Shakespeare’s Globe On Screen (and offscreen Shakespeare adventures)

Thanks to Melanie’s posts about teaching Shakespeare to children, I learned about the Shakespeare’s Globe On Screen series, in which performances from the Globe Theatre are broadcast in high definition at local movie theaters. Melanie has also compiled a list of which productions are available via DVD from Amazon; we are fortunate in the Houston area to have a couple of theaters that are showing this series.

I had the opportunity to see Mark Rylance’s production of Twelfth Night in New York this January while tagging along on a business trip with my husband. I was a little apprehensive about it, since my media consumption primarily consists of legal procedurals playing in the background while I build websites. My ticket was for the cheapest of the cheap seats; would I understand what was being said onstage? Would I follow the story? Would I survive the hour-long wait outside in the 23-degree weather, given that I am now acclimated to Texas winters? (It’s a frosty 52 degrees today – pulling out ALL THE SCARVES.)

I was a fool to worry. It was a marvelous production, and I was reminded that if the actors are performing as they should, you can tell what’s happening in the story even if you don’t follow every word. More than that, the beauty of Shakespeare’s language is conveyed so much better onstage than when dissected in fifth period under flourescent classroom lights. (I know these are not ground-breaking epiphanies.)

It looks like I’ve already missed the Globe On Screen production of Twelfth Night, and I’m trying not to obsess about this missed opportunity. Audiences in the UK (and perhaps in other regions, as well) now can view this and other productions via the Globe Player app and website, and I’m hoping this will soon be available in the USA, as well. You can read more about the Globe’s new on-demand service at the Washington Post.

At first, I thought there weren’t going to be any showings in our area, but it turns out that the Globe On Screen website doesn’t always have all of the dates/locations. I happened to check the day before the showing of The Taming of the Shrew, and sure enough, there was a showing available. My husband and 10-year-old daughter went to that performance; my older son was at a birthday party and my youngest – well, I’m not sure a 6-year-old would really benefit from a three-hour performance, even with popcorn. They raved about the experience and I was intent on seeing another production in the series if I could swing it.

As luck would have it, the next showing was The Tempest. This was fortuitous because I’d signed up my older son and his friend to do a short dialogue from the play at the Texas Renaissance Festival School Days as part of the performing arts theater competition. (In our house, competition = external deadline that forces us to do the cool things we otherwise wouldn’t get around to doing.) I took the two boys and my daughter to the showing; my daughter and I sat together, and I let the boys pick their own spot. I was only slightly worried that they’d be caught up in peanut-gallery comments about the play instead of sitting with rapt attention as I’d hoped.

I was a fool to worry…again. All of the kids loved it. I turned to psychically tell the boys, “THIS IS YOUR SCENE,” during Act 2, Scene 1 when Antonio and Sebastian plotted the murder of the King of Naples and his entourage. But they ignored my laser-beam-glare because they were fixed to the action onscreen. I was so glad that I took them!

It was an exponentially richer experience for them to see this fantastic performance of the play and then learn the scene themselves, rather than what I’d done the year before for the same competition. Last year, I assigned my son and another friend a dialogue from The Merchant of Venice and gave each one a No-Fear Shakespeare book. (I actually thought the book was quite beneficial, and we’d found some YouTube clips of the scene in question, but this was so much better.) (I realize Shakespeare purists are probably appalled that I used the No-Fear Shakespeare book, but it was a last-minute thing that consisted mostly of the boys practicing on Skype.) (Shakespeare purists probably also resent all these parentheses.)

I shall post no photographs of the boys’ performance, as I am now trying to adhere to the Mom, I’m Too Old to Be Blogged About Protocol, which seems like common courtesy once you have a TEENAGER IN THE HOUSE. But I was very pleased with how they brought the scene to life. I think they were a bit disappointed to not win, but they were up against almost 100 other pairs of kids, which is really a remarkable thing, isn’t it? Buses full of middle schoolers, all doing Shakespeare (and similar scenes) on a Tuesday in Texas? Besides, the point of entering the competition was to make us actually do the cool Shakespeare thing, instead of Mom perpetually planning and putting it off. Works every time.

Image courtesy of Shakespeare's Globe On Screen

Image courtesy of Shakespeare’s Globe On Screen

It looks like there’s one more broadcast in the series this year – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, maybe showing on December 4 somewhere near you. If you’re in the Houston area, it is showing at the IMAX in Tomball and the Palladium in Richmond, at noon and then again at 7pm. We plan to be there! Tickets are $20 each, which is…quite a lot, especially if you’re taking more than one kiddo.

I wouldn’t recommend it for kids under 10; the showing of “The Tempest” had a few bawdy elements to it and it’s a long time to sit in a movie theater seat. My kid-survival policy for these events is you can go to the bathroom/to get water as many times as you’d like, within reason, as long as you are not disturbing the people around you. And, sadly, the theater was near-empty for the performances we’ve attended; I think they could do a much better job of publicizing these showings. I have good intentions of getting our homeschool group together for a showing, but you know what they say about good intentions…wait, is that from Shakespeare? (answer: no, but it would make a snappy ending to this blog post if it were.)

Homeschool Travels and Handmade Treasures Along the Silk Road

We are very fortunate in the Houston area to have access to a series of homeschool family workshops at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. There are six workshops during the school year, and they fill up quickly, so I’m now in the habit of putting “REGISTER FOR MFAH HOMESCHOOL WORKSHOP 8AM” on my calendar so that I don’t forget when registration opens and lose the opportunity to attend. This Tuesday’s theme was “Travels and Treasures Along the Silk Road.” The workshop consists of a lecture/powerpoint about the topic, a walk through the galleries, and an art project that the Speed Family would never get around to doing at home.

Creating a patterned plate to trade along the Silk Road

Creating a patterned plate to trade along the Silk Road

The woman who leads the workshop is an excellent guide; she works well with groups of homeschooled students who are a wide variety of ages. I’m especially appreciative of the different levels of questions she poses, making sure she asks some that will require the older kids to think a bit more deeply and some that are easy for the younger children to answer. She is very patient but also keeps the class on track. The whole team of museum staff are very helpful and it’s a great experience all around.

I can't remember the name of the instructor, but she is a fabulous guide

I can’t remember the name of the instructor, but she is a fabulous guide and I wish this were a better picture!

So the older kids get to answer questions about Marco Polo and where silk comes from, while the younger ones get to tell us that the items on display are made of gold and that the crown might be worn by a king.

The museum has what I think she said is the second or third largest collection of gold items from Indonesia as part of a larger collection of gold items by Houston philanthropist Alfred Glassell, Jr. (I may be wrong about that.) I wish I’d taken my real camera instead of my cell phone. I particularly liked how the red of the Indonesia gallery set off the gold.

I was taken with the shadow cast by the earring.

I was taken with the shadow cast by the earring.

After our gallery tour, we returned to the classroom to stamp, paint, and bejewel our plates. I now have three to display artistically on my recently-dusted-for-the-first-time-in-ages bookshelves.

Note the gemstones, which were originally going to be arranged as the Triforce, because everything everywhere must relate back to video games, apparently.

Note the gemstones, which were originally going to be arranged as the Triforce, because everything everywhere must relate back to video games, apparently.

After the homeschool workshop, we ate our lunch outside and then returned to explore the same galleries in a little bit more detail. Wait, first there were Two Incidents of Behavior, and then we all got into the car and Mom stated that if we are not going to behave properly, we are LEAVING, and then we drove three blocks, and then we turned around after a lecture from Mom about how the only reason we are turning around is because Mom wants to see the galleries, not because we earned back the privilege, becuase then what are you learning, are you learning that you can just (REDACTED INCIDENTS OF BEHAVIOR) and then apologize and that makes it all okay? (REDACATED INCIDENTS OF BEHAVIOR) are not acceptable! But YOUR MOTHER wants to not miss out on seeing those gold things after we drove all the way down here. So we are going back. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?

That was not the proudest moment of the day. I think the guitar-playing busker guy was confused that we walked back over to the museum in harmony after storming over to the minivan in…disharmony…three minutes earlier.

This is a bad picture of the exhibit, which consists of projected digital images of trees that cycle through the seasons.

This is a bad picture of the exhibit, which consists of projected digital images of trees that cycle through the seasons.

Anyway, so then we spent about ten minutes sitting and watching what the kids originally called the “giant screensaver.” The exhibit, by artist Jennifer Steinkamp,  is called Mike Kelley Projections.

The series, titled Mike Kelley, now comprises 17 projections, each a variant on a single tree that passes through the four seasons: going from bare, to tender green, to autumnal incandescence, and back to the barren boughs of winter. At the same time, the boughs gyrate in a sinuous ballet, implying the larger earth cycles of wind, storm, and change.

The kids and I sat on the floor and watched as each tree danced in the wind, making a game of spotting each change of season.

In the Japanese gallery, there’s a small room with an installation by Shimabuku “Then, I decided to give a Tour of Tokyo to the Octopus from Akashi.”

Like tourists, they make visits to the Tokyo Tower and the famous Tsukiji fish market before getting back on the train to return the octopus back home in the Akashi Sea. The artist refers to this work as his Apollo project, involving an adventure far from the natural habitat of the octopus. We easily imagine how weird our world must seem to such a creature whilst being reminded of how extraordinary an octopus actually is.

The artist took an octopus on a tour of Tokyo, then returned it to the ocean.

The artist took an octopus on a tour of Tokyo, then returned it to the ocean.

This was very amusing and also tied into the weirdly cephalopod-themed museum-year we are having, since our last trip to the museum district involved squid dissection at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

I'm not 100% sure that's the name of this piece. It is by a modern Korean artist and is part of an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

I’m not 100% sure that’s the name of this piece. It is by a modern Korean artist and is part of an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

And in the Korean gallery, we saw “Solitude Tower” – can’t remember the name of the artist, and that might not be the exact title. I think I was supposed to meditate upon the alienation of the modern world, maybe considering how each of us with our cell phone brains is living in a solitude tower while in the midst of the crowd, but really I thought “if I had one of those, I could elevator myself up to five minutes of quiet, except I’m scared of heights.”

Mid-October Learning Notes (pre-AP Trebuchet Edition)

Joining the guilt-free learning notes linkup, because the longer I go without doing any reflecting whatsoever, the less fun I am to be around.

I’m not feeling too bad yet about how our school year is going, even though there are indicators that would seem to point towards a terminal case of mis-organization. I continue to simply forget entirely about entire books that are supposed to be part of the daily – or, at least, once-weekly – routine around here. We’ve had our share of craziness in the past few months and so I blame that vaguely ominous-sounding but really-mostly-fine situation, as it were, for my System Amnesia. I actually have an awesome new approach to not forgetting things, and it’s called the Bullet Journal, and I bought a lot of washi tape to make sure it sticks, HAHAHA ADHESIVE HUMOR NEVER FAILS, so there’s that.

We are doing some ambitious things this year, but mostly so that I can set the standards high enough to give myself room for when we don’t meet them. I’ve decided to just stick the kids at least a grade ahead in almost every subject we’re studying, as long as I don’t observe any genuine stress over this decision.

Really, Wordly Wise Grade 8 is not any more tedious than Wordly Wise Grade 7. It’s just slightly harder words. No more work. I define “geniuine stress over this decision” as follows: if the fit you are pitching is significantly worse than your standard I-don’t-want-to-do-that-assignment fit, I will consider whether it is something about the subject matter itself rather than an issue of leaving math for after lunchtime (for example).

This child chose to create a scarecrow version of herself to assist in completing her assignments.

This child chose to create a scarecrow version of herself to assist in completing her assignments.

AND…if the child is working ahead of grade level, and it’s a two-migraine week, Mom does not have to feel quite so bad about getting behind, because we are still ahead, so to speak.

I dislike the idea that as children mature intellectually to the point where they can engage in more complex subject matter, it requires an exponential growth in homework/projects/tasks. (I have learned from one of my summer partial-reads that this thing I just described is a logarithmic scale. My 9th grade teacher taught us logarithms backwards and I’ve feared them since that day.)

Anyway – you know what I mean, if you have a middle schooler. Now that we’re in pre-AP honors college-bound US history instead of your basic advanced honors pre-college-bound pre-pre-AP history, we write three times the number of reports to guarantee three times the amount of learning, because the trek to college starts now and probably already started and you’re probably already behind.

I just refuse. I can’t even with this.

At the same time, it is very important to me and to my husband that our children not miss out on opportunities as a result of our choosing to homeschool them.

What?! That makes no sense. That is completely not achievable. Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something. Homeschooling is about opting out, and opting out means missed opportunities.


It drives me crazy, how much pressure we put on kids. So we’re trying – hope we succeed – this grand experiment to see if we can achieve similar outcomes with a different sort of lifestyle. Schoolwork that takes up a few hours of the day instead of 12 hours a day, and room for other stuff.

Now, the news that I’m not forcing the children to participate in any activities or putting pressure on them will come as a shock to the actual children, who are being forced to participate in several academic competitions this year. More on that later, maybe. Short version: the competitions keep me honest about these goals we’re supposedly setting, and preparing for the competitions is something we do instead of workbooks, etc., and not in addition to workbooks, etc., and we try not to spend too much time on them, and besides, wouldn’t you want to build a trebuchet, if you could? That kind of thing will never happen, in this family, without an external deadline and an entry fee.

So – there’s that, my first attempt in a while to make sense about homeschooling. Thanks for the link-up, Melanie!


First Week of School: 7QT

— 1 —

And so it begins. I like starting school with a four-day week; I’m a fan of four-day weeks in general, but especially when you’re coming off of a two-and-then-some-weeks family beach vacation. The detox period is painful when coupled with a Return to Structure. Therefore, we bribe with the promise of getting to bake and decorate a cake.

— 2 —

I’m hoping that I have now taken a long enough break from blogging that I no longer care about it whatsoever and can therefore be liberated from the imaginary pressure to Join the Conversation on whatever it is we’re all supposed to be talking about at any given time.

— 3 —

I shall turn 40 this month, and that still doesn’t really compute for me. 40 is something my parents were in the mid-80s, celebrating with “Lordy, Lordy, look who’s 40” cards and oldies music. You know, REAL oldies music, like Sam and Dave and The Swinging Medallions and The Jesters. Not, like, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam.

— 4 —

Anyway, so – it was a good first week, all things considered. Our homeschool group has a core team this year and we have put a lot of activities on the calendar, including a park day yesterday in the rain (with a covered pavilion). The rain provided welcome relief from the broiling heat.

We’re going to try to have a group activity every Friday – sometimes just a park day, other days a field trip, etc. I really hope this works out as an incentive for my kids to get all of their work done earlier in the week instead of putting it off (often due to Mom running out of nagging steam by Tuesday).

— 5 —

It’s a marvelous thing when your children are old enough that their help is actually helpful and their jokes are actually funny.

— 6 —

We’ve been getting gradually less unschoolish each year, particularly now that my oldest homeschoolee is in seventh grade. At the same time, being unschoolish with history (in particular) has really worked well with that child, who loves to read about history on his own. He’s definitely left me far behind, and not only because I don’t remember more than 10% of what I learned while earning my undergraduate degree in, uh, history. Frequently I just check out a bunch of books for him to power through, and tell him to let me know if there’s stuff in one of the books that seems weird or “inappropriate” (that wonderful modern catch-all.)

Every once in a while, I think, “maybe I should make them do projects.” I loved assigning projects as a teacher. And I was mostly the good kind of project-based teacher, because I tried to assign projects that could be completed in class and didn’t require parental trips to obtain supplies, get certified as a notary public, steal the Declaration of Independence.

But then I think…ehhh. I don’t really like crafts when they happen inside my house.

— 7 —

Look what my husband caught at the beach, in the water in which the kids and I had been swimming for days!


This shall now be my default end-of-post image.

For more Quick Takes, visit CELEBRATED RADIO HOST WHAT ARE YOU KIDDING ME GO JEN at Conversion Diary!

I Am Not Going to Swim Across the Pool Today: A Partial Catalog

(Guest post by 5-year-old)

Pronunciation guide: “pewl” for “pool,” “f” for “th” and vice verftha. Avoid use of sing-song voice in favor of ADAMANT ROARS.

I am NOT going to swim across the pool today.

This is NOT a pool-swim-across day.

I am NOT going to swim like you said, because I am just a little boy and I don’t know how to do big things.

Little kids cannot do things and I am just little and cute and I am NOT BIG.

There are SHARKS in the pool. I don’t want to be a dolphin; I want to be a shark. Dolphins are bad!

I am NOT swimming across the pool because the pool is too cold, too hot, and too warm.

You are NOT my coach today you are just a mom and I am NOT GOING to SWIM.

My coach is NOT in charge NOBODY is in charge just MOMS but I am NOT A SWIM TEAM BOY!

Yeah, but I want there to be lava in the pool.

Yeah, but I have never even seen a volcano!

Yeah, but it is a long time since we went to France I want to go to France NOT TO SWIM LESSONS I AM NOT GOING TO SWIM.

Yeah, but I already have a trophy from baseball; trophies are not for me.

Yeah, but I want asteroids to come and destroy the earth and there be NO MORE POOLS.

Yeah, but then the meteorite will come and fall in the pool and make all the water splash out.

Yeah, but I don’t need to swim because I live on land.

Yeah, but I do not need to get a treat for swimming because I DO NOT NEED TO SWIM.

Yeah, but Superman doesn’t have ONE arm, he has TWO arms to push off and he can FLY and he’s a SUPERHERO and I am just a LITTLE KID who does NOT NEED to push off the side of the pool.

Yeah, but Superman is not real and alive on this earth.

Yeah, but I can’t swim like a T. Rex because T. Rexes just have small arms and they can’t swim because they have small arms like this.

Yeah, but there are no dinosaurs on swim teams.

Yeah, but I will swim across the pool tomorrow, not today.

Yeah, but I will swim when I am six.

YOU were being THEFEETFUL because you stepped BACK and I had to swim to the WALL and you made me swim too FAR.



You lied!



Michael Brendan Dougherty on Popes and “Party Loyalty”

Having grown up in a college town in the Deep South, I am accustomed to viewing Catholicism through the lens of “how is this particular aspect of my faith weird to other people?” Anticipating questions and preparing responses to have on hand, that kind of thing. Not (usually) from a defensive stance; I actually think most questions/objections/criticisms are reasonable when working from a given premise and you have to show how the underlying premise is incomplete or flawed in order to properly respond.

I think that’s what I think, at least.

More and more, I struggle with this inchoate sense of “I’m just not sure what I think about how this is going” with regards to Churchy conversations, Pope-related articles, soft-focus photos with pope quotes superimposed atop them, and my first time using the word “inchoate” in a sentence.

Here is an opinion I hold but worry you’ll dislike: I think we should not canonize popes until a big chunk of time has passed since their death – say, 200 years.

And, in an article that surely wins some sort of Webby for “least accurate ad hominem remarks from commenters,” Michael Brendan Dougherty has clarified for me why I think this.

Between Pentecost and the launch of, most Catholics did not have access to the day-to-day musings of their pope. The Roman pontiff’s theological speculations have been of almost no interest to Catholics throughout history, and never became so unless he was a great theologian already, or there was a great controversy which the authority of the Roman Church might settle. To the average Catholic living hundreds of miles from Rome the Faith was the Faith, whether the pope was zealously orthodox like St. Benedict II or a sex criminal like Pope John XII.

As much as I like the Internet, social media is making it harder and harder for Catholicism to NOT be reduced to being in the Pope Fan Club.

“I’m a fan of this new pope,” says the person who read the Rolling Stone cover in the supermarket aisle. And I feel it incumbent upon me to be well-versed in not only the latest word from the Vatican but also the greater context and the likelihood of accuracy and the last ten related statements.

I already felt that way with Benedict XVI; that I had a duty, as a Catholic on the Internet, to be ready to be interviewed by Reddit about the latest sound bite and interpret it within the light of our rich heritage of faith. But now it’s far more burdensome, either because I’m getting older and tireder, or because sometimes the statements are way, way open to widely varying interpretations, or – well, whatever.

And in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “at some point in the future, we are bound to have another really lousy pope, and then what?”  Then how we will we handle the every-five-seconds news cycle?

Back to canonization of popes: saint-making can be hugely confusing and weird to people who don’t know much about Catholicism. It’s very hard to make it NOT sound like “God gives us the bat-signal that the person is in Heaven, and then we update our calendars.”

It has occurred to me that canonization is the Church’s response to people’s natural inclination to celebrate and devote themselves to people they admire. Sometimes we celebrate and devote ourselves to some really terrible role models, like (insert former Disney star here, while saying a prayer for his/her conversion and acquisition of pants). And sometimes we celebrate and devote ourselves to those who have displayed heroic virtue. People will do this regardless of the Church proclaiming, “this person is in  Heaven.” Canonization could be understood as a way of sifting through the various cults of personality that are out there and validating the lives of those who truly can be models for us of life in Christ.

So I understand why we canonize some people very quickly – if there is abundant evidence of the person’s virtuous life, etc., and a profound call for this person to be recognized as a saint, the Church responds to that call and does not make people wait for no good reason.

But with popes – gosh, I just feel like this has the potential to go very much awry, becoming a near-instant referendum on What Pope Such-and-Such Represented and Whether That Was Good.

This is the kind of thing I don’t usually write about because I think “my friends who aren’t Catholic are going to read this and wonder why I am Catholic if I feel this way about Official Things the Church is Doing.” (Or, worse, “gosh, my friends who are Catholic are going to think this sounds awfully hostile.”)

But – all of this “what’s your opinion of this thing the pope did 17 hours ago” stuff is so peripheral to what being Catholic means. Being Catholic means receiving Christ in the sacraments; encountering Him in Scripture; being part of the body of Christ across time and space and all that wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. Thinking about pope things really should occupy very little of my mental space, which I think gets back to what Dougherty is saying.

Ha – here as I sat fretting about how my four readers would receive this crazy idea I came up with about waiting to canonize popes, look what Google found:

A measured take from John Allen (What the canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II tell us):

As a footnote, some experts question the whole business of assigning halos to popes. Generally it’s not because they doubt the personal holiness of these men, but because they worry it damages the process.

First of all, Catholic theology holds that the Church never “makes” a saint. If someone is already in Heaven with God, which is what calling them a saint means, they don’t need a piece of paper from Rome certifying their status. Declaring someone a saint is really for everyone else, intended to lift that person up as a role model and a source of inspiration.

With popes, such a gesture is arguably superfluous, since their election already made them highly visible figures.

Further, the question with popes is, which ones do you canonize? Either you do it for all of them, which may cheapen the result by making it seem almost part of the standard benefits package, or you pick and choose, which risks making the process seem political.

And a very interesting piece from David Gibson of Religion News Service (Does being pope give you an inside track to sainthood?):

What accounts for this sainthood surge?

Experts cite a combination of factors. For one, more recent popes have arguably been holy men rather than monarchs, and they look especially good in comparison to the various rogues and warriors who occupied the papal throne in the Renaissance era.

“In a sense they are witnesses of a Christian life,” said Massimo Faggioli, a theologian at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and author of a new biography of John XXIII.

Modern popes, Faggioli said, “are less subject to the political and social constraints of established European Catholicism, when to become pope you had to be part of the right family or alliance, and being violent or ruthless or almost a war criminal had no importance.”

Today, he said, popes are expected to be saints more than rulers, pastors of a church “that tries to be closer to the gospel than to the Roman Empire.”

Both of those are great articles; I encourage you to read them in full, and would be interested in your opinion of Dougherty’s piece as well, unless you are the type of person who starts out by blasting him for being a “typical liberal atheist commie.” I’m not sure I would agree with all of it, but his point that we tend to view the pope as “party leader” brought me up short.