Saturday, July 11, 2009
Now, we are both so tired but my strict, no fun, no sleeping allowed mother in law won't let me go to sleep for another 11 minutes. I can't wait!
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
and here's the skinny, curvy steps.
over it goes
Needless to say, this week has looked very different than what we expected, but here we are, sitting in an empty apartment on the floor. We are down to a mattress on the floor, our suitcases and our laptop. Just about where we were exactly a year ago, just in CA.
Wow, talk about full circle.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
So, finally, here I am. Over a week after they left, has it been 2 weeks? No, just a week and change.
My mom and brother came to visit our German life. We love having visitors because it allows us to rediscover the things we love about Kandern. The quaintness, the good food, the beautiful green hills, the hiking, the slower pace of life. And it lets me feel so fluent in German. When someone visits and they say "gracias" instead of "danke" you feel, oh so bilingual.
While they were here, we drove to Zermatt, for count 'em, a grand total of three trips to the Matterhorn. Maybe it is because of Disneyland, but everyone from California wants to see the Matterhorn.
We spent one night in Gruyères, Switzerland in the cutest little town square around. We ate fondue* for dinner only to realize that 2 pounds of cheese between 4 of us = too much cheese. But, you have to eat gruyère cheese while in Gruyères. We toured a Swiss chocolate factory, which was one of the highlights for all of us. Unlimited free samples*. It was a test of will power and I do believe the chocolate won. We visited Colmar, France and enjoyed rosti*. Cast iron pans of shredded potatoes cooked in cream and butter and covered in cheese. Hello!
We spent a day in Basel wandering the pedestrian streets and making our way through a weekly market. We bought fresh pasta* for dinner and enjoyed bratwurst from a stand. It doesn't get more authentic than standing around eating brats* purchased from a truck. Like taco trucks, only with sausage.
We hiked in the black forest and tasted cherries* straight from the trees. I was so proud of my mom. She hoofed it up to Sausenberg with her kids. I may be just like her but she is just like her mom. She spent the hike up searching for mushrooms. Grandma would be proud.
And then, just like that, the week was over and they were checking in for their flight home (with two of our suitcases!).
*Note: my life revolves around food.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
- I didn't want to read Shakespeare
- I believed the language to be too difficult
- I thought it was too old and outdated
- Every student, every year always has the same reactions that I had
- Just as Shakespeare's works are timeless, so are the SAME complaints from students
And I can say, that after teaching many stories, poems, and plays, teaching Romeo and Juliet has been my most favorite task. Here is why:
- The students generally have a basic understanding of the story, but they get to read it for the first time
- Every time I have had many students excited to have read & understood Shakespeare
- My students have gotten into the play, they enjoy the story and the characters
- After a few scenes, my students realize that Shakespeare really isn't so hard
- They love to analyze the film versions, pointing out the flaws of the films, the missing parts, and the differences between the written play (by-the-way students HATE when films change plots, characters, events from stories, they HATE it)
I have felt such an immense sense of accomplishment each time I have taught R & J that I don't think I will ever grow tired of teaching that work.
So with this as my background, I was pretty excited to go see the stage production of R & J in Shakespeare's Globe Theater (and yes, Andrew, I know that it is a fake Globe since the original was demolished and the current location is a little different that it was in Shakespeare's time, that's not the point!). I was not disappointed. It was well acted, the actors (though I did find Romeo to be pretty lame and generally a mischaracterization) were well cast, but I want to share what stood out to me the most.
The theater, as you probably know, is round. This is very different from conventional theater that we are used to, with the stage in front and all seats facing the same way. It wasn't a surprise to me that it was a round theater, but what I didn't anticipate was being so distracted by the other theater-goers.
Laura and I had seats on the third floor. We had a pretty good view of the stage, though we were off to the side a little. We also had a great view of all the "peasants" standing in the open pit area. From what I understand, a beautiful sunny day in London is rare. Well, we were in the theater on one of those rare days. The "peasants" were swarming throughout the entire play, trying to find shelter from the sun. They were also trying to find ways to avoid standing for 3 hours while still being able to see. The mass (maybe 75-100 people) circulated, leaning against the stage (where the actors tripped over them a few times), leaning against any pole or backboard they could find, sitting down or hanging off of friends.
There were also birds. I didn't ever think about birds, but pigeons would swoop into the open theater and dive past viewers heads, looking for scraps. This was very distracting. I didn't see anyone intentionally feeding these beasts, but they disrupted one of Shakespeare's finest. Shame on them.
The third thing that really caught my attention-I'm thinking now...I believe that this is the first stage production I have ever seen live of any of Shakespeare's plays-was how bawdy it was. I am no puritan when it comes to reading Shakespeare; I am well aware of the many dirty jokes in R & J. What surprised me were the quite dirty gestures that I have never found in the text. At times when I just assumed were characters talking, this production used rather graphic situations to add to the scene. It boils down to directorial decisions, I'm sure. Still, it was an aspect that I had never thought about. The situations generally fit the scene, and I'm sorry to say, made me laugh, but they weren't things that I ever would have imagined based on simply reading the script.
The last thing that I noticed was how sparse the set dressings were. It was an incredibly simple setting. There were no stage changes between scenes. If a scene changed, a character would carry on a very small and simple prop and use his language to convey the change. Again, things I knew, but seeing them made everything much more tangible or relatable. Then of course, there was the big sword fight between Tybalt and Mercutio. Sparks literally flew. Sure they were probably fake swords, but the action came across as very real. It was intense.
Okay, one more thing. (Spoiler alert: Romeo and Juliet both die.) After the final tragic scene, the play ended. But there was no dramatic hushed rushing off of stage to prepare for the curtain call. The actors jumped to their feet, quickly bowed and then the whole cast broke into a delightful song and dance! I couldn't believe it. It was like an Elizabethan dosey-do. As the actors swung towards the front of the stage the quickly bowed, jumped back into the dance and kept on singing. The audience joined in by clapping, and suddenly you forget all about the tragic, star-crossed lovers, and are swept up into this moment of joy and fun. I didn't expect that, and I loved it! (For those of you that have seen the Zeffirelli 1968 film and had to suffer through that painful "What is a Youth" song that carries on ridiculously long only to have the music stalk the viewer through the rest of the film, know how tiresome certain songs can make R & J. This was not one of those. It was upbeat, fun, and an utterly surprising high note to have the play end on.)
Call me nerd if you want, but I am now more excited than ever to teach Shakespeare again. Viewing this play gave me new insights to how Shakespeare intended his play to be seen. This will be an experience that I will carry with me through my career. And I got a poster! Yeah, for classroom decorations.
*photographs were taken during our Spring Break trip. We toured the theater, but it was under construction in preparation for this summer's play schedule.