2013-09-16T07:11:53.388-05:00Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux" closed earlier this month. We made it out to the Field Museum in time to see that and were able to catch "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence," as well. A recent lecture series had reminded us of an old Field fave -- the permanent exhibit "Evolving Planet" -- so we also spent time there.
2013-09-15T18:39:23.536-05:00Theater:■ Crowns at the Goodman Theatre■ Three Sisters at the Steppenwolf Theatre■ Sunday in the Park with George at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater■ Hamlet at the Writers' Theatre■ Equivocation at the Victory Gardens Theater■ Black Watch at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (Broadway Armory)■ Metamorphoses at the Lookingglass Theatre■ Les Miserables at the Cadillac Palace Theatre■ A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre■ The School for Lies at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater■ Julius Caesar at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater■ Sweet Charity at the Writers' Theatre■ Othello: The Remix at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater■ "Exploring Henry VIII" at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (discussions and rehearsal)■ Henry VIII at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater■ Othello: The Remix at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (yes, *blush* four times)■ Oklahoma! at the Lyric Opera■ The Misanthrope at the Court Theatre■ Wicked at the Uihlein Hall / Marcus Center (Milwaukee) ■ Macbeth at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival Music:■ Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma at Chicago Symphony Orchestra ■ Frank Vignola (guitar) at SecondSpace Theatre■ Chris Thile (mandolin) and Brad Mehldau (piano) at Chicago Symphony Center■ Open rehearsal for donors: Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Ricardo Muti and featuring Maurizio Pollini (piano)■ Yo-Yo Ma at Chicago Symphony CenterOpera: ■ Elektra at the Lyric■ La Boheme at the Lyric ■ Giulio Cesare, a live broadcast of the Met performance at the movie theater Museums:■ Volo Auto Museum■ The Art Institute of Chicago■ Cantigny: The First Division Museum and the Robert R. McCormick Museum ■ The Field Museum■ Lincoln Park Zoo■ "Picasso and Chicago" at the Art Institute of Chicago■ "Art in Bloom" at the Milwaukee Art Museum■ Art Institute of Chicago: "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity" Other:■ Yankees v. White Sox■ "Wild Encounter" (marine mammal training) at the Brookfield Zoo■ The Vera Meineke Nature Center at Spring Valley■ Miss M-mv(i)'s first violin recital■ Weekly volunteer gig coaching young swimmers■ Weekly piano (both Misses), violin (Miss M-mv(i)), and guitar (Miss M-mv(ii)) lessons and daily practice■ Chicago Wolves hockey game■ "Beluga Encounter" at the Shedd Aquarium■ The Vera Meineke Nature Center at Spring Valley ■ Volo Bog State Natural Area ■ Thirteen winter season swim meets: five rec team (including the conference meet) and eight USA Swimming (including last-chance time trials for regionals, a conference meet, and regional championships)■ Work: Miss M-mv(i)'s regular assignment as a lifeguard and both Misses' as substitute swim instructors■ A piano performance / evaluation at [insert college name here]■ Driver education course■ Lifeguard certification course (Miss M-mv(ii))■ Stroke clinic■ Miss M-mv(i)'s second violin recital■ Swim camp at [insert college name here] ■ Architectural tour (from Navy Pier)■ Behind-the-scenes tour for Chicago Symphony Orchestra donors■ Behind-the-scenes tour at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival■ White Sox v. New York Yankees ■ Bristol Renaissance Faire ■ Six summer season swim meets: two rec team and four USA Swimming (including three two-day LCM meets and the state Swimming Summer Regional Championship Meets)[...]
2013-09-15T18:27:13.520-05:00As I mentioned here and here, the Girls Rule! School operates year-round. Our academic year begins in August, and for the last few years, our studies have sorted themselves into three terms of unequal length: August through December (five months), January through April (four months), and May through July (three months). Rather than taking an extended break of any sort, we generally enjoy relaxed periods of study that usually coincide with the winter holidays, the conclusion of winter swim season, and the conclusion of summer swim season. (For us, "relaxed" means, minimally, math-music-literature, but also includes wrapping up aspects of independent study projects, working on neglected art pursuits, and taking additional field trips, particularly those related to birding or nature study.)For a number of reasons, our third and final term of our 2012-2013 academic year concluded in mid-August. Here are a few fun highlights:LITERATURE Shakespeare studies: ■ Richard III ■ Much Ado about Nothing ■ Macbeth (review / revisit / reread) * ■ The Comedy of Errors ■ Othello (review / revisit / reread) * Novels: ■The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)Poetry:■ Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools■ Poetry Out Loud FIELD TRIPS AND OTHER ADVENTURES Theater:■ Henry VIII at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater■ Othello: The Remix at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (yes, again and again and *blush* again)■ Oklahoma! at the Lyric Opera■ The Misanthrope at the Court Theatre■ Wicked at the Uihlein Hall / Marcus Center (Milwaukee) ■ Macbeth at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival Music:■ Yo-Yo Ma at Chicago Symphony CenterMuseums:■ Art Institute of Chicago: "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity" Other:■ Miss M-mv(i)'s second violin recital■ Swim camp at [insert college name here] ■ Architectural tour (from Navy Pier)■ Behind-the-scenes tour for Chicago Symphony Orchestra donors■ Behind-the-scenes tour at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival■ White Sox v. New York Yankees ■ Bristol Renaissance Faire ■ Six summer season swim meets: two rec team and four USA Swimming (including three two-day LCM meets and the state Swimming Summer Regional Championship Meets)[...]
2013-07-02T17:25:05.315-05:00■ WickedWicked returns to Chicago this fall, but with so many plays, concerts, meets, and college visits already clamoring for spots on the calendar, I thought, Gosh, I sure wish we could see it this summer. So we drove up to Milwaukee to catch the tour there. What a show! Review and related article here and here.■ Summer swim seasonThe Misses, who attended swim camp earlier this summer, have been competing in long course USA Swimming meets this sesson in addition to their team's rec meets. At this writing, Miss M-mv(i) has regional cuts in the 50 free (LCM and SCY) and the 200 breaststroke (LCM and SCY), and she is .03 and .05 seconds off in the 100 breastroke and the 100 free (LCM), respectively. And Miss M-mv(ii) earned a regional time in the 200 backstroke (LCM). It's still uncertain whether the swimmers from our team will participate in the championship meets, but the Misses are pleased with their progress.■ Movie recommendationJoss Whedon's Much Ado about Nothing is worth the buzz and praise. All of us loved it!■ BikingWe're enjoying one or two rides each weekend -- nine to thirteen miles each -- but with work, studies, swim practices and meets, and lessons (piano, violin, and guitar), we're having trouble squeezing family rides in during the week (although we hope to remedy that once summer swim season and its early morning practices conclude in three weeks).[...]
2013-06-05T07:18:49.285-05:001. Begin early.The Misses M-mv (now fifteen and seventeen) met the bard in Kenneth Branagh's Henry V ("O Kate! Nice customs curtsey to great kings"), but they fell in love with him (yes, at six and eight) during a Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. A rappin' Puck. A show-stealing Bottom. The grace and wonder of that stage. The fact that the actors met the audience in the lobby. They became hooked -- for life.(On the other hand, their older brother met and became hooked on Will during the same CST production (staged a few years earlier) of Dream but didn't fall in love until a few months later, when he watched Julius Caesar, with Jason Robbards as Brutus and Charlton Heston as Mark Antony.)2. Provide an adequate introduction.When the children were young, we would, prior to watching a live or filmed performance, read aloud from an abridgment (e.g., Charles and Mary Lamb, E. Nesbitt, Beverly Birch, Bruce Coville, Adam McKeown -- the latter two being particular favorites here). That gave us the basic plot and, often, the key subplots. As they grew older, they appreciated a more detailed synopsis of the play prior to watching. For this, we heartily recommend Boyce's Shakespeare A to Z; The Essential Reference to His Plays, His Poems, His Life and Times, and More.3. Watch.Shakespeare wrote plays, not novels; that is, his works were meant to be seen and heard, not read -- at least not at first. While I prefer live theater, that's more easily said than done for some folks, given travel, time, and/or budgetary considerations. In my experience, then, a well regarded film is preferable to an amateur-ish "Shakespeare in the Park" production. Bad theater, no matter how well intentioned, is just bad theater. 4. And watch again.A different production. A live performance and a film. Two different films. Whatever arrangement works.5. Read.We read the unabridged play to the accompaniment of a quality audio production. The Arkangel recordings are excellent, but a few of our favorite audio productions include Naxos (King Lear, King Richard III, and The Tempest), Caedmon (Twelfth Night), and BBC Radio Presents (Hamlet). 6. Read closely.Not younger students necessarily, but older students, yes. After reading / listening to the the play, dive in -- deeply. Get in the text. Swim around. Read aloud to one another. Revisit passages that were memorable in performance. Review speeches that others have deemed noteworthy and discover why.7. Keep a commonplace book.We copy passages that "speak" to us and share our entries. How fascinating to see what someone else deems worthy of preservation.8. Supplement and discuss.Don't overdo this with younger students, but take it as far as their abilities and interests allow with older and/or advanced students. Among our favorite resources:■ Asimov, Isaac. Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare (Volumes One and Two).■ Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human.■ Boyce, Charles. Shakespeare A to Z; The Essential Reference to His Plays, His Poems, His Life and Times, and More.■ Epstein, Norrie. The Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard.■ Goddard, Harold C. The Meaning of Shakespeare (Volumes One and Two).■ Lomonico, Michael. The Shakespeare Book of Lists.■ O’Toole, Fintan. Shakespeare Is Hard, But So Is Life.■ Saccio, Peter. Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (The Teaching Company).■ --. Shakespeare. The Word and the Action. (The Teaching Company.)9. Review, revisit, reread.Return to the plays again and again. And again. You will discover something new on every viewing and every reading.10. Memorize.For most plays, I ask the Misses to choose a passage for memorization, but we have memorized wide swaths of Shakespeare[...]
2013-05-28T16:43:04.228-05:00■ Othello: The Remix at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
And thus I clothe my naked villany
With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ,
And seem a saint when most I play the devil.
2013-05-27T16:26:53.229-05:00■ Henry VIII at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
... Give Me Everything You Have chronicles the author’s strange and harrowing ordeal at the hands of a former student, a self-styled “verbal terrorist,” who began trying, in her words, to “ruin him.” Hate mail, online postings, and public accusations of plagiarism and sexual misconduct were her weapons of choice and, as with more conventional terrorist weapons, proved remarkably difficult to combat. James Lasdun’s account, while terrifying, is told with compassion and humor, and brilliantly succeeds in turning a highly personal story into a profound meditation on subjects as varied as madness, race, Middle East politics, and the meaning of honor and reputation in the Internet age.■ Harvest (A.J. Lieberman; 2013. 128 pages. Graphic fiction.) A grisly journey into the underground world of organ transplants.
2013-04-30T15:03:10.146-05:00■ "Exploring Henry VIII"
2013-04-29T18:59:22.042-05:00As I mentioned here, the Girls Rule! School operates year-round. Our academic year begins in August, and our studies sort themselves into three terms of unequal length: August through December (five months), January through April (four months), and May through July (three months). Rather than taking an extended break of any sort, we generally enjoy relaxed periods of study that usually coincide with the winter holidays, the conclusion of winter swim season, and the conclusion of summer swim season. For us, "relaxed" means, minimally, math-music-literature, but also includes wrapping up aspects of independent study projects, working on neglected art pursuits, and taking additional field trips, particularly those related to birding or nature study. During our relaxed period of study this term, however, the literature leg of our math-music-literature model was shortened somewhat to more fully accommodate independent study projects and to allow for the time demands of both the driver education course (four days weekly for two hours each day; four weeks) and the lifeguard certification program (thirty-six hours of classwork over a two-week period (not to mention the assigned reading)). With the second term of our 2012-2013 academic year drawing to a close, then, I find myself reviewing our progress, which included (admittedly) only sporadic work with Destinos (Spanish) but also continued excellence in history, math, logic and philosophy, and science (the latter of which included the girls' ongoing self-directed study in animal behavior and physics, respectively). Here are some highlights:LITERATURE Shakespeare studies: ■Julius Caesar (a reread) ■Measure for Measure■Othello (review only)■Henry VIII Novels: ■ Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes) ■ Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) ■ Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?(Philip K. Dick) ■ The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)Poetry:■ Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools■ Poetry Out Loud FIELD TRIPS AND OTHER ADVENTURES Theater: ■ Julius Caesar at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater■ Sweet Charity at the Writers' Theatre■ Othello: The Remix at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater■ "Exploring Henry VIII" at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (discussions and rehearsal)Music:■ Frank Vignola (guitar) at SecondSpace Theatre ■ Chris Thile (mandolin) and Brad Mehldau (piano) at Chicago Symphony Center■ Open rehearsal for donors: Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Ricardo Muti and featuring Maurizio Pollini (piano)Opera: ■ La Boheme at the Lyric Opera ■ Giulio Cesare, a live broadcast of the Met performance at the movie theaterMuseums:■ Lincoln Park Zoo■ "Picasso and Chicago" at the Art Institute of Chicago■ "Art in Bloom" at the Milwaukee Art Museum Other:■ Chicago Wolves hockey game■ "Beluga Encounter" at the Shedd Aquarium■ The Vera Meineke Nature Center at Spring Valley ■ Volo Bog State Natural Area ■ Eight swim meets: two rec team (including the conference meet) and six USA Swimming (including last-chance time trials for regionals, a conference meet, and regional championships)■ Work: Miss M-mv(i)'s regular assignment as a lifeguard and both Misses' as substitute swim instructors ■ Weekly piano (both Misses), violin (Miss M-mv(i)), and guitar (Miss M-mv(ii)) lessons and daily practice■ A piano performance / evaluation at [insert college name he[...]
2013-04-29T07:41:44.563-05:00Number of books read in 2013: 30Complete list of books read in 2013 can be found here.Number of books read since last "reading life review" post: 6_____________________________■ Henry VIII (William Shakespeare (1613); Folger ed. 2007. 352 pages. Drama.) With the Misses. Henry VIII will run April 30 through June 16 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, so we had planned to read the play in April ever since CST's 2012/2013 season was announced. But we pushed it a wee bit ahead on our planner when we received an invitation to attend a rehearsal held earlier this month. (I know, right? Squeeeeee!) Before the rehearsal, we were treated to a discussion hosted by Bob Mason and Chris Plevin, during which we learned how the incomparable Barbara Gaines distilled from the play three key relationships, eschewing pageantry for intimacy; how her vision is being interpreted by the production team; and even how CST productions, including this one, are cast. We then headed to the main theater. The actors had only just that afternoon moved from their initial rehearsal space to the stage and were reworking the blocking in Katherine of Aragon's (Ora Jones) divorce trial scene. After rehearsal concluded, director Gaines indulged participants in a Q&A. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.(Related aside: This month, we also attended an open rehearsal of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Ricardo Muti. The program included a piano concerto featuring Maurizio Pollini. I know, I know, right? Again, squeeeee!) ■ The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald; 1925/1980. 182 pages. Fiction.) With the Misses, in anticipation of the film. This was a reread for me, and I found the prose even more beautiful this go-'round.p. 36Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.p. 58Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw that this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest. p. 59"Suppose you meet somebody just as careless as yourself?""I hope I never will," she answered. "I hate careless people. That's why I like you." p. 81A phrase began to beat in my ears with a heady sort of excitement: "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired."p. 97It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.p. 131Angry as I was, as we all were, I was tempted to laugh whenever he opened his mouth. The transition from libertine to prig was so complete. p. 165At first I was surprised and confused; then, as he lay in his house and didn't move or breathe or speak, hour upon hour, it grew upon me that I was responsible, because no one else was interested -- interested, I mean, with that intense personal interest to which every one has some vague right at the end.■ Attachments (Rainbow Rowell; 2011. 336 pages. Fiction.) Light, sweet, well-written. More here. ■ Reconstructing Amelia (Kimberly McCreight; 2013. 400 pages. Fiction.) A bona fide page[...]
2013-04-28T12:13:05.648-05:00The following post was first published here in April 2004."Shakespeare is hard," asserts Fintan O'Toole in his book of the same title, "but so is life, and so long as you can see that there's a lot of life in Shakespeare, then the effort begins to make sense."Now, I adore O'Toole's provocative, irreverent take on the bard, but I also have some fairly strong convictions about the "Shakespeare is, well, pretty easy, actually" camp.At summer sessions for teachers, Peggy O'Brien, Ph.D., formerly of the Teaching Shakespeare Institute (Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.), would distribute a "Shakespeare Laundry List" to her students. Top on the list? "Everyone — all levels of society — went to see Shakespeare's plays. There weren't many other forms of entertainment... People went to the bear-baiting ring for a thrill, they went to a public execution of two — and they went to the theatre."Bear-baiting. An execution or two. The theater. Anyone seeing, oh, I don't know, horse-racing, Court TV, and the theater? (And that's theater with an "er," please; "re" is an affectation, and I'll bet O'Brien knew it, but Ph.D.s, well... let's just say they come with their own academic baggage.) The point is that it was the "beloved groundlings" to whom Shakespeare and company played. To us. The Mountain Dew-swigging, overalls-wearing, pun-loving, regular folk.Shakespeare can be hard, yeah. But he needn't be. Honestly, is there any doubt about his message in this passage from As You Like It, for example:All the world's a stage,And all the men and women merely players:They have their exits and their entrances;And one man in his time plays many parts,His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.And then the whining school-boy, with his satchelAnd shining morning face, creeping like snailUnwillingly to school. And then the lover,Sighing like furnace, with a woeful balladMade to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,Seeking the bubble reputationEven in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,In fair round belly with good capon lined,With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,Full of wise saws and modern instances;And so he plays his part. The sixth age shiftsInto the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wideFor his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,Turning again toward childish treble, pipesAnd whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,That ends this strange eventful history,Is second childishness and mere oblivion,Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.You've got it — the seven stages of man.________________________Seventh on O'Brien's "Laundry List" is a much uttered rarely heeded bit o' wisdom: "Reading Shakespeare is hard. [His] plays were written to be performed — acted and seen on a stage."Ayup. It is cold water on... okay, you're with me... to have Mrs. Grimm the English teacher pass out a musty copy of Julius Caesar or Macbeth and say, "Read Act I. Be ready for a quiz tomorrow."*SHUDDER*With all of the productions now available on DVD and video, why would any teacher turn her students loose without a hint of what the beloved groundlings once knew (i.e., that Shakespeare's play must be seen and heard)? If you're wondering, by the way, Norrie Epstein's T[...]