Let The Sunshine In

Galt McDermott, composer of HAIR and Two Gentlemen of Verona, has passed away. As we like to do here on the blog, let’s take a moment to appreciate and celebrate the man’s contribution to Shakespeare.

Forget about the obvious for a minute. I mean, come on, the man wrote a musical Two Gentlemen of Verona that won the Tony for Best Musical in 1971 (beating out Grease).

If you’ve only ever known HAIR as a “tribal love rock musical,” then you haven’t been listening closely enough.  One song is entirely Hamlet’s “What a piece of work is man” speech:


(The song isn’t in the movie, you either need to know the soundtrack, or see the live show.)

My favorite, though, is the big finale number, typically known as “The Rest Is Silence / Let The Sunshine In”.  The Hamlet reference is right there for everybody to see … but if you listening very closely, the background singers are on a whole different play:

Eyes look your last
Arms take your last embrace
And lips oh you the doors
Of breath… seal with
A righteous kiss
Seal with a righteous kiss
The rest is silence

That’d be Romeo and Juliet.  The hippies are layering one Shakespeare tragedy on top of another.  Which then segues seamlessly into the big celebration that is Let The Sunshine In.

Ready for the best part of this story?  My middle daughter is really into her vinyl (album) collection right now.  She’s a huge fan of musicals, but she’s also into the classic rock that I’ve introduced her to.  I’d forgotten, until today, that for my birthday a number of years ago a friend had presented me with a framed HAIR album.  It’s been sitting in my office ever since.

So I called my daughter from work and said, “You want to go on an adventure? There’s treasure to be found.” She was up for the challenge. I texted her the bright orange and green picture of the cover and said, “Go find this picture.”  She found it.  I said, “Open it.”

“It’s a record!” she squealed.  “It’s HAIR.  Can I play it?”

“Of course,” I told her. “That’s the treasure.  It’s my favorite.”

“I know,” she replied.

“And it’s very special today, because Galt McDermott, the man who wrote it?  He died.”

“Oh.”

“So I want you to have that.  I want you to play it, loud, and when I get home tonight I want to listen to it with you.”

“I’ll do that right now. I’ll wake people up.”

“Perfect.”

Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, Mr. McDermott.  For others I might say “The rest is silence” here, but you brought too much music into the world, so we’re going to play you out with much volume and celebration.

Let the sunshine in!

~ Leave a comment

Now That’s Dedication (A Geeklet Story)

I may have mentioned in a previous post that my daughter had an in-class essay assignment for her Monsters in British Literature course (which we have been incorrectly calling her Shakespeare course, because although they studied The Tempest, they also studied Beowulf and Frankenstein).  The assignment was to identify the monster in the story, and make your case.  She chose Antonio.  At the time I thought this was a one off, “Next time we have class we’re going to write an essay.”  It was actually a research project.  For several days her homework was to gather notes and make her case.  And then, at the designated class, did they all write it up.

So that day comes, and I pick her up, and she starts with, “Just so you know, my Antonio essay did not go as well as expected.”

“Oh?” I ask, keeping my eyes on the road, while immediately thinking, “Was our premise wrong? What could we have missed?”

“Yeah, well, we had an emergency drill today,” she began.  I’m guessing every school in America has different variations of those.  They were always fire drills in my day.  My parents had “duck and cover” drills.  Our kids have lock down drills, active shooter drills, etc…  She continued, “And of course it happens in the middle of her class, so we all have to stop working and lock the doors and sit and not make any noise. That ends up taking like half the class.  So she tells us, ‘I understand that you didnt get enough time to finish, but there’s nothing we can do, so just write what you have time to, and I wont count it against you if you cant finish your conclusion….'”

I laughed.  “Wait, so you’re angry that you didn’t have to write more, and that the standard has been lowered?” I asked.

“Yes!” came the response.  “I worked hard on that, I knew exactly what argument I wanted to present!”

“Even in the time you got, you probably still wrote twice as much as any other kids.”

“Well, yeah,” she admitted.

Love my nerd.  🙂

This month’s posts are sponsored by No Shave November. To help raise cancer prevention awareness, and some money along the way, all proceeds from this month’s advertising, merchandise and book sales are being donated.  If you’d like to support the site by supporting the cause, please consider visiting my personal fundraising page linked above, where you can make a direct donation.

~ 1 Comment

Free Sonnet Book Giveaway!

Good news, everybody! A few weeks ago I reviewed Shakespeare’s Sonnets,  Retold by James Anthony.  This is a neat side-by-side modern translation of all the sonnets, which seemed like it would make a nice casual reference book.  Check it out, they even made a trailer:

The good folks at Crown Publishing have provided a copy for me to give away as well!  I want to do this quick, so there’s at least a possibility that the winner will receive their book before Christmas (but I can’t promise anything).  So here’s the game:

  1. I grabbed a coworker and asked for a random number between 1 and 154.
  2. I’ve taken the final couplet from the sonnet she chose (she didn’t know she was picking a sonnet), and provided the modern translation below.
  3. Tell me which sonnet this is.
  4. Entries accepted via comments on this blog post, or on Facebook.  PLEASE NOTE THAT I WILL NEED TO CONTACT YOU TO GET YOUR ADDRESS IF YOU WIN.
  5. Winner will be chosen randomly from the correct entries.  Do not post spoilers (i.e. copying the text of the actual sonnet if you think you got it right), that will invalidate your entry and I’ll almost certainly remove those comments.
  6. Contest runs until end of day on Friday, November 30.  Like I said, short one. I want to try and turn it around quickly.

Everybody ready?  Here you go!

So learn to read the signs that love can make:
Your eyes will spot my love that’s yours to take.

Just tell me what sonnet that’s from, and make sure that I’ll be able to contact you if you win, and do it all before Saturday.  Good luck!

(P.S. – I reserve the right to correct any mistakes or clarify any ambiguities in the above, blah blah blah formal stuff….)

~ 4 Comments

No Icicles Yet! Also, Not a Dutchman

For No Shave November this year I did promise some update pictures, so here you go!

It’s Thanksgiving morning (though you’re no doubt seeing this on Friday), I’m in New England, and I’m waiting in the car before the big football game. It’s going to be record breaking cold out there.

None of my kids play football, mind you. One of my girls is a cheerleader.  So I will be sitting in the stands, watching her stand on the sidelines.  Our team’s not even really very good – I think I saw two wins this year.

All of this reminds me of a Shakespeare beard reference:

…you are now sailed into the north of my
lady’s opinion; where you will hang like an icicle
on a Dutchman’s beard, unless you do redeem it by
some laudable attempt either of valour or policy.

This one’s from Twelfth Night. One of Shakespeare’s better similes (…pause to recall high school English….tries to remember whether it is a simile or metaphor that uses like or as …. going with simile).

<time passes>

Ok, I spent about 15 minutes in the stands watching my daughter cheer and now I’m back in the car with a newfound appreciation for Dutchmen. Still not sure I’ve got icicles on my beard but man, those metal bleachers are cold. At least our team scored first.

So where were we?  Ah yes icicles in Dutchmen’s beards. I’m not completely sure what the quote means – is an icicle in a Dutchmen’s beard something that he’s just so used to that he ignores it? Or is it an annoying thing that he wishes to get rid of?  I take “sailed north” to mean “You’re gone, you’re out of her thoughts now until you go something to get back into them.”

Since Bardfilm sent me an article on the topic, I learned that it’s actually a reference to something specific, not just one of those hyperbolic hypotheticals, like “colder than various parts of a witch’s anatomy.”

For, the expedition of Bardendsz and Heemskerck which spent the winter of 1596/97 in the Arctic Circle appears to have appealed so strongly to the English imagination that references occur over a period of many years.

(Bardfilm, can you help me give proper credit for that quote?  Even if I copy down random words that look like the right names I’m sure to get the format wrong.)

I still don’t fully understand the context (the article goes into a discussion of scientific discovery dating back to Galileo and the cuts over to Hamlet, but I didn’t make the connection back to Twelfth Night). I’m guessing that it means, “When these dudes decided to sail north, everybody thought that’s it, they’re done, they’re never coming back.”  Then they actually did something important or learned something important, so when they returned those same people were all, “Dude, that was awesome.”

To my ear it sounds like, with a little shuffling of words, that “icicle in a Dutchman’s beard” could be looked at like a trophy.  I imagine these guys, who everybody thought as good as dead from their own stupidity, suddenly bursting into the local tavern, beards all full of icicles, making it more like a trophy of an important journey well taken.

Maybe not my finest analysis but did I not mention I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot? I’m lucky I’ve got wifi.

Speaking of beards, I’m trying to be part of No Shave November this year to raise some money for cancer prevention awareness.  This year I’m celebrating the holidays with three relatives in various stages of their own personal cancer battles. I hope none of you have to experience that.  Please consider a donation if you haven’t already.  Thanks as always for your continued support!

 

~ Leave a comment

Thankful for Little Candles

How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
Last year one of my daughter’s favorite teachers retired. This week he returned to the school to help mentor some of the freshman class, and my daughter sought the chance to catch up with him.
“Tell your dad,” he told her, “That I think of him whenever the Shakespeare category comes up on Jeopardy.”
That makes me very happy.  Not because there’s another person in the world more aware of Shakespeare than they would have been — he’s an English teacher for heaven’s sake, he would have already been killing it in the Shakespeare category.
No, that makes me happy for a number of other reasons.  For him to think of me that means he first has to think of my daughter.  Maybe over the years to come, he’ll tell people about that one year he had a young lady for a student that brought him Shakespeare cookies, and he will smile at the memory.
And for him to have told my daughter that means that it works in reverse, too.  Whenever my daughter sees the Shakespeare category she’s going to think about her favorite teacher. Other teachers have heard the Shakespeare cookie story and asked if they get cookies too.  Maybe they will – but they won’t be Shakespeare cookies. Those took on a surprising new meaning.
I’m not sure how long that memory will last, for either of them.  But I hope it makes them both happy for many years to come.
Those memories, that bond, and that happiness would not exist if not for what we do here.  Little candles indeed. Who knows what other stories are out there?
Happy Thanksgiving everybody.  Keep making life better.
And if you want to make a lot of lives better in a very real way, please consider a donation to my No Shave November page. This month we’re trying to raise money toward cancer prevention awareness.  This holiday weekend I’ll be seeing three relatives who are battling cancer. I hope none of you have to experience that, but statistically I’m afraid that won’t be the case.  Thank you so very much for your support!
~ Leave a comment