Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Six Wives and Thirty-three Stab Wounds Later

Last weekend, I went to the Winter Teacher's Seminar at The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia. This was my third trip to the Blackfriar's Theater, so before too much more time passed, I wanted to record the memories & thoughts. My other two visits were chaperoning field trips- the first to see Hamlet, which was an excellent experience, and the second... well, honestly, I can't even remember because I was so ill that I barely crawled back to the bus throwing the kids from the long back bench seat to sleep a sickened slumber until coming home to a fully-developed flu. Surely the bus could have been likened to a traveling plague on wheels- appropriate to Shakespeare's time perhaps, but not so convenient when over three hours from home with 50+ students.

Thankfully, the most recent jaunt to Staunton was far less tragic and far more enjoyable. I am rather perturbed with myself that I had not visited more. I just so hate long distances, and to drive. I encouraged a former student to attend the adjoining college, Mary Baldwin, just to have a place to stay when I partook of weekends with The Bard.

That was the very plan this past weekend, to bunk in a college dorm and deter from pricey hotel options. Since this plan was birthed though, Amanda gained a room mate and thus lost a spare bed. So, plans were hashed to include an inflatable air mattress and tale of being a beloved (and totally cool) aunt. As the arrival day loomed nearer though, I began to rethink my plan & ultimately decided to take advantage of a special at the Lee Jackson hotel right next door to the theater though. Life has been busy and stressful as of late (always) and I thought a little self-indulgent TLC might curtail a major emotional implosion.

In retrospect though... I should have just stayed in the dorm. The retail therapy that could have been had in trade for the price of lush bedding would have worked just as fine.

So, I did see Amanda upon my arrival Friday night. Being the two classy broads we are, we hit Sheetz so I could grab some snacks for the hotel room. More fun though, was delivering a Birthday care package from Amanda's family.

Workshops ran from 9-12 Saturday & Sunday mornings. It was a whole lot of information in very little time. I was resistant to some of the teaching methods at first. Thinking it would never work my kids or with my administration (such as the Blood Workshop, ha!) Then, I pondered upon it though, and could see how a tweak "here" and a twitch "there" could create some activities that would have students very involved in a little Shakespeare in the classroom.

A much younger and more enthusiastic participant in the blood workshop.
Another thing really affecting my engagement in the methodology I think was this looming to-do list in my head. I brought more bags of work for the weekend than I brought of clothes and such. Finding quiet time to get work done was another reason I favored the hotel room option. Two things happened though to prohibit that- I was out late (at Sheetz or the theatre) or getting up early (the wee hour of 8 a.m.) for workshops, and the beds were just too nirvana-sleep-inducing for working late or rising early.

The other thing that happened was...

On Sunday morning, I could not quiet the to-do list churning in the back of my mind, until...

I saw a fellow teacher sitting in the row in front of me jotting away furiously at her carefully organized and categorized To-Do list... and it made me sad. How often is that me? So lost to living in the moment because I can only think of what needs to be done next... and after that... and after that.

And after that.

Now, I have to admit I wasn't completely caught up in the exercises about acting like a hero, growling like a tiger. Unfortunately, I even shied away from the Blood Workshop, which I quickly regretted. But, I was engaged... and finding tidbits to bring back to the classroom. The other lady had no idea what was going on. It was as if she were stuck in a class for which she had no choice to endure while she had other- more important- things to be doing instead.

Again, I have been that person.

So, I allowed myself the epiphany of...

It can wait.

School will still be there come Monday. The kids will still arrive come 8:15 a.m. Key Clubbers will still keep me running and Relay will still keep me spinning. And no snippets of work or planning carved into the few free minutes of time during my day was going to save- or ruin- that. So, I enjoyed a lunch with the co-teachers that went to the workshop also, and I stayed for the afternoon play that was included with the workshop.

I saw three plays within 24 hours, which by Blackfriar's lingo meas I was "indoctrinated." First, there was of course Julius Caesar, upon which the whole workshop was based. It was an excellent production and really forced me to break out of my expected stereo-types; much to my despair there were no togas involved! Saturday night, Amanda and I went to see The Country Wife, not a work of Shakespeare but close to the same time period It was the epitome of "bawdy" humor. Most of my reflections about that production revolved around the lack of ingenuity of modern culture- how so many of the very same plots today can be traced back to audiences over 500 years ago. To my chagrin, that production also had an unexpected twist. At no point during the play's development would I have expected the final lines of the script to transition in a flash mob dance scene with the cast singing "Private Eyes." Lastly, on Sunday afternoon before returning home, I joined a very small audience for Henry VIII. I really debated staying for the show since it would have me arriving home after 8, rather than 3ish (with much more time to tackle that To-Do list). Alas, I decided to enjoy the full scope of get-away the weekend had to offer and partook in my first Shakespeare history (I honestly could not say "enjoyed" it).

Experiencing the production did help me reach an important conclusion though. I am very familiar with Julius Caesar. I am not at all familiar with dear Henry. It gave me the experience of being audience to Shakespeare that I didn't understand. I know all about the King and his wives, and that part of the play I got. I had no idea what was going on with the bishops and cardinals and such. I must admit there was even some head-bobbing... not of the enthusiastically agreeing kind (or of the beheaded wife kind), but of the snoozing after a very long weekend... and being bored-to-tears by most history related things kind . So, I am still very glad that I stayed for the production in great part because I realized the need for my students to know the play before they saw the production of Julius Caesar next month.

And while I did not fall in love with Shakespeare's histories, I most definitely did fall in love with the town of Staunton. I even did a lil vicarious drive-by house-shopping as I sadly headed out of town Sunday afternoon. Jason & I went to St. Augustine for our honeymoon. It was the first (and maybe) only time I just dropped in and explored a (although very touristy) town. We were just driving by and had not even made plans to stay... but left three days later. Except for the very unfortunate absence of a nifty coffee house for a college town, Staunton reminded me me very much of St. Augustine. Throw in the crunchy granola factor of the shops and restaurants downtown and it reminded me of the town in There's a Slight Change I Might Being to Hell. I remember as I read that book thinking, THIS is where I would love to live... and I found it.

I am hoping for many many return trips to Staunton and really hope I do not let my aversion to road trips keep me away- especially since so much of the town was closed down for the winter season and my weekend was so busy that I got to see so little.

No comments: