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!

New Year’s Shakespeare

I know this is a little late for a New Year’s post but I’ve been kind of busy 🙂

This year we decided to do family night for various reasons. We passed on several invitations and decided to just stay in, get some Chinese food, maybe binge watch some shows and play some board games.

Skip past the bingeing (on both Chinese food and High School The Musical The Series) and nobody really wants to dig into a cutthroat game of Monopoly, so I get an idea. I go get my Shakespeare Trivial Pursuit cards! We never get to play this, but I’ve got an idea. I’ve got all my family here. I know what I think they know. So I pick cards, and I read the questions I think they know the answers to, to see how much they’ve learned over the years. Keep in mind that recently we’ve been to Stratford, been to the Folger twice, seen several plays, and they’re all old enough at this point to have studied at least some Shakespeare in school.

They did surprisingly well! Questions on Romeo and Juliet were the most obvious and came out like homework questions. But the real fun was some of the non answers…

“What is the nickname of visitors to the Globe Theatre who stood for the whole performance?”
“Oh! Potatoes!”
“What?”
“It’s something about potatoes! Isn’t it? Something like that.”
“Groundlings?”
“Right, yes. Groundlings, potatoes. Same thing.”

“What are the names of Hamlet’s ‘friends’ who are summoned by Claudius?”
“Oh! Oooo! Umm… something…. hydro something…..”
“Guildenstern!”
“Yes! Hydrostan and Guildenstern!”
“??? Are we in chemistry class?”

And my favorite one…

“What play was being performed in 1613 when the Globe caught fired and burn down?”
“Macbeth!”
“No.”
“Hamlet.”
“No.”
“Tempest?”
“No. You’re just guessing.”

At which point my son, my youngest, who hasn’t taken his face out of his phone, says, “All is true.”

There’s a pause. My girls are waiting. I look at them. “Henry VIII, also known as All is True. He’s exactly right. I just have no idea how he knew that.”

He looks up, realizing he’s the center of attention now. “We saw that one.”

“No, we didn’t,” I tell him.

“Yes we did,” he says. “It opens with a fire.”

It’s at this point I realize he’s talking about the movie All is True, about Shakespeare’s life in retirement, which we saw earlier in the year, which indeed does start with the Globe burning down. Hey, whatever works for him!

I wish I could remember more of their answers, it was a good time indeed. Nobody knew that Prince Escalus has a name. But they remembered that “I know thee not, old man” is said to Falstaff, that the Folger is in Washington, D.C. and a whole bunch of other “that was definitely not on any homework you ever had” questions. I was pretty pleased with the results! Hope we get to do it again soon.

P.S. – My son really likes that scene, I overheard him playing Youtube clips of it before he went to bed last night. He also asked me if he should watch the entire movie or if he’d be bored. I thought he still might be a little bored, but agreed that there’s some good battle scenes.

UPDATE: Fixed typo, of course the Globe didn’t burn down 7 years after Shakespeare died, my brain must have been thinking I was talking about the Folio.

Orville and Wilbur Shakespeare [ A Geeklet Story ]

My kids’ interest / attention span when it comes to Shakespeare has waxed and waned over the years, to be sure. Although my youngest, my son, was running around quoting Hamlet when he was about 4 (and not realizing what he was saying, or why I enjoyed that so much), his interest in all things academic or educational has definitely waned throughout middle school. Some days I can’t tell if he’s tired, uninterested, or just trolling me.

Me: “So when we arrive in Stratford we might have the chance to see some special stuff like we did at Folger.  What kind of stuff would you want to see if you had the choice?”

Him:  “An airplane.”

Me: “An airplane.”

Him:  “Yes.”

Me: “I don’t think they have airplanes at the Shakespeare Birthplace, given that they were invented in America in 1903.”