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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

…& Shakespeare with Kids

Those of you who follow my daily homeschool updates know that we’ve been working our way up to a performance of As You Like It. 

Well, the performance was last night, so I’ll recap our prep and the performance.

First, this isn’t our first Shakespeare rodeo. One of the reasons I started homeschooling was that I was sick and tired of the stupid, dumbed-down literature curricula in all schools. Wasting time answering questions about stories written to reflect current fashionable concerns about diversity and self-acceptance…can we be exposed to some realness instead? Realness being an exploration of the tension, darkness, possibility and hope of the human condition, recognized as wise and illuminating by the human community, treasured and handed down to us via the cumulative wisdom of human tradition.

Over the past three and a half years, we have “studied” (in our own light way) and seen performances of Macbeth (two), The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Julius Caesar (our first) and now, As You Like It. 

(Reference – boys are now 11 & 14 years old)

Five of the performances have been at the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern, one (Shrew) at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (which seems to be presenting less and less actual Shakespeare as time goes on…)  and one (the second Macbeth) at Samford University. 

My older son is now in school (9th grade), but because he is resigned to my fascist ways  he has become accustomed to my “teachable moments” mode of parenting, only made more intolerable   honed even sharper by homeschooling, he doesn’t blink an eye when told that in the evenings, we’ll be spending a bit of time going over and talking about some Shakespeare.

(Specific resources? The Folger Library. There are loads of other resources online. I don’t have a specific go-to source every time. I do find that searching for “Play name” and “study guide” gets you to some great resources offered by various theaters around the country – most of them tend to produce study guides directed at educators and families for every Shakespeare production they are offering.)

(Also – there are many reasons to be tempted to move to the San Diego area, but the fantastic Shakespeare Academy regularly threatens to put me over the edge.)

So in tackling a play, we begin by going over a synopsis – perhaps in a picture book or one of the collections. Then we start reading through the play – not all of it, but simply parts that are the most vital/well-known or that I think will be most engaging to them. We all take our turns reading. Some enjoy that more than others.

We also might do some memorization – although when both of them were homeschooling, we were more dedicated to that than we are now, unfortunately. If you are at all interested in delving into Shakespeare with your children, Ken Ludwig’s How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare is invaluable. 

Then, interspersed with all of that, we watch – if we are going to see a performance, we don’t generally watch an entire film, with two exceptions: We watched the Brando Julius Caesar and the Taylor/Burton Taming of the Shrew.  We watched a lot of the Patrick Steward Macbeth, which I really like, but honestly the way the three sisters are portrayed is so creepy, at the time (two years ago, I guess), I fast-forwarded through those parts since I felt they were too intense.

And then we do a lot of scene comparison – watching different ways in which the three sisters have been played in film, different version of Julius Caesar  – the RSC production set in Africa was spectacular and illuminating, for example.

The BBC animated Shakespeare tales provide an engaging summary as well. 

As I have said before, we’re not about plot analysis or making charts about protagonists or antagonists. We want the story, the language and the big ideas and small moments, and to connect with these characters because their stories are about living in this world, and we want to grow in wisdom.

All of us.

So with As You Like It.  It’s not a complex play – once you get the family relations sorted out – so we didn’t take weeks and weeks to prepare. We began last Sunday – I sketched out (literally) the family relations, ran through a quick synopsis, and then we read chunks of the first act. On subsequent evenings, we read chunks of the second and third acts, watched the BBC animated version, and I called it done.  They understood it all well enough to be able to enjoy those last two acts without study, so that was it.

The Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern provides a great time. I guess you would call it dinner theater, but we’ll call it an Elizabethan theater tavern instead. Evening shows begin at 7:30, seating opens a bit more than an hour before. Food and drinks are served until about ten minutes before the show begins (kitchen reopens at intermission with desserts). The food is okay, although not very my-kid-friendly. Last night we made do with chili – with extra chips – and the bread basket.

It’s a great, casual atmosphere. Tables on the floor level, as ell as a balcony.  Volunteers help with the dining area and tickets, but so do members of the company, so the guy you remember playing Cassius that one time might be clearing your table.

It’s an ideal venue for introducing children to Shakespeare performances. The audience tends to be very diverse – as Atlanta is as a city – and when there are comedies performed, there are usually a good number of children, so they can see that this is not just a grown-up-school- thing. This is a people thing.

I’m going to say that I think this performance of As You Like It was one of the best we’ve seen there. There were some new faces to us – the actor who did double duty as the wrestler Charles and Duke Senior was a particular favorite, as was Touchstone. Shenanigans and schtick happens, but you know what…it’s a COMEDY.

Some notes:

Playing Rosalind is like fulfilling a million different childhood dreams at once. At different points in the play, I get to channel a Disney princess, Hermione Granger, Carol Burnett, and even Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation. But I also get to channel Dani, which didn’t used to feel like a dream at all. As Rosalind, I get to be weird and tall and loud and passionate, and I still get to kiss the kind, beautiful guy at the end. And if the audience is laughing at me, it probably means that I did something funny.

 

 

It was a busy day: They served retreat Mass at the convent at noon, then we jumped in the car and went straight to Atlanta…to Mass. (I knew everyone would be tired on Sunday, so I wanted to let them sleep in the morning. ) It’s a good education in understanding the differences between daily & Sunday Mass as well as the nature and reason for the Sunday (even in vigil) obligation.  We went to the Cathedral at 5 – the Irish pastor of which has that practice of opening a homily with an “amusing” story that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Scriptures, the season…anything. It is so weird. It doesn’t serve to bring us in, as I’m sure is intended, but is instead a distraction from Mass. Sorry.

The other weird thing – and please understand this is an enormous parish (5500 families) with a tiny church  – yes it is the Cathedral, but it was built in the 30’s when there weren’t that many Catholics in Atlanta – that only holds 700.  They have to do what they can do – and at 5, that means they have settled on having an English language Mass in the church and then a Spanish Mass across the hall in a multipurpose room. The English language Mass was no more than half full – the Spanish congregation looked packed out. Interesting.

So…Mass, drive, Mass, As You Like It, drive 2 hours back.

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Taken before the performance during the announcements. Phone was off during the show. I promise.

 

 

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Hurry, hurry. Late start (everyone stayed up late last night watching the game even though no one living here cared about either team, except in principled opposition. ) and it’s boxing day, so a focused day. Part of a day.

  • Prayer. Read the saint of the day from this book. Gospel for the day, read by him, Our Father prayed.
  • Had him find 1 Samuel in the Bible himself, as well as the passage (1 Sam 9:20). I often found that kids coming into 9th grade theology class from 8 years of Catholic grammar school education had no sense of the Bible as a whole, and no idea how to look up passages.  Had him summarize yesterday’s reading, then we read this passage aloud. Briefly alluded to Samson. Life would be a lot easier, honestly, if your two main Nazirites had more distinct names.
  • Copywork. Tuesday is poetry day. I have referred to this great site before – Garden Digest – which includes as part of its site pages and pages of month and season-related quotations and poems. It’s a fantastic resource, whether copywork is your object or not.
  • Trouble is, naturally, most of the January-themed poetry has to do with our frigid lives in the midst of icy, blustery, blanketing snow.

Ummm….

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Well, it has been in the 30’s at night and in the mornings, so we did Shakespeare:

“Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly! This life is most jolly.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly! This life is most jolly.”

We read through it – actually he read it aloud. We teased apart some of its meaning, and he did the first 6 lines for copywork. Manuscript, then with just a bit in the cursive workbook – again, working for speed on that.

  • Math. More puzzles, then the next section on multiplication of positive and negative integers, here just getting across the point that value of your answer is going to depend on how many negative signs are in the problem – an even # will get you a positive answer, an odd, negative, of course.
  • History: Read a few pages from From Sea to Shining Seon the selection of Washington as Commander of the army and the beginnings of the Second Continental Congress. Read the equivalent chapter in The Story of Us We read those aloud, together, and discussed as we went along.
  • He finished up chapter 19 in Latin.
  • We talked about chapters 1-5 of Johnny Tremain, then he did some writing, using this Glencoe study guide. 
  • He added some detail to his BB-8 from yesterday.

And that was it. Pretty boring. Sorry. Very few rabbit trails today – we had a 12:30 deadine – that’s departure time for his homeschooler boxing class. And so that was it – timeframe, 10-12:30.

 

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I mentioned in the 7QT post that I’d spent some time in the Savannah Cathedral watching people stream in then line up to walk through their Nativity scene.

What occurred to me was not new. It occurs to me every time I’m in church designed with a grounding in Catholic tradition and richly adorned with sign and symbol, and more so if people are wandering through that church during the week.

It’s this: We ask the question quite a bit: how can we get people into Church?

Well, here they are, at about 1pm on a Tuesday.

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I sat there for fifteen minutes. Dozens of people came in.

There are countless ways to evangelize. Preaching, personal witness and the Works of Mercy have always been the primary way Catholics have evangelized through history, with one more thing: the visual representation of Faith through art, architecture and music. In other words – giving the Sacred material expression in space and time. Saying, “This is Incarnation.”

How did that become unfashionable? My reading and reflection hints at a few reasons:

  • Raised in the thick of it, a couple of generations of reformers came to see all of that as obstacles to faith, not a way to it or expressions of it. They said it blocked the simplicity of faith in Christ.
  • I have always suspected, even though the archaeologism was a part of the Liturgical Movement from the beginning, that the devastation of two world wars intensified the feeling that Catholic culture had been an inadequate repository of faith and even a barrier to authentic understanding, hence the appeal to simplicity.
  • The idea that all of this mitigated against participation and was elitist.
  • The Church is the community gathered not the buildings, etc., etc.,

 

I’ve talked about these points often enough in this space before, but I want to look at a couple of points that my few minutes sitting in Savannah brought to mind.

  • This anti-cultural bias is presentist and runs counter to the fact that the Church is not just “the community gathered in this space.” The Church is Militant and Triumphant, encompasses past and present and the design and appointment of church buildings is about that not about being pretty.
  • A church building – of any sort, simple or decorated, in the middle of a city or a shrine alongside a rural road – is a sign of God’s presence in the world. It’s a good thing to have a lot of those signs, open and welcoming, not fewer.
  • The elitist/non participation thing is so much silliness. Was it the wealthy who carved the statues, applied the gold leaf, constructed the stained glass windows, laid the foundations or climbed high to balance the cross atop the steeples, who played the organ and staffed the chant-singing choirs and fashioned the candles and sewed the vestments and altar frontals?
  • As my friend and colleague Ann Engelhart likes to say in response to the inane Art v. the poor trope, which, sorry, is not a Catholic way of seeing things – Artists ARE the poor!

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So let’s get back to Savannah.

Programs, books, workshops. Time and money. Committee meetings and task forces.

How can we get people into church?

Hey. Guess what. Here they are.

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Drawn by history, beauty and a Christian-rooted cultural moment (aka Christmas).

Here they are.

This place is not an obstacle. This is not elitist. It’s a big, open doorway to a very relevant faith.

Use it. Evangelize with it.

Perhaps they did see it as evangelization – probably – but there could have been so much more, not in your face, but just there. 

The Savannah display was supervised, as far as I could tell, by one docent at the creche, and then a woman sitting at a desk near the front door – that looked to be a permanent spot.

But what I didn’t see was any kind of handout about the Cathedral itself. There was, I think, a booklet for sale, but there was no free pamphlet with either a history of the church itself or a description of what to look for in a Catholic church.

It’s this last point that bugs me the most. I’ve been in countless Catholic churches in my life, and that kind of offering – a simple description of the meaning of the shape of a cruciform church, the layout, the meaning of the altar, tabernacle, stations of the cross, and so on – why doesn’t it exist and why isn’t it everywhere?

Plus an invitation to return. A notice of inquiry sessions. A notice of ways to join in the Corporeal Works of Mercy sponsored by the church.

Is money an issue? Render it a non-issue. Put out a specific plea: Hey, we need a couple thousand dollars to provide this tool for evangelization. Can you all contribute?  My experience is that notoriously stingy Catholics are stingy only because they don’t trust where their money is being spent, and that is not unfounded. If they know, they are generous.

Anyway. Yes, church buildings are modes of evangelization because they are witnesses to the presence of God in the world. Even non-traditional chapels and churches are. Even churches in the suburbs.  Too much of what passes for evangelization in Catholicism isn’t, at all. Evangelization is reaching out and inviting and understanding what brings the curious and building vigorously on that –  not sitting, waiting, not explaining anything and then charging a fee when you do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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— 1 —

Well, how about some shots and brief thoughts from doings over the past few weeks?

Maybe starting with the water pipe table at a Stuckey’s in the middle of Georgia?

"amy welborn"

Who needs a pecan roll anyway!

— 2 —

Jump back to Our Lady of Guadalupe, almost a month ago, at a local parish.

– 3—

Then after Christmas, a trip to South Carolina.

 

— 4 —

After a day there, I ran the boys down to Florida. On the way back up to SC, I stopped in Savannah. I had been there years ago when they were just starting to work on the Flannery O’Connor childhood home, and had high hopes of being able to actually tour it this time.  But of course, it was closed. Alas!

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— 5 —

But across the square was hopping – the Cathedral. Tour buses spilling out dozens and a constant rate, not just to tour the building for its own sake, but for the large-ish (by American standards) nativity inside.  I sat in there for a while watching folks.

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“Savannah Cotton, of course,” remarked the docent.

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— 6

Over the next few days, I finished up work, baby-watched and got to know the Charleston area a bit better.

There was the day I took the baby downtown and to my great amazement found a parking place on the street right away!  A car was pulling out, and what luck for us! Victory! I’m practically a local now!

I parked, got the baby out, got the stroller out, packed up the baby, then turned to put the money in the meter…..which had a 30 minute limit.

Well, I wasn’t going to waste that stroller-wrangling time, so we made the best of it and just headed down the block, and, as it turns out, into a spot I’d never been to before, that was quite interesting.

The graveyard at the Unitarian Church. 

What makes it interesting, in addition to the normal interest that an historic  graveyard holds, is that most of it is overgrown.  The sight initially seems disrespectful, but upon reflection, I can see that a total overhaul and landscaping effort would disturb the crowded gravesites and probably upend and uproot things to a disturbing degree. The effect is, I imagine purposeful: this is life and death, effortlessly intertwined.   I’ll go back sometime, definitely.

— 7 —

 

Also…Lent!  A month from Sunday!

Time to order your parish/school materials – even if you want to order some for a group of friends or a class…here you go!

A Stations of the Cross for teens:

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Biblical Way of the Cross for everyone:

For Ave Maria press, we wrote John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross. The current edition is illustrated with paintings by Michael O’Brien.

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There’s also a digital edition in app form.

Reconciled to God – a daily devotional. Also available in an e-book format. Only .99.

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Looking for a book study for a group? How about Matthew 26-28: Jesus’ Life-Giving Death from Loyola. 

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For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

 

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At some point – hopefully later today, the blogging repertoire will expand beyond this daily report. But it’s a start, a forces me to write something here. I’ve been so immersed in that other thing for three months – and with another project looming  – it’s really difficult for me to write anything of substance anywhere else.

Today (Actually yesterday..forgot to post) …another late start.  I think I’m still in mental recovery mode from the project, but hopefully today was a reset.

  • Prayer: Readings of the day (as in Epiphany). Talked about the Magi, etc.
  • Read Eliot’s The  Journey of the Magi. I read the first section aloud with great drama, so he would catch the tone, which he did for the rest of it.
  • We talked about what the “old dispensation” and how the experience of this Birth/Death renders the narrator feeling as if he were among foreigners once he returns home. Tied it into the homily we had heard on Sunday, which had much the same theme – so much so that I really expected the priest to pull in Eliot, but he never did.

 

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This was one of my first purchases on Ebay, back when Ebay was sort of interesting. They were larger than I had expected, but I still love them.

 

 

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He’s a saint who was a strong leader….the first page of the entry in The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints.

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Old Sheldon Church ruins, off of 17 near I-95 in South Carolina.  Built in 1757, burned by the British during the Revolutionary War. Either burned again by Sherman or gutted by area residents after the war for rebuilding materials.

Supposedly the first conscious attempt in the Americas to imitate a Greek structure.

"amy welborn"

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