This Is Not A Drill, People!

So here’s a funny thing that happened. My daughters’ school is having a school-wide, week-long Shakespeare celebration in April. This is unexpected and spontaneous and came up randomly in conversation at my house.

Oldest: “Did you see we’re having Shakespeare Week?”

Me: “Ummm, NO? Say more? Like, right now?”

Turns out this is a new idea they’re trying, hoping to make a tradition. I contact the head of the English department, introducing myself (though we’ve met during various parent/teacher nights) and volunteering my services. We set up a meeting.

Later that day I get a call from my youngest. “DID YOU EMAIL MY TEACHERS!? WHY IS EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT SHAKESPEARE?”

Apparently there’s an email group going on, my kids have been tapped to be some sort of “Shakespeare ambassadors”, and generally there’s a whole bunch of excitement over Shakespeare with my kids in the eye of the hurricane.

They found the blog as well as the merchandise. So now my kids’ teachers and friends are checking out the t-shirts and stickers, combing through all the old blog posts, and hopefully having fun.

Meanwhile, I’m face to face with the dream I’ve had for, oh, twenty years? More? Every day a part of me says, “How prepared am I to represent Shakespeare today?” I wonder what references will come up, what questions will need answers, what opportunities to bring more Shakespeare into the world will present themselves. What can I post on the blog, what can I tweet? How can I turn a phrase at the breakfast table to reinforce quotable material for my kids as they grow? It’s been a crazy ride. I’ve gotten better at it. What once would have been a fear that everybody who discovered my “secret identity” would already know more Shakespeare than I did? My impostor syndrome? Has dissolved over the years.

Now I think, “Yay, new Shakespeare friends!” I tried to find a GIF to represent what it feels like when suddenly there’s opportunities to talk about Shakespeare everywhere I look.

Yes. If you do it right, studying Shakespeare is like being smothered by puppies.

That doesn’t change the fact that in about a week I’m going to sit down with the head of the department and help map out an entire week’s worth of Shakespeare content for an entire school full of kids and it’s really time to put up or shut up. This could easily be the biggest opportunity I ever get.

As the saying goes, “This is what we train for!”

I know there are educators of all sorts that have followed the blog for years. I personally have been in the classroom a couple of times and generated some materials for those visits. There’s a bunch of games rattling around my head that I’d love to try out if I can sit down long enough and write them up.

But I’m putting out the call right now – give me everything you’ve got! I have no idea what they need, but I want to be able to fill that need whatever it is. Activities for the kids to get up and read? Sure. Paper games? Of course. Sonnets, iambic pentameter, memorization, foam rubber sword fights. I want to put it all on the table for them. I’ve been building up a small Shakespearean army over the years and I plan to come in guns blazing. Now we get the chance to show off everything we’ve got. A complete green field, as they say in my business. Willing participants who want the help. What more could we ask?

Shakespeare makes life better. I believe that, even when I can’t explain it. I know it when I see it. I feel it. We’re about to get the chance to put our money where my mouth is for somewhere around 800 kids, and I will accept only “knock it out of the park” as the final outcome. I want them saying, “We want to do this every year.” I want them to feel it, too.

Contact me through any means you like – comment here on the blog, or on Facebook, or Twitter. Go ahead and email me [email protected] if you prefer. I will collect everything and bring it to my meeting next week. I can’t make any promises about what they’ll be able to use or what final form the various ideas will take, but I think that if you’ve been following me this long then we’re all on the same page — we just want more people exposed to more Shakespeare and we’ll take it any way we can get it.

So let’s get started! Bring it!

Hello New Friends!

Well, this is an interesting new development. My kids’ friends, as well as their teachers (!), have found the blog.

For years as I documented every amusing Shakespeare reference in our lives my daughter would say, “Don’t put that on the blog! What if the person reads it?!” As if everything I ever have to say can be taken negatively.

My response has always been, “Something related to Shakespeare happened that I found worth sharing, and I wrote up my thoughts on it. I welcome the discussion.” I’ve always tried to write with integrity. I don’t do the anonymous thing, and I don’t snipe behind people’s backs. I try to write from the perspective that I am one person with limited input with which to form an opinion. I am open to the possibility that I misunderstand situations, and that I am wrong from time to time. I actually welcome it.

The point I’m trying to get to is that we’ve got a new audience. I don’t know how many people might be reading this who can bring it up with my kids tomorrow, and I don’t know if those people reading today will still be reading in a week or a month. Time will tell.

But for those of you that did just find the blog, welcome! I hope you find it educational and entertaining.

If you prefer other forms of social media, you can find us on Twitter @ShakespeareGeek. That’s probably my preferred channel because I can listen all day in mostly real-time, jump in on hashtag games, post questions as they occur to me, etc.. The blog posts are really more for longer-form “Here’s a story I want to tell” moments.

If you’re on Facebook? You can find us at http://www.facebook.com/ShakespeareGeekDotCom. I’ll be honest, the Facebook feed is really just links to the blog posts. But! Facebook is really where the conversation is, people tend to like to comment on Facebook.

I’ve got an Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/shakespearegeek/ but I don’t use it much. Shakespeare’s more a medium of words, not pictures. If I wanted one of those “slap a quote on a picture of a sunset” feeds I could that, but there’s already hundreds of those. I much prefer original content. When I have original images I’ll post them, but don’t expect much.

If you’ve got any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. One thing you’ll learn about me very quickly is that on the subject of Shakespeare you’ll find it very hard to shut me up.

Which Play Next? A Geeklet Story

My son is the last of my three still in middle school. As both of his sisters passed through his current grade they both read Romeo and Juliet, to mixed experience. I’ve been waiting to see if he’ll get to read it at all.

Son: “So I guess we’re not doing Romeo and Juliet this year.”

Me: “What? They decided for sure? How come?”

Son: “Nothing romantic anymore.”

Me: “Huh?”

Son: “I guess we’re not reading or studying any stories this year that have romance in them.”

I am assuming that he’s mostly misinterpreting some sort of ban on PG-13 material, perhaps.

Me: “Well that’s fine it doesn’t have to be Romeo and Juliet. That’s basically why schools do Julius Caesar in the first place, no romance. I can write to your teacher and suggest Julius Caesar, or maybe even Macbeth…”

Son: “I think we should do King Lear.”

Me: (impressed) “Bold move. You really think that in middle school kids will be able to understand King…”

Son: “I know thee not, old man.”

Me: …(not so impressed anymore)…”Oh, dude…”

Son: “No, I know that’s not from King Lear. That’s from Falstaff. I was just saying I want to see that play.”

Me: “Oh, ok, phew. For a minute there I was going to say you just made the blog, but you know what, you just made the blog anyway!”

Still have to write to his teacher and see if I can keep Shakespeare in the curriculum!

Of Shakespeare And Pencils

Ok now listen. I’ve been running this site for coming up on fifteen years now, hunting for interesting, educational and amusing things to say about Shakespeare.

Please, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world, can we put an end to every combination of the joke that involves Shakespeare deciding between pencils? Yes, yes, 2B or not 2B. We get it. We’ve heard it, about a million times.

In an attempt to put this one to bed and declare it the oldest known Shakespeare joke, I went googling to see how far back in time I could find it. Anybody know this one?

Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
I’ll draw a sketch of thee,
What kind of pencil shall I use?
2B or not 2B?

That’s A Silly Poem, by Spike Milligan.

I couldn’t pin down an actual year that was written, but Spike Milligan died in 2002. Assuming he didn’t knock that one out on his death bed, this joke is at least twenty years old. His book Silly Verse For Kids was written in 1959, though, so if it turns out this poem was part of that collection then it’s more like sixty years old.

Please stop telling that joke. It is the least original thing anyone will hear all day.

Haha, Gottem. A Geeklet Story.

My son is 13 and recently got in trouble when I discovered that he’d watched the entire first season of a show called Sex Education on Netflix. I haven’t watched it yet myself, so I have no comment on the show or its content. But he’d asked, and I’d reserved judgment and told him not to watch it yet until I could look more into it, and he watched the whole thing on his own. So, he’s busted.

What happens in the balcony stays in the balcony.

Well, season 2 came out recently. He even made his case that he wasn’t watching it for “that stuff”, but that the story was actually really good and he wanted to see what happened with the characters. Father and son came to a general agreement that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he watched it, but he wasn’t to go shoving it in our faces. As parents, we know that we can’t control what our kids are exposed to, but that doesn’t mean we need to be reminded of it. So he’s been stuck on the fence of whether it’s ok for him to watch it, and whether it’s ok for me to know whether he watched it.

Well, it just so happens that season 2 has some sort of Romeo and Juliet thing going on. I haven’t looked into it yet but may have to, for research. So I decided to try something this morning at breakfast.

Me: “Hey, I heard there’s a whole Romeo and Juliet thing in Sex Education season two.”

Him: (without looking up from his phone) “There is. And it so isn’t at all like the actual Romeo and …. I mean, I’ve never seen it and I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

I love the straddled universe in that response. Yeah he’s a 13yr old boy who of course made a beeline to a show called “Sex Education” but he’s also a 13yr old boy so grounded in Shakespeare that he has a strong opinion about the quality of the Romeo and Juliet references. I think I’m ok with that. 🙂