Happy Birthday Shakespeare?

Hello all, it is that special time of year where shakespeares birthday is celebrated by many. I say time of year because it is unknown the exact date Shakespeare was born but many guess it is on April 23rd. It is this time though that we celebrate 454 years of Shakespeare. Many celebrations will take place all over the world, most famously in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare. This community does a large celebration every year on the weekend closest to the 23rd. The event has many entertaining performances and really brings together locals as well as people traveling to the festivities. I know this post is short but I just wanted to make sure to write a small post about my favorite playwright’s birthday.

Iambs and Trochees and Spondees, Oh My! (Disyllable Metrical Types)

Hello! Today I am going to try and explain the most common types of meter as simply as I can.

Iambs (Iambic) is arguably the most used form of meter. An iamb is a foot that starts with an unaccented (or unstressed) syllable and ends with a stressed syllable. Iambs are commonly found in Shakespearean-style sonnets

Trochees (Trochiaic) are the opposite of iambs. A trochee will begin with a stressed syllable and end with an unstressed one.

Spondees are a kind of foot that have two stressed syllables. Spondees are not usually found to be the basis of a works meter but more as an irregular foot in specific lines. Spondees are great for repetitive exclamations for a dramatic effect as they put emphasis and feeling into the word repeated.

Pyrrhics are the opposite of a spondee. They have two unstressed syllables within a foot. Pyrrhics can sound very monotone and, like spondees, are not typically used as the base form of meter within a text.

Now that we know the specific disyllable metrical types I will explain how you take these feet and create something like Iambic Pentameter. ____meter refers to how many feet are in a line of text. I hope many of you know the prefixes for numbers but I will go through some of them now for those who don’t.

One: Mono- Monometer: One foot per line of text (two syllables per line)

Two: Di- Dimeter: Two feet per line of text (four syllables per line)

Three: Tri- Trimeter: Three feet per line of text (six syllables per line)

Four: Tetra- Tetrameter: Four feet per line of text (eight syllables per line)

Five: Penta- Pentameter: Five feet per line of text (ten syllables per line)

Six: Hexa- Hexameter: Six feet per line of text (twelve syllables per line)

Seven: Hepta- Heptameter: Seven feet per line of text (fourteen syllables per line)


Now we can put these types of meter together with the foot types to create things like iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter would equivillate to a line of five iambic feet, trochaic tetrameter would be four trochaic feet in a line and so on with any combination you can imagine.

This concludes my mini “meter types” lesson. I would like to create a post with more information, maybe explain some examples of the types of feet. If anyone has any requests for further explanation please comment.

England Adventures

Hello all. A week ago I flew to a different country for the first time ever. I spent five days in England, touring schools as well as familiarizing myself with the towns. I landed Saturday morning and went straight to my first tour at Kingston University. Right outside of London, this small university was only a short drive away from the hotel I was staying at. The visit began with a short welcome seminar where I learned about the facilities as well as what this univeristy aimed to bring to its students. After this presentation, I took a bus to one of the housing facilities located on campus. There I learned about where the students lived as well as how their dorm system worked. In many british universities, you do not have a roommate but instead live in a small flat by yourself but share a kitchen with a few other people. This is different than American Universities, where you often live with a roommate. I next went to a workshop to learn about the program I had been excepted to. To my delight, the professer presented us with Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare. Although I am a huge Shakespeare fan, I will admit my knowledge on this poem was limited but I got to learn a lot about it in the workshop. To end my day at Kingston, I was taken on a private tour of the building by another student. Overall, I had a good experience at Kingston but I was excited to tour my next university on Tuesday. After a day of tourism and a train north, I arrived in Birmingham on Monday. The campus tour was the next day and I was very excited. That next morning, I arrived at the university and began the tour. It was a beautiful campus and I enjoyed walking around it and learning about all of the different departments. One of the most interesting bits was learning about the student union and all of the societies at the school. Although this was just a one hour tour instead of an open day like Kingston had, I really enjoyed Birmingham University and fell in love with the campus. This trip has really made me excited for my future and whichever university I attend, I know that I will be happy and learn a lot about literature.

The American Shakespeare Center

Hello all, today I am going to be talking about my absolute favorite place for all things Shakespeare: The American Shakespeare Center. For 3 weeks of the last 3 summers, I have travelled to Staunton, Virginia to attend the American Shakespeare Center’s Theatre Camp. At this camp I learn everything Shakespeare and end the 3 weeks performing in the Blackfriars Playhouse. This theater is unlike any other I have been to because they try to keep their performances by using the same resources. They are most famous for leaving the lights on during their performances, because during Shakespeare’s time they did not have access to the different light technology we have today. The ASC uses “candlelight” (the candles being artificial with lightbulbs to give off light) to light up their stage, as well as artificial sunlight created by putting lights behind opaque windows. Leaving the lights on during their performance allows the actors to interact with the audience, a fundemental part of theater during this time period. The Blackfriars Playhouse is so important to me as an actor and it has really inspired me to study literature in the future.

Audience Contact Series: Using the Audience as an Object and Character Relationships

Hello all, today I will be talking about the final two audience contact types. The first one is short and it is defined as when an actor use the audience as an object they talk about. Rather than naming an audience member as a specific character, the actor will generalize the person into a larger group. This is why this technique differs from casting an audience member, they do not get a specific name, they get a description that shows the rest of the audience the type of person the actor is talking about.

The final form of audience contact is actually shown through the relationship of two characters. An example of this could be from Henry VI Part I, where Margaret and Suffolk are on stage but only Suffolk is talking. Suffolk starts a monologue and when he is done Margaret says “Why speakest thou not”. This is evidence that she despite being on stage, Margaret did not hear a word of Suffolk’s speech. This tells the audience that they were who Suffolk was talking to and Margaret was not supposed to know what Suffolk was saying. We know that Shakespeare meant for this scene to have this relationship with the audience as it would not work any other way.

Audience Contact Series: Asking a Question

Hello again, today we will be talking about the third form of audience contact which is asking the audience a question. This technique I find the easiest to use when in a traditional Shakespearean style theater. The question, included within the lines of the play, is addressed to an audience member sitting close by. This creates an interesting atmosphere within the theater as many actors will wait for that audience member to answer their question before they continue with the show. This adds additional humor to the piece as well as keeps the actors on their feet because they never know what an audience member will say. When I think of this technique, I think of a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that I saw a few years ago. When Helena finds Lysander lying on the forest floor she rushes over to him and says “Lysander, on the ground? Dead or asleep?” (line 73-74). In the show that I saw, the actress playing Helena directed the “Dead or asleep?” question to an audience member and did not continue until she got a response. This was one of the funniest parts of the show because we got to see an unsuspecting audience member paralyzed and not knowing what to do. It took awhile for the person to respond but when they did, the show continued as if nothing had happened. This scene really helped me understand the power of asking an audience member a question while performing. Next time, I will talk about the last form of audience contact. Until then, thanks for reading!

Audience Contact Series: Allying

Last week I introduced one of my favorite acting techniques, audience contact. This week I will move on from “Casting the Audience” to a different form that is called allying. The purpose of this technique is to convince the audience to be on your “side” during the play. Let’s think of Iago from Othello. Throughout the show, this character constantly addresses the audience with what he’s going to do next as well as why he is doing it. Audience members tend to support characters who ask for it, so Iago is the perfect example for this. If the actor can get a lot of time alone with the audience, he or she can convince the audience to be on their side. This creates a strong relationship between actor and audience as well as adds to the meaning of the performance overall. This short post is all for this week, next time I will go into another audience contact element. Thanks for reading.

Audience Contact Series: Casting the Audience

Hello all, today I am going to be talking about one of my favorite acting techniques that was most prominent in early productions of theater, when the technical aspect of performance had not been developed to what it is today. That technique is audience contact. There are many different forms of audience contact and they can all help develop a performance to feel more inclusive with the people you are performing for. The first form I’d like to talk about is casting the audience. When a character is delivering a piece to an audience, they often address unseen characters. This can leave the audience confused about the story and leave this selection missing something. Let’s think about the famous “Once more unto the breach” speech in Henry V. Here, King Henry is trying to motivate his army to attack again and not back down. Now, obviously we cannot have an entire army on a stage so an actor may make a choice to cast the audience as his army. Think about it, a theater full of people that are already listening to you can feel like subjects waiting for commands. This will also build a relationship with the audience, further engaging them in your performance. I know that for me, feeling like I am a part of a show I am watching can further my understanding of the text as well as bring me into the world of the text. Casting the audience does not always have to be casting the entire audience, you can use this technique with one or two audience members that you can easily identify. An example I saw in a workshop used a Merchant of Venice scene between characters Portia and Nerissa. In this selection, the two women are talking about unseen characters. Since the audience was never introduced to these characters, it can be hard for them to get the full effect of the text. That is where casting comes in. The actors could then potentially direct their descriptions to an unsuspecting audience member to give the rest of the audience a face of the character they are talking about. My next post will be about a different type of audience contact, as this is all I have time for right now. Thanks for reading.

A Trip to England

After being accepted to all 5 of the universities I applied to in the UK, I decided that a visit to the schools would help me make my decision. I will be flying to the UK on March 16th and I am so excited. I have never left the United States before and I have always dreamed of visiting England because it has such deep roots in the type of literature I like. Visiting Shakespeare’s home country has been a dream of mine for so long and I cannot believe that in a few months time I will be walking streets that he walked. This trip is strictly to visit schools, but I hope that there will be some free time for me to explore many of the historic buildings. After my trip, I will be posting about things that I saw and experienced while in England. I feel that this trip starts a new and exciting chapter of my life and I cannot wait to share it.

Post High School Shakespeare

I recently found out that I have been accepted into all of the universities that I applied to. Of the six universities I applied to, I got into all of them. Mary Baldwin University is the only school I applied to that is in the United States. The other five schools are in various areas of the United Kingdom. My passion for Shakespeare has led me to want to study in the country he is originally from. A school in the United Kingdom would be my top choice, but I am struggling to make a decision. There are many factors that go into which school I get into. All of the schools have given me conditional offers, which I must meet requirements before I can be accepted. I have to determine which requirements I feel that I can meet before I choose. The struggle of not visiting any of these universities makes it harder to rule out some too. I have tried to do research on the schools, trying to figure out what I like and don’t like based on online articles. As an American, applying to university through the UCA’s was a difficult task. I am surprised that I have been accepted to all of the schools I applied to, as the application process seemed easy for me to make an error. Although I still have a long way to go, I am excited to see where my passion for Shakespeare takes me.