Sunday, December 11, 2011

To Be. . . Continued?

Shakespeare 232 - A Summary
I have to say, this class is not at all what I expected. (And I mean that in the best way possible). The atmosphere was very different from that of a formal class, which made the experience far more enjoyable; it became more of a Shakespeare-enthusiast book club with in-depth conversation, as opposed to some dull scholarly bi-weekly lecture.

Engaging Shakespeare Event
As far as the event goes, I was pretty impressed with the event and how it all went down. The projects were all very well-done, and I enjoyed finally getting to see all of them come together. Besides the relief of being finished with the documentary project, I was most enthusiastic about getting to see the production group perform. They did a fabulous job - well done!

How I've met the four learning outcomes this semester:

1) Gain Shakespeare Literacy

There are several ways I've gained Shakespeare Literacy over the past semester;
Sometimes, a picture quite literally says a thousand words,
such as this one, taken from a page in my copy of Hamlet.
First, as shown to the right, is by becoming an active participant in what I read. I mark up my text, write down questions, highlight recurring themes, and often look up what I don't understand to get a better understanding of what's going on. A few times, I've shared my findings in some of my posts.

Second, I've learned to use the tools available to fill in the gaps. Sparknotes summaries are great for previewing text or reviewing difficult passages; "No Fear Shakespeare" is an awesome tool for understanding the nitty gritty, (although I don't like to rely on it too much, since it's someone else's interpretations of the text). What's helped me more than anything though has been watching Shakespeare while reading it (Thank you, Netflix and Youtube, and huge THANK YOU to Utah Shakespeare Company in Cedar City, Pioneer Theater Company, and Grassroots Shakespeare Company). Shakespeare is absolutely

2) Critically analyze Shakespeare

I think throughout this course, this is the learning outcome I've had the least trouble with. Whether deciphering Hamlet's motives (with a little help from George Nelson), or processing and re-analyzing As You Like it over the course of several evolving posts, this was second nature to someone who, as a thespian, has had it hammered into her little brain to decipher text for motives and meanings, and this class has only honed my abilities further.

3) Engage Shakespeare creatively

This is something that, oddly enough, I struggled with a bit more in this class; but, in the end, I think I pulled through. One example was my post Mystery in the Music, where I talked about the connection music had with The Tempest and with romance and fantasy as a whole, and chose some pieces of music for an imaginary production of it.

I also connected my love of theater to Shakespeare in a few differents ways; for example, my post on how I would, as a director, begin to approach King Lear and how I would work with the actors of Goneril and Regan.

4) Share Shakespeare
It's true I had very little success and response in the way of "Global" sharing, but I don't think my sharing of Shakespeare this semester has been a total failure;

Because of this class, I've had many a conversation sparked with roommates, fellow cast members, friends and family members, and I've learned from each experience. (For example, after our trip to see The Tempest I brought the program to theater class to show Angela, a costume designer, Ariel's amazing Steampunk attire. . .and also got into a conversation with an actor who had also seen it, discussing things like our opinion of Prospero's performance, etc).

I also think that the documentary is a great way for us to share Shakespeare; now that it's posted, its available for anyone anywhere to see, and hopefully will spark some interest in the subject for people outside of our normal little sphere of influence. I'm going to keep tabs on views in the future, and hopefully it will make some sort of impact.

I think the most valuable sharing that has happened in this class though have been the blogging groups. I was lucky enough to be in a group of some very smart people, and have learned so much from them, I couldn't even begin to explain. I think the setup for this class has been ideal, having individual blogs to put up our own thoughts and perceptions, but still having the small group of peers to see how their opinions differ, and to get their feedback. I've gained much more from this than I ever would have learned on my own, and I think more classes should be organized this way.

Final Thoughts
As this term ends, I can't help but feel a little disappointed that our little "book club" has to end. . .and although I haven't been able to put much thought into it now (thanks you, finals week), I feel like maybe it would be fun to extend our learning into a more informal Shakespeare Book Club later on (for those who are interested)? It's just a thought. . .

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Director's Interview Questions

Before shooting today's rehearsal, I wanted to get down some definitive questions we could ask Averill. I already came up with a few questions before:

  • Do you have any experience directing?
  • What kind of challenges are you facing trying to lead others through this process?
  • Do you have a definitive concept for this show?
  • What do you want the audience to get out of watching this?

In addition, I'd like to add:

  • Can you explain how you've organized the task of putting together the script? Who's writing what?
  • Are the three seperate stories going to play out one at a time, or are do you plan to switch rapidly between the couples for more distinct comparisons?
  •  Are there things you wish you knew or understood better as you go into this process?
  •  Do you have any plans as far as costuming goes?
Also, I'm playing with the idea of searching for some good, subtle background music we could add to the finished product. I'll bring it up when we meet today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Spontaniety vs Nerves

To see our groups progress on the documentary project, see Kelsie's Blog. We should have a promo video up either now or coming very soon!

Anyway, for our initial interviews we decided not to give the interviewees time to come up with prepared answers, in the name of spontaniety. However, we've noticed how the combination of nerves and getting put on the spot is maybe being a bit counterproductive.

I think we've come to the decision to try changing our tactics a bit and giving them more time to prepare responses, and compare the results. Whichever method seems to work best is what we'll use in the future.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Documentary Group Project

I'm part of Kelsie's documentary group for the final project, where we'll basically be stalking Averill's production group with cameras and following them through their process. As I've discussed with Kelsie, my experience with film and "documentaries" is, unfotunately, pretty limited. I do have some experience with theater, directing, and different forms of digital media (video editing as well as other forms of digital media, mainly using Adobe products in general) so hopefully those skills will come in handy.

We discussed last time in class what we would like to get out of this project and the kinds of questions we'd like to ask the cast and director before they really get into the rehearsal project (they are outlined on Kelsie's blog).

Some other things I'd like to find out as we go through this process are about how Averill goes about directing this piece. Some thing's I'd like to learn are:
  • Do you have any experience directing?
  • What kind of challenges are you facing trying to lead others through this process?
  • Do you have a definitive concept for this show?
  • What do you want the audience to get out of watching this?
Also, in general, I'm curious about how they will go about moving this production forward, and I'm excited to see how it turns out!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

King Lear: A Prospective Director's Perspective

Coming into this play, I've been keeping in mind the discussion I had with Dr. Burton about how I need to try to engage Shakespeare creatively more. For some reason, as a thespian, I found it difficult to pin down something specific to talk about because theater and Shakespeare are so intertwined, that it seemed like it was too broad to try to give a truly unique perspective on it. But in the end, I guess we decided that many of you who are not in theater might possibly gain some insight from seeing how I would approach a show from a Director's perspective.

This I also find difficult because a Director's role and purpose is sort of vague at this point in education. In fact, until recently, most director's didn't even study at universities and get degrees, but rather studied under other director's at theaters (which, in some ways, I sometimes wonder if that is more effective, especially for people like me who learn by seeing and doing.) I've seen many a director at work, and am directing myself now for the third time in my life. But. . . it seems that there is little instruction in this field. Rather, the teachers/professors tend to just throw you in the lake without a life jacket and hope you can swim.

Here's a breif and simple explanation, as far as I understand it:
In a production, one first must read through the text many times, first for enjoyment, and then again a few more times to get a deep understanding of what the purpose and needs for that show will be. The most important thing, then, is to come up with a definitive concept for that show. Ask yourself questions such as

  • What is this show about?
  • What is the deep underlying meaning here?
  • What do I want to teach the audience?
In this show particularly, it's hard to see what a good concept would be thus far, seeing as were only 2 acts in. So far, I'm seeing a lot as far as artifice, miscommunication, and deciet.

Skipping ahead past the audition process and past initial blocking rehearsals, I would then sit down with some of the actors (particularly of Cordelia, Goneril, and Regan) and discuss their characters with them. I would include questions for them (their characters) such as:
  • What was your childhood like?
  • What do you fear most?
  • How do you respond to feeling threatened?
  • What was the relationship like between your mother and father?
It's really important to establish where a character is coming from, especially in a play like this; otherwise, they might come off as flat and 2-dimensional. (Such as the Prospero in the version we saw of the Tempest perhaps. Maybe that was just me, but he seemed like he was just saying lines.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Midterm Assessment

I'm sorry I didn't get this posted before. My schedule is packed and insane this month and especially this week, and getting this posted just wasn't an option yesterday, but here it is, sans-pictures:

A. Learning Outcomes

1. How have I gained Shakespeare Literacy?

I think the sheer number of works we've read through this semester has helped me to gain better "literacy" of Shakespeare's works. Just like with learning a new language, you really have to immerse yourself into it and expose yourself to a lot of it before you get the hang of it. First comes the plot, then the characterization, and finally at some point you'll start to get all of the nitty-gritty jokes and cultural references woven into the text. I had been exposed to several of his works, in film and theater as well as in the text, before this class; but it's something that will always be improved upon with more practice.

Reading so many of his works also has helped me to see common themes, motifs, and messages coming through several of his works as a whole. Taking a look at the gestalt so to speak might give us a little more insight into life of the man himself. For example, we talked about the commonalities between the couples of Perdita/Florizel and Ferdinand/Miranda, and I repeatedly mention (or, rant, rather, one of which you can see here) my irritation at the "love at first sight" theme that seems to rear its ugly head in so many of his plays, including The Tempest, Love's Labour's Lost, As You Like It, and The Winter's Tale. Also mentioned in class was the common theme of Duke Banishment.

I've also gotten to know specific plays ( especially As You Like It) more intimately in the specific themes and possible intentions of the writing during my personal reading process. Through searching external sources, reading Cassandra's blogs on the subject, and seeing several versions of it, I came to many conclusions that I had never seen or imagined in my experience with the same work before. I won't go into much detail on that, because I've already talked extensively on the subject in the blog posts about homosexual themes, analysis of film versions ,and my final analysis.

I think as far as gaining literacy with performances, watching the Winter's Tale in Cedar City really gave me some new insights as to how to sort of translate the text into action. The best example of this was the festival scenes with Autolycus. I know a lot of us read that play thinking . . .what on earth is that character doing here? The "spectacle" of the festival scenes confused us, Autolycus' motives and purpose was unclear, and the whole 3/4 act seemed to be an enigma. But watching David Iver's play that character out. . . it was hard to describe, but suddenly Autolycus not only had a purpose in moving the plot forward, but he stole the show! There's much to be said there about his works being meant to be watched and not read.

Culture and new media is something I probably need to look into more. I've seen some modernized versions of plays, and sometimes played with reading "No Fear Shakespeare" (Where the original text is on the left side of the screen and modernized on the right) but I think that's something I could look into more for improvement of my understanding.

2. How have I analyzed Shakespeare critically?

Being trained as I am from a theatrical experience by a concept-Nazi of a Technical Director/Stage Craft Instructor, I find myself mostly blogging, discussing in class, and thinking about themes/concepts/motifs I see in the text. (The Grassroots Shakespeare company would surely disapprove, but its been hard wired into my head again and again.) But the way I figure it, if Shakespeare was the kind of artsy-fartsy literarary/theatrical geek he's made out to be, he'd probably be putting these things in there in the first place. After all, would you go through writing these long, elaborate plays and not include some kind of deeper meaning? I have a hard time imagining not. I did a lot of this in As You Like It as mentioned above, but another example of this was when I was analyzing the concepts behind the set in the production we saw of The Winter's Tale.

I also find myself very often asking (both to myself and in blog form) Why did Shakespeare write this in relation to his life and his culture surrounding the time. I haven't had time to research more into these specific questions, but it often crosses my mind.

What I have done though is look at specific choices in productions I've seen, such as Kenneth Branagh's As You Like It (set in 19th century feudal Japan) and the Cedar City Winter's Tale, where I mentioned my theory that director Brian Vaughn chose the early 20th century setting because of its connection with women's rights movements.

3. How have I engaged Shakespeare creatively?

You know. . .there's probably instances of this the past semester but I just can't think of anything specific right now. This saddens me; creativity is what makes my world tick, so I'm not sure where I went wrong with this part.

4. How have I shared Shakespeare meaningfully?
Unfortunately as a Freshman with a maddeningly strict schedule, socializing has taken up a very small part of my time since my arrival here. . . and very little of it has involved Shakespeare (unless forcibly) outside of class. It's strange, because my friends back home are all theater junkies who all love Shakespeare. I guess even when I go visit them (to watch them perform various scenes of Shakespeare, no less) we're more interested in talking about the weeks of our lives we've missed out on in eachothers absence rather than Shakespeare itself. I guess its more of a binding and implicit understanding the binds us, rather than something explicit that we discuss openly. It was easier to have that sort of discussion last year, when we did things together (like competing in the Shakespearean Festival) and, not having to catch up, could then discuss performances we'd seen.

I've found that talking with the other students in class has been more meaningful this semester than anything else. Just being able to talk to the other students about what they are seeing opens up my eyes to things I never saw in the text myself (Like Kelsie's comment on Prospero portraying himself as a Christ-like figure) and I think I've learned more from their comments then from anything else.

B. Self Directed Learning

  • What have I done that demonstrates I have taken charge of my own learning about Shakespeare?
I think more than anything, taking a look at the way I mark up the text I'm reading shows how I'm taking a personal interest in learning more. I've got a picture I'll post later of a certain page in Hamlet that looks more like a coloring book than anything, but I think that actively engaging in what I'm reading, taking note of things I want to look into later, and researching things I don't understand has really been where I've taken charge in my own learning through this process.
  • How am I doing at planning my learning, documenting my learning, finding appropriate resources for my learning, scheduling and carrying out learning activities, and measuring my learning?  
  Planning has been a little lacking admittedly, because my schedule is ever evolving I never know if I'm actually going to get to the reading I intended to that day. I don't have a problem with being consistent so much as I am on being on time. (I get behind once and I'm forever one step behind). I've found some resources that really have helped me along the way, like the yippy search engine for commonly used words/themes, the "no fear shakespeare" for passages I'm having trouble with, and reading other student's blogs on the same play especially have helped me. I find sometimes I will make discoveries in the reading I don't end up sharing in my blog, which is a bit detrimental as far as "documenting my learning." A lot of my blog posts are really long-winded, but I still don't feel like I always get to talk about everything I want to say (sometimes its also because some of the topics are disjointed from each other.

C. Collaborative and Social Learning
  • Which students have aided me most in my own learning (through help inside or outside of class, through their comments on my blog, or through their blogging, etc.)?
 It's pretty equally spread out, we have a pretty good group haha. I find that JJ's comments are most consistent and often prompt me with new questions about my topic. Kelsie's posts and comments are always unique and make me think about things I'd never thought about before. Anthony and Matt often build on what others have been talking about with examples. And Lauren always brings up very specific elements that open up a lot of broader discussion (like the boatswain post). I also learn a lot about ways to set up my blog in more cohesive ways from observing what others do (Kelsie taught me to put links to the other group member's blogs on my sidebar, and Matt uses a lot of subheading to break up the text. JJ links a lot of related and entertaining videos. I've tried to incorporate all of their best ideas in my blog as I see fit.)
  • How is working withing the assigned learning groups working? How could this be improved?
As I mentioned before, having the discussion groups has really been helpful for me to understand the text, and talking with the small groups has taught me more than anything else we've done in this class. This fact surprised me, given the bad experiences in the past with group work. But I think the important difference is that it's not something where we're working to create something and one person is doing all the work while everyone else sits back; it's a discussion where everyone usually has something to say and contribute, and whatever they have to say really only adds to it. The only way I could think to improve it would be, as JJ mentioned, maybe to find some way to document the discussion so that the new ideas we come up with aren't lost.

  • How am I involving others (outside of my group or even our class) in my learning? Or, how am I applying my learning about Shakespeare in social settings beyond class?
 I think the first part of this question could pretty much be answered by my comments under  "how have I shared Shakespeare meaningfully." As far as applying what I learn about Shakespeare outside of class, it's a bit difficult to pin down exactly seeing as I'm a theater major. I think most specifically is observing what directors have done in other productions and applying the lessons from it into my own experiences directing. For example, Kenneth Branagh and Brian Vaugn taught me to look beyond the boundaries of time and space, to find parallels in history and culture that relate to the story, and to use that as a basis for concepts in a show. Furthermore, they've showed me with that concept, I can break through the normal confines of a show (like traditional Elizabethan settings in a Shakespearean play) and toy with other ideas. 
I'm doing that right now in the play I'm directing. "Dee and Dum" is a play written by a classmate, and its basically a creationism story of how Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum came to be (as punishment for hitting on and sort of mistreating women). It's one of many (there are tons, trust me) Alice in Wonderland spinoffs. I didn't want to make it like every other A.I.W spinoff out there, so I really looked through the text and came up with the concept of Karma as it relates to the Hindu religion . . .and long story short, this show now has a very heavy Indian/Hindu-mythological twist on it, which has given me a whole array of new ideas and possibilities to work with in this show.

    D. Looking Ahead

    I think first and foremost, I've gotten really excited about Shakespeare and want to continue reading his works after this class is over (especially Julius Caesar and Titus Andronicus). As far as the rest of class, I'd like to maybe get better about trying to keep up with reading and maybe push the whole "sharing outside of class" thing more in discussions with my friends (I plan to watch the 2010 version of The Tempest with them, so that should be a good opportunity). Also, I'm going to keep looking for new avenues to expand on "global sharing."

    As far as prospective final projects, I'm still unsure. I wanted to join Averill's production but I've already sold my soul to two other theatrical productions, so a third is a total impossibility. What I would really like to stress at this point is that whatever I do IT REALLY NEEDS TO BE SOMETHING THAT CAN BE COMPLETED IN CLASS. My other classes all seem to think everything can and should be done outside of their class time, and even just the very basic required GE classes are having impossible conflicts with eachother.

    One thing I have been thinking about is related to the movie I keep mentioning, Anonymous. Maybe we could possibly do some research on the man's life himself, go through point by point deciding if Roland Emmerich's theories have any substance behind them, and also decide if the identity of the author of these works is even important. I don't know, maybe? It's something to think about.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Contribute Globally

    I'm having a bit of trouble with this assignment. I've posted a review/discussion on "As You Like It" on goodreads. No responses yet. . .