows with Stephen Greenblatt, and Margareta deGrazia, and Leonard Goldman, the editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (fascinating conference tidbits forthcoming, but I have to get through the end of the semester first).  And tonight, my beloved and I will eat pizza together, hold hands, and stare into each others eyes in such a way as to make strangers around us wish they had what we have.

And as always, we'll go waterfall-searching when the weather turns a little warmer.

Monday, March 31, 2014

If this is the worst part of my day, I'm doing pretty good.

Things that made me angsty today (100% professor-induced):

  • Professor #1 has no concept of time management and wasted 90 minutes of my time. In 90 minutes, I could have finished two assignments.  Instead, I tried in vain to focus on some reading while all the things happened around me.  I finished four pages.
  • Professor #2 sent an email postponing tomorrow's class start time, but did not say when class would actually start.  We'll start "when this other thing finishes."  Okay...but what time is that other thing supposed to finish?  Just tell me where I need to be and when!
Things that made me super happy today (100% non-professor-related):
  • I woke up with my husband and my kitten snuggled in my bed.
  • I spent a few delightful, laugh-filled minutes this morning with some delightful, laugh-inducing friends.  Shout out to Marshall, who is always best when he is Nearshall and not Farshall, and who gives stupendous hugs, and who is just a really, really great member of the Face Club: a club for people who like each other's faces.
  • It was sunny and almost warm when I walked home from the theatre this afternoon.
  • I had a super tasty grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.
  • And then I had a delicious orange.
  • And then I had some perfectly wonderful honeycrisp apple juice.
  • And then I had some Monticello apple cider.
  • And then I had a salted caramel cupcake.
  • And then I had leftover chicken soup, which was so homey and wonderful.
  • (Anaphora!)
  • I had a really productive afternoon.
  • I took a dreamy bath this evening.
So, all in all, I had a pretty dang great day.

Friday, March 28, 2014


I've felt incredibly lucky and fulfilled ever since I moved to Staunton.  I love what I do, but more importantly, I absolutely adore the people surrounding me.

Tonight I saw Servant of Two Masters at the ASC with my hilarious and intelligent friend Aubrey, and then went to our local watering hole to watch some important sportsing with the very dear Meredith and the incomparable Jordan. 

Our class right now is basically a troupe of the walking wounded: we have a broken leg, a broken wrist, several people battling mental disorders of varying degrees of severity, and a couple of people moving through the stages of grief.  We are a broken and beleaguered bunch, but I am beside myself with bliss.  My friends are incredible, talented, smart, and most of all, kind folks.  There's not much else to say; I just feel really damn lucky.

Last June, before I moved here, Tim and I were driving somewhere, and I said (apropos of nothing, as I am wont to do) "I can't wait to meet my new friends."  Girl, if you only knew then, you would have moved here six weeks earlier.

Shout out to the people who are making my days so bright: Marshall and Merlyn, Aubrey and Patrick, Meredith, Jordan, Kendra, Adrienne, Ian, Ziegs, Jamie, Lia, and Megan.

Just happy.  Happy, happy, happy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ruminations and resolutions.

I'm irritated with a friend of mine.  I believe that she and another person unnecessarily concealed some information from me, instead of addressing it like the adults we pretend to be.  The point is that I'm frustrated with her.

Now, every time either of these girls show up in my facebook feed, or if I get a text or email from one of them, I greet it with an annoyed muttering of "whore" or "bitch" or similar under my breath.

Regardless of my immediate feelings about these women, I love and respect my friend.  She is a strong, independent, passionate young lady who is going to do great things.  She is neither a whore nor a bitch.  So why can't I express my feelings in a more constructive manner?  When did I become part of the self-perpetuating cycle of female-on-female abuse?  What's the point of calling her a name?  How is that reaction any better than what she did in the first place?  How does my pejorative ejaculation help me feel better or resolve the situation?  (Erotema.)

This state of affairs reminds me of a horrifyingly embarrassing moment in my undergrad years, where I said some reading was "crap" in the middle of class.  My professor (who I deeply respect and desperately wanted to impress) called me out on it--that's not a word a college student needs to use to express herself.  It's fine to dislike the reading, but only if one can engage with it and articulate what about it was problematic.  I haven't stopped calling things crap, but you can bet that I absolutely consider before using the word.  These days, I use it mostly to refer to the flotsam littering the flat surfaces of my apartment, or to describe how I'm feeling if I'm under the weather.

I'm 28, and I spend a lot of time claiming to be an adult and bemoaning the fact that I'm surrounded by 22-24 year olds who act their age.  But if I'm still calling women bitches and whores, women I love and respect, I'm no better than the highly dramatic girls around me, and I'm certainly no better than I was at 19.  It's time to add pointless name-calling to the list of things I want to change about myself.  It's also time to recommit to refraining from gossip and backbiting.  I've found myself sucked in too frequently lately, and it's not helping anything.  It doesn't change the situation and it doesn't make me feel better.  So what's the point?

This year, I'd like to be better about that.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014



Just so we're clear, marriage equality is happening or about to happen in the following states:  California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, IOWA, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, TEXAS, UTAH, Vermont, VIRGINIA, and Washington.  But not Oregon.

OREGON, GET IT TOGETHER.  Yes, you have some pretty great legal allowances for domestic partnerships, but THAT'S NOT THE SAME THING.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Thesis Festival 2014, part one, in which I exhaustedly give you the "official" write-up and leave my FEELINGS for another day.

Thesis Festival 2014

Session one:

Session two:

Session three:

I have not read these write-ups, because we finished the day just over an hour ago, I am stinking exhausted, and I still have homework to do for class tomorrow.  Spring break can't get here fast enough, y'all.  

I had a page and a half of FEELINGS about one particular presentation (see if you can guess which one!) that I hope to be able to share with you tomorrow (schedule permitting).

And now, to sleep, perchance to dream.

Taymor post-mortem, part three, in which I get angsty about gender, move from a critique of JT to a critique of my program, and conclude my disagreements

Ellen, I hear ya!  Your patience is rewarded, as I finally make the time to finish my FEELINGS.

Continuing my wrap-up of Julie Taymor's talk at George Washington University's Global Shakespeares symposium at the end of January:

  • Taymor calls Midsummer "sloppy," but also a masterpiece.  Can it be both?  I think Midsummer is as near as Shakespeare ever came to a perfect play.  Isn't a "sloppy masterpiece" an oxymoron?  I don't think there's anything "sloppy" about Midsummer, unless you're looking at what editors and compositors have done to it over the years.  I'm particularly irked by what the editors of the most recent Norton edition did to it.  And just last week, in my textual culture class, I learned that an error made by a compositor in the printshop (when Midsummer was being prepared for its second quarto printing) managed to work its way into the accepted text of the play and that error has survived for 400 years.  So who, exactly, is being sloppy here?  It's certainly not the man himself.
  • I mean, the structure of the play is sound.  We have three fully-developed plots that progress and interweave and then are nicely resolved at the end.  Where's the slop, Julie Taymor?  Ugh.  FEELINGS.
Moving on to Taymor's film version of The Tempest, which was inspired by a stage production she did at some other point in time:
  • Taymor said that she didn't intend to do Tempest with a woman, but ended up with Helen Mirren sort of by accident, since she didn't have an actor already in mind for the role of Prospero.
  • Though Taymor clearly regendered Prospero for the film, she seems to be explaining her choice of using Helen Mirren because she's just a great actor (which she is). Okay…so WHY was it necessary to regender the role instead of just cross-gender casting it?  She spoke at length about the complex, lengthy, and difficult task of regendering the language in the script, but did not explain why she thought it was important to tell the story with Prospero as a woman.  Woman Prospero turns The Tempest into something different than what Shakespeare wrote; there's no getting around that fact. 
  • (Full disclosure: one of the second-year students in my program is working on a thesis right now about regendering some of Shakespeare's "villains" ["villains" in quotes because the characters she picked for regendering are Iago, Tybalt, and Shylock, only one of which is an actual villain], and I'm having really strong FEELINGS about it that are informing my reaction to the fact that JT clearly regendered this role and didn't speak to the reasoning behind it except to say that HM was the right choice for the role because she's so damn great.)
  • (Okay, and also because the MFA company in my program just did a regendered production of Faustus that was horrifying in that by regendering, they highlighted every awful trait that generally goes with being a woman [flighty, fickle, easily distracted by a sexy man, etc].)
  • The thing about regendering is that no one has so far been able to provide me with an argument in its favor that I find satisfactory.  (Thesis girl's argument for it is "why not" [seriously, every time she's been asked why, that's been her answer], the MFA company's argument is [I think] that they want the undergraduates at this all-girls school to be able to identify with the character and imagine themselves in that role, and JT's argument seems to be just that HM is a great actor, which she is.)  But there has long been a theatrical tradition of cross-gender casting, and there have been some high-profile productions in recent years with major roles being cross-gendered (excluding the all-men and all-women productions that spring up from time to time, which I believe is a different subject entirely).  Regendering just isn't necessary for the story, and is often detrimental or ineffective for the characters.
Clearly I have some FEELINGS about gender and the way my program is dealing with it right now.  There was no opportunity to ask questions at last night's installment of the Thesis Festival, so I'm brimming over with them today.  I imagine I might have a chance to ask questions at today's session, and if I have anything new to add, I'll write a post-mort of that as well.

If you're interested, here's the official live-blog of last night's session:  It gave me FEELINGS (the event, not the live-blog, which I haven't read).  (Actually, no, the live-blog gave me FEELINGS as well, but only because I was sitting directly in front of the person responsible for doing it, which meant there was no escape from the furious clickety-clack of ridiculously fast typing.)

That's it! That's all she wrote!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Taymor post-mortem, part two, in which I take issue with more things, dive into Titus Andronicus, and finish with angst about respecting the text.

Continuing my wrap-up of Julie Taymor's talk at George Washington University's Global Shakespeares symposium this past weekend:

  • "I put on stage no more than Shakespeare did." Regarding the violence in Titus.  Well, maybe.  But even if that's a true statement (and I'm really not convinced it is, since you were working with better materials, more money, and more resources than Shakespeare was), nearly everything else you put out there is, in fact, so much more than what Shakespeare put up.
  • She claims to have pulled Lavinia's stumpy marsh setting from the text.  I assume she's referencing Act 2, Scene 4, lines 1-4: 
Demetrius:  So, go now, tell, an if thy tongue can speak,
Who 'twas that cut thy tongue and ravished thee.
Chiron:  Write down thy mind, bewray thy meaning so,
An if thy stumps will let thee play the scribe. 
And later, Marcus's lines 2.4.16-18:
Speak, gentle niece, what stern ungentle hands
Hath lopped and hewed and made thy body bare
Of her two branches... 
 I understand where she's coming from, but she's misrepresenting herself (and perhaps Shakespeare) here, if you ask me (which you didn't, but you're reading my blog, so I'm going to tell you what I think, whether you like it or not, which you presumably understand. So there).  What she means, I'm sure, is that she was inspired by Shakespeare's marvelous language and imagery here, and that those words gave her the vision of Lavinia stranded atop a stump in a marshy, stumpy wasteland.  I just wish she'd been clearer about this point.  Though she was speaking to a room of mostly Shakespeare scholars, who I'm sure understood what she meant, there were several undergraduate students in the room, and I'd hate for them to come away with a warped sense of what Shakespeare created.  On the other hand, after the afternoon wrapped up, I had a lovely, long conversation about Shakespeare with my dear friend Haylie, who's studying early modern literature at GWU, and it appears that she and I (and by extension, GWU and MBC) have fundamentally different ideas about Shakespeare.  Haylie and GWU fall into the post-modern, highly critical, quasi-experimental school of thinking about Shakespeare.  (I hope I'm not misrepresenting Haylie here.  I was really exhausted and I'm doing my very best to remember what she was saying.)  MBC and I fall into the original practices camp, which is based heavily on a healthy respect-bordering-on-reverence for the text and the language, and frowns on the conceptual and experimental approach to the Bard.  (Hey, look at me! I'm drinking the kool aid!)  
  • (Though again, if last night's MFA company performance of Dr. Faustus is any indication, not all the students are buying into the original practices line of thinking.  But that's another post for another day on different feelings.)  
  • (I'll just say this, and then I promise I'll move on: Arg, sexy devils. Arg, ineffectual re-gendering undermining the entire play.  Arg, inconsistent settings.  Arg, random, erratic costume choices.  Arg, essentially pointless "special effects."  Arg, an entire company with no respect for themselves, each other, or their work.)
  • "I think Shakespeare knows what he's doing." In reference to Marcus's very long speech after discovering Lavinia.  She continued her discussion of the speech to include the fact that she cut it in half because it's just too long to let an actor speak unchecked.  (My assumption is she thinks this holds true for film, but not for theatre.  At least, I hope she doesn't think that holds true for theatre.  If she does, heaven forfend she ever directs Hamlet.)  The speech in question here is 2.4.11-57.  It's a mildly lengthy speech, but by no means Shakespeare's longest.  It takes one minute to speak twenty lines.  So, Julie Taymor, you're opposed to letting one actor talk, uninterrupted, for two minutes?  Because if that's how you feel, then you clearly don't "think Shakespeare knew what he was doing," or at minimum, you think you know better.  Which you don't.  Because Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the entire English language, and you, while celebrated now, will not be taught in classrooms worldwide in 400 years.  This is making me angsty.  I should probably give up the ghost for the night.
Tune in later this week for the conclusion of Julie Taymor's talk, which touches on The Tempest and her recently closed, wildly successful, highly praised production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  There will be more feelings.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Taymor post-mortem, part one, in which I offer tidbits and take issue with many things

While the symposium this weekend was certainly no Blackfriars Conference, it was full of scholarly delight and mind-expanding Shakespeare.  Cheers to my darling friend Haylie for organizing such a smashing event!

The highlight was (clearly) the two-hour conversation with Julie Taymor and Harry Lennix on Saturday.  Harry is kind of a big-deal actor, though the only thing I've ever seen him in is Titus, and I haven't seen that in many a year.  Recently he's been in Man of Steel, Ray, and The Blacklist, and he's got a lot of projects coming out this year.  I'm (obviously) most excited about Macbett, H4, and Romeo and Juliet in Harlem, in which he's playing Macduff, King Henry, and Capulet, respectively.  He's got a deliciously deep voice, he's very tall, and he's every kind of personable and sweet.  I was quite taken with him, and I wish he'd been able to talk more.  

Julie Taymor, on the other hand, while clearly a great artist, did not seem like a person I'd want to hang out with.  I'm not really sure how libel/slander works, so that's all I'm going to say about that.

Rather than try to create an accurate summation of the afternoon, I'm basically just going to transcribe my notes from the talk, but I'll turn it into complete sentences for you.  There are some direct quotes that I was very careful to record accurately and keep in context.  This was also quite illuminating for me, as I was able to gauge just how much I'm drinking the kool aid of my program.  (Hint: it's a lot.  I've got a near-total buy-in to the point of view that's being taught here.)  Here goes:

  • I always forget that Julie Taymor does non-Shakespeare work, like The Lion King and Across the Universe.
  • Before the talk began, they showed a 7-ish minute reel of all of JT's major projects of the last several years--Oedipus, Lion King, Titus, Frida, Magic Flute, Tempest, Across the Universe, etc.  Seeing them all together like that, I'm profoundly struck by how much it all looks the same.  I have complicated feelings about that.  I don't quite know how to articulate them, but I'll just say that I think this is a little more pervasive than just having a distinct, signature style.  It feels flat, repetitive, staid.  (Asyndeton.)  
  • After The Lion King went up, JT was in talks to direct The Cat in the Hat. She turned it down because her vision didn't work with what they [my notes are unclear on who "they" are] wanted.
  • "[Titus] puts Quentin Tarantino into Mary Had a Little Lamb!"  I laughed at this.  It's true, Titus is a whole different kind of gruesome. 
  • JT's first concept for Titus was to set it in Vegas at Caesar's Palace. 
  • "I do think Shakespeare on film is easier" for understanding the language, because of the ability to have close-up shots of the actors; to see their lips move makes it more comprehensible to the audience.  Also, the actors don't have to work as hard to project.  My reaction: This seems like a very narrow view of thinking, and also seems to devalue and diminish your audience.
  • Recorded several of the performances of the last week of the run of Midsummer; may try to distribute it to movie theaters a la NT Live.  Wouldn't that be a treat?  The reviews were great, and I'd like to see it.
  • Pacino was attached to Titus for a year before they got Hopkins.  Pacino just wouldn't commit.  That's an interesting choice.  I don't know that he's right for that role.  However, that's colored by Anthony Hopkins's incredible performance--it's hard to imagine someone else doing that.
  • Hopkins did the hand-chopping-off scene in ONE TAKE.  That's it.  There were no additional shots.  Boom.
  • I might have been misunderstanding this, but it sounded like she was advocating the use of concepts and visual devices to help people hear and understand the language.  I fundamentally disagree with this approach.  If you have a good actor who's spent time with the text and is prepared, you don't need anything else--in fact, adding anything else is going to be a distraction that will prevent people from hearing and understanding the language.  As proof of this statement, I present the American Shakespeare Center and all the work they're doing there.  Specifically, Allison Glenzer, Gregory Jon Phelps, John Harrell, Benjamin Curns, Rick Blunt, Tim Sailer, and Rene Thornton, Jr.  Incredible actors who get inside the text and make it their own.  And yes, they use costumes and props to help tell the stories, but they certainly don't need them.  Any one of those seven, and probably any one of the rest of the resident or touring troupes, could stand on stage--or anywhere--and make you understand the language with no costumes, no props, no nothing.  Just them, and the words, and you.  (Polysyndeton.)  And it would be incredible.
Thus ends the first third-ish of my notes.  Now, dear friends, it is time for me to sleep.  Tune in maybe tomorrow, maybe later in the week, for part two of my notes!

Monday, January 20, 2014

An idiosyncracy, or, a bunch of random thoughts that should never see the light of day, but I'm bored, so here we go.

In response to a query from one of my colleagues today, I want to make a list of the things I drink regularly:

Hot chocolate (in cold weather)
Apple cider (in cold weather)

Occasionally I'll drink apple juice in the mornings, and I go through phases (every other year or so) where I enjoy some gatorade.


This weekend I'm going to a Shakespeare symposium at George Washington University.  Julie Taymor is the keynote speaker AND it's free.  I'm beyond excited.


It was 50F here today, and we're supposed to wake up to 8 inches of snow in the morning.  I don't understand the weather on this side of the country.  I'll be very happy to move back home to the great state of Oregon, which leads me to my next point…


Oregonians are particularly fierce about how awesome our state is; a point that I was aware of, but that was pointed out to me again this weekend by my good pal Marshall and his lovely fiancee Tess. I feel like I should apologize for or defend this, but I don't think I need to.  Oregon is awesome.  Deal with it, everywhere else.


Or, you know, we're just drinking our own kool aid.