Saturday, December 29, 2018

Resolution Wrap-Up -- So Long, 2018

This wild bronco named 2018 is finally going out to pasture.

It has been a bumpy ride, to say the least. Yet, I am by no means complaining. My daughter Mackenzie continues to recover. She is no longer using her walker -- and she returned to driving! (Which I am sure makes her feel very happy and much more independent than she has been in the last two months.)

Thanks to all who have sent prayers and positive vibes, and especially to all the good-deed-doers who have reached out during the last couple weeks.

I am feeling very peaceful right now. Still trying to be mindful of the here and now. Still doing my best not to fret about the future.

But it is time to take a glimpse into the past twelve months and reflect upon how I did with my New Year's Resolutions... Turns out 2017 was a much more accomplished year, in comparison. But I still got a few achievements unlocked. Here's the final Score Card:

1) Finish writing a new novel / chapter book:

SUCCESS. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. I took the easy path and wrote a chapter book (only 72 pages), but that still counts. This is the bug themed book I had mentioned in previous posts. My agent gave me some great feedback and I have since turned in a second draft. Still waiting to find out if she'll be sending it off to publishers.

2) Sell a New Picture Book:

SUCCESS? ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. I sold a sequel to an existing book. I don't think I can officially announce it yet -- but I'm very grateful and excited to be working with this publishing house again!

3) Write / Sell a New Play

SUCCESS. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. My latest one-act comedy, Escape Room, was picked up by Eldridge Plays! It came out this November. I hope high school drama teachers and students are captivated by it!

4) Complete 200 days of writing (30 minute sessions)

FAIL. I lost the official count of this goal, but I am pretty darn sure I reached 100 days at best. THere were times when I wrote much longer than 30 minutes -- but all in all, considering I'm supposedly a professional writer now, I didn't get nearly enough writing done. In fact, I would guess that majority of this writing was done on my blog, whining about how I don't have time to write!

5) Participate in 10 Book Events

SUCCESS. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. (Much to my amazement.)

1) Friends of the Library
2) Bridgeport Elementary in January
3) Chantelle's School
4) Open Book, Papa Bear Launch
5) Burbank Barnes and Noble
6) SCBWI Mentorship
7) SCBWI Los Angeles Conference
8) Los Angeles Independent Book Sellers
9) Hamilton Elementary
10) Bridgeport Book Fair
11) Once Upon a Bookstore
12) Author's Luncheon
13) Orange County Book Festival

I thought that I had only accomplished about seven or eight of these... but looking back at my calendar I am pleasantly surprised that I participated in no less than 13 events. Not too shabby.

6) Complete 100 five minute work-out sessions:

SUCCESS. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. I believe I accomplished this one by setting the bar rather low. (The push up bar, that is -- yuk yuk!) I'm not that much stronger, but the love handles have gone, and I've maintained an average weight of 162 pounds for over six months. I think at my heaviest I was 175 -- which isn't horrible, but I can really feel a difference in energy and health. So, I will be keeping up this resolution for as long as my old bones can stand it.

7) Practice Drawing / Coloring for 100 Hours

FAIL. In the last couple days I've been fooling around with the Wacom tablet -- and I really suck. It's gonna take some serious dedication if I ever want to return to Duck Town, or some of ther art based project. 100 hours should be very attainable... but I am guessing if you added up all of my art time, you'd have less than 24 hours. Out of all my failed resolutions, this one might be the most disappointing. But hey, there's always next year!

8) Develop a Stronger Marketing Platform

FAIL. Social media is really just a bunch of brand new ways for me to be popular. Millions of other people (most of them far younger than me) are a heckuva lot better at gaining and keeping a following. I think my main issue is that I'm not very consistent and I'm not all that interested in developing a brand. But I'm tryin'! Honest I am!

9) Create a portfolio of at least 12 awesome photos:

PENDING. I think I've got at least 12 calendar worthy snapshots, but I haven't curated them yet. Maybe I'll finish this one today. (One problem, though, the resolution on this old iPod touch is rather a hindrance.

10) Learn to play Ashokan Farewell on the piano:

COMPLETE FAIL. I practiced once, the whole lousy year. Guess I'm not going be a musician!

All in all, a fulfilling year. Way better than that crappy 2016 (RIP Princess Leia). I wish you and yours a healthy and prosperous 2019.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

You Are Now Leaving Bedford Falls

Last Sunday, we completed our last performance of It's a Wonderful Life at the Canyon Theatre Guild. My tenure as George Bailey has come to an end. It was a true honor playing this beloved character, and I cannot thank the universe enough for giving me this opportunity.

That universe of course includes Frank Capra, Jimmy Stewart, God, and my wife... not particularly in that order.

It's a Wonderful Life has been dear to my heart since early adulthood. When I was a kid I was much more obsessed with the Christmas cartoon specials, but when I finally watched it for the first time in my late teens, I became hooked on this movie. It's not just my favorite Christmas movie, it's one of my favorite movies period. In fact, it's probably #3 on my list right now, just below Raiders and the original Star Wars saga (which I count as one movie).

The lessons of this film have long been an important part of my psyche, and I knew that going into rehearsals that playing George Bailey would hit very close to home. However, I didn't realize until the middle of the run just how significant the similarities would resonate with me.

Let me try to explain...

I have known for a very long time now that the most important thing in my life is this trio:

Yet, despite knowing that family is the key to my happiness, I still find myself constantly worried about my career as a writer.

I have spent much of my 47 years on this planet fretting over my artistic life. Like George Bailey, I hoped to achieve big things... and most of the time I don't feel like I measure up.

And if I am being completely honest, the message of It's a Wonderful Life has always been a tonic for me whenever I've felt mediocre (which is often). Many times, I have told myself that old wisdom from Clarence...

 ...but deep down I've felt that we tell ourselves this when we are kept out of the winner's circle. It's our consolation prize. It's what we cling to so that we don't jump into that icy cold river that flows from Bedford Falls.

George Bailey wanted to travel the world. He wanted to "build bridges a hundred stories high" and "build bridges a mile long." Instead, he diligently continued running the family business, never leaving his hometown and never building anything larger than a two bedroom house.

Likewise, I wanted to write best selling novels and Oscar winning screenplays. That has not happened... and although I've never felt as desperate as George Bailey (perhaps because my Uncle never lost $8000 of my company's funds), there have been plenty of times in which I have asked God to show me the way. Plenty of times in which I have felt lost, even out of place. And there have been many times in which I have felt like lashing out at those close to me.

Having those feelings of frustration and inadequacy, all mixed together with my profound love of life, the universe, and this mixed up puzzle we call humanity -- I was confident that I would be able to experience all of those feelings that comprise the emotional nature of George Bailey. 

Now, I definitely did not fill Jimmy Stewart's shoes. But hopefully the audience didn't mind my attempt. I had so much fun playing this part. It truly was a dream role, and if I never grace the stage again I'll die fulfilled -- at least in terms of my experiences as an amateur actor. 

As one might expect, I made a lot of new friendships and strengthened old ones. Lots of us became very close during the run of this show. My daughter Emily is the one taking this group-selfie. She was the co-stage manager (along with one of my best pals Jesse) and she also filled in for Mrs. Martini one night, and for Violet on another. 

My wife, Cheri, was an amazing director to work with because she loves and respects Capra's film as much as I do. I know what you're thinking: How did Wade get the part? Nepotism? Well, it doesn't hurt to be married to the director. But for the record, spouses can't evaluate the auditions of family members. Therefore, I auditioned for the executive director, TimBen Boydston -- but I still realize that without my connections I might never have landed the role. But you know what, I'll take what I can get. If I have to go to the casting couch to play George Bailey, so be it! 

The rehearsals went smoothly. Opening night was a success. Then it was just a matter of getting through the shows. I believe there were a total of 22 performances. The main worry on my mind was whether or not I had bad breath during the George / Mary kissing scene. (And Nicole, if you are reading this, thank you for being such a good sport. You are the best Mary Hatch since Donna Reed!)

Things changed halfway through the run.

Something happened to my daughter Mackenzie. She and her boyfriend, Jeremiah, were the lighting designers on the show... and for the past eight weeks Mack had been slowly losing sensation in her toes and feet. And then she was starting to limp. She went to the E.R. and urgent care on several occasions. They misdiagnosed her with a kidney infection, and a couple other theories. 

Then, one morning, she couldn't walk. What followed was a long and frightening hospital stay. For two weeks the doctors tested her and treated her -- although we still don't know the source of the problem, and we may not find out for a while longer. 

You'll notice in these photos she is quite lively and in good spirits. She kept busy, whether it was visiting with the nurse (who coincidentally happened to be a former student of mine), building lego sets, or knitting...

Knitting, knitting, knitting! This kid was constantly knitting! She even knit herself a hat in less than two hours...

Don't let her beautiful smile fool you. Although Mackenzie has been very brave through this ordeal, there have been very scary moments. She (and her parents) have wondered whether or not she was dying. During the first days at the hospital, Mackenzie began having convulsions. That was one of the saddest and scariest things I have ever witnessed.

The good news is, she has been responding well to the treatment (steroids and physical therapy, mainly). She transitioned from the main hospital into a neighboring rehab facility. She learned to get around in her walker -- and she's got a wheel chair too.

The doctors believe that she will make a full recovery. But will this condition return? Is it Multiple Sclerosis? Some malformed pocket of nerves in her spine? Something else? We don't know yet. So, that's still rather scary.

But I've been learning to live in the moment, to truly embrace the moment, and to acknowledge that we cannot always prepare for the future. In fact, in many cases, being focused on the future is counter productive.

I have also learned that any career ambitions or artistic anxieties pale in comparison to the desire for the health and well-being of my family. I pray that it is a lesson I keep. I've told stories since I could speak, yet words seem to fail me when I want to express how deeply I love my family. Words also fail me when I try to convey how thankful I am that today is Christmas, and my daughter Mackenzie is alive and on the path to wellness. I don't know what December 26th will bring, but thank God for what we have here and now.

When George Bailey says, "Get me back, Clarence. I don't care what happens to me, only get me back to my wife and kids." Oh man, can I relate to those emotions, now more than ever.

Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls! Merry Christmas, Bradford Family! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan. Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Universe!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

It's a Wonderful Life on Stage

If you are one of the dozen people who read my blog on a regular basis (bless your heart) then you know that one of my all-time favorite movies is Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.

(In fact, one of my favorite blog posts is a tribute to that film, and include some of my favorite images from Capra's masterpiece, as well as a few thoughts from yours truly. You can check it out the blog post here... )

With that in mind, it won't come as a surprise when I say that the chance to play George Bailey on stage at the Canyon Theatre Guild is a dream come true. Thanks to an amazing director (to whom by coincidence I happened to be married) this long held wish has been fulfilled. Last Friday, It's a Wonderful Life debuted at the CTG. Here are a few photos taken at our dress rehearsal (cuz there's no flash photography allowed during actual performances, of course!)

Cheri has assembled a friendly and talented cast... they already feel like family. I guess that's what happens when you start rehearsals in late September! 

Always a pleasure to work with, Nicole Kowalski plays Mary Hatch. She has been very patient with me -- especially when I stumble my way through the Charleston during the dance at the gym. (Yes -- we do "fall into the pool" -- but you'll have to come see the show to see the theatrical way we bring that sequence to life.) 

John Morris plays the "old money grubbing buzzard" known as Mr. Potter. So far, we've only had one rehearsal in which an actor accidentally called him Harry Potter -- and now I'm praying I won't make that particular goof during a performance. (Although I do rather like the idea of Harry Potter leaving Hogwarts, failing as a magician, perhaps going paralyzed from the waste down due to some basilisk accident, only to be stuck in the muggle town of Bedford Falls.) 

Tim McGowan plays Clarence -- and he's got the character down! Despite playing an angel, he's actually very down to earth -- from Brooklyn, in fact. There's a scene towards the end in which I throw him against a railing -- and Tim is such a good sport, throughout the rehearsal he's been saying, "Please, throw me aside as hard as you can!" 

This is a rather odd photo of me... but I kinda like it. It's a snapshot taken during the play's happy ending (spoiler alert) in which I run around Bedford Falls hollering "Merry Christmas" to everyone... then, I go up and down the stairs, wishing the audience happy holidays. The crowd seems to love the interaction -- especially in today's Sunday matinee. 

For eighteen more performances, I get to stay in Bedford Falls.

Unlike George Bailey, I'm not anxious to leave town anytime soon. 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Seasons Greetings!!!!

Gee whiz, I haven't posted anything all November. That might be because I have been INCREDIBLY BUSY -- as is usual this time of year. But this holiday season, I've been up to more than just my usual tasks of grading papers and going to work...

I've been rehearsing for It's a Wonderful Life -- fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing George Bailey. (And, of course, getting to work with a remarkable director, the woman who cast me -- my wife Cheri!)

Right now, as I am waiting to teach my last class before Thanksgiving, I am looking for some last minute musical selections.. I came across one of my favorite holiday numbers: a song called Night of Silence, which I discovered about seven years ago when my children participated in a holiday concert with the Master Chorale.

It's so sad yet so beautiful. Happy holidays! I trust your life is truly wonderful...

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!!! (2018)

Here's a treat -- a photo from my most recent bookstore visit... 
Where I met the stars of KidTime StoryTime!!! 

Have fun tonight, kiddos! Get lots of candy, but don't forget to brush your teeth. 
(Otherwise you might lose them.)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Resolution Check-In: Fall Edition

As you may have noticed, this blog has temporarily turned into a place where I've been sharing my thoughts (and links) about plays and musicals. (This is for the benefit of my English class, Introduction to Drama.)

Another reason I haven't been blogging about my creative endeavors is that I have been VERY BUSY -- which for the most part has been a grand thing... but it does mean that fun little projects (like this blog which about eleven people read on a regular basis) must fall to the wayside. 

I am hopefully to provide an update about all this wonderful business... but first, allow my to check-in on my New Year's Resolutions, a task I have been avoiding because I am doing such a shabby job at completing most of them. 

Here we go... 

1) Finish Writing a New Novel

Is a Chapter Book a novel? I am going to give myself a break here and say yes. During the lat part of the summer, I finished a book about bug friends. It's kinda cute, and hopefully very funny. My agent has given me notes -- now I just need to find the time to finish the second draft!


2) Sell a New Picture Book

YES!!! This is a big accomplishment because, for me at least, writing a salable picture book is never easy. I will reveal more details about this as soon as I can... but I can say that I signed the contract over a month ago, and have already received part of my advance. Woo-hoo! I can also tell you that this most recent sale is a sequel to one of my previously published works -- so that's pretty awesome!


3) Write / Sell New Play

I have written a new one-act comedy about an escape room. My editor at Eldridge likes it, but suggested several changes. Today I revised it and resubmitted. Fingers crossed.


4) Complete 200 Days of Writing

I believe I am now up to 60 days. Sad and pathetic.

ACHIEVEMENT: 30% Complete. There are only 64 days left in this year, so I have officially failed this goal. Wah!!!

5) Participate in 10 Book Events

I have had a chance to do a few more of these... In August I promoted "Papa Bear's Page Fright" at the Open Book in Canyon Country. In September I was a featured reader at the Orange County Book Festival. Then this October, I had a book signing at Burbank's Barnes and Noble. I was also an honored guest at the Ventura County Assistance League's Authors Luncheon. I visited Hamilton Elementary last Friday, and in a couple hours I will be making an appearance at Once Upon a Time Bookstore in Montrose, California.  I just need one more event to reach my goal!

ACHIEVEMENT: 90% Complete

6) Complete 100 five minute work-out sessions

Yes! I have exceeded this goal (surprisingly). I have well over 100 work out days registered... although I'm still not making it enough of a habit. Really need to try doing this at least five times a wekk, instead of two or three times a week (as has been the case the last month or so).


7) Practice Drawing / Coloring for 100 Hours

Very little progress made in this category. Why don't I make more time for this one???

ACHIEVEMENT: 20% Complete

8) Develop a Stronger Marketing Platform

Uh... not yet... Hee-hee... I'm trying, but mainly spinning my wheels. I do have some cute corgi pics on my Instagram account.


9) Create a Portfolio with at least 12 awesome photos

Hmm... There's a decent chance that there's at least 12 calendar worthy photos in my phone... But I haven't really taken the time to curate anything yet.


10) Learn the whole melody of Ashokan Farewell. 

This is the most ignored of all my resolutions. I think I have touched our piano three times this year.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Susan Glaspell's Trifles


The Origin of "Trifles"

"Trifles" is currently Glaspell's most popular play. Like other works of early feminist writing, it was rediscovered and embraced by the academic community. One of the reasons for this short play's enduring success is that it is not only an insightful commentary on the different perceptions of each gender, but it's also a compelling crime drama that leaves audiences discussing what happened and whether or not the characters acted unjustly.
While working as a journalist for the Des Moines Daily News, Susan Glaspell covered the arrest and trial of Margaret Hossack who was accused of murdering her husband. According to a summary by True Crime: An American Anthology:
"Sometime around midnight on December 1, 1900 John Hossack, a well-to-do, 59-year-old Iowa farmer, was attacked in bed by an axe wielding assailant who literally beat out his brains as he slept. His wife became the prime suspect after neighbors testified to her long-simmering hatred of her abusive spouse."
The Hossack case, much like the fictionalized case of Mrs. Wright in "Trifles," became a hotbed of debate. Many people sympathized with her, seeing her as a victim in an abusive relationship. Others doubted her claims of abuse, perhaps focusing on the fact that she never confessed, always claiming that an unknown intruder was responsible for the murder.
True Crime: An American Anthology explains that Mrs. Hossack was found guilty, but a year later her conviction was overturned. The second trail resulted in a hung jury and she was set free.

Read the rest of my Susan Glaspell article at ThoughtCo... 

Monday, October 22, 2018

The First Half of One of My Favorite Plays...

I'm so glad the National Theater filmed their production of Man and Superman, starring the amazing Ralph Fiennes. I think I'll be ordering the DVD very soon in order to watch the whole show! Can't wait to see what they do with the "Don Juan in Hell" sequence.

There's also a cool interview with Mr. Fiennes regarding the production...

Here's a bit more on the National theater's production, in particular the curious case of the seldom performed Act Three...

Friday, October 19, 2018

Author's Luncheon Celebration - October 20th

Tomorrow I will be presenting at the Author's Luncheon Celebration. a wonderful fundraising event put on by the Assistance League of Ventura County.

I'm very excited! This is my second time as a featured guest. The first was back in 2011 when my very first picture book was released.

You can find out more about the event here...  

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Bootleg Broadway Musicals, Anyone?

I go back and forth on the ethics of Youtube videos which are the product of some sneaky theater patron who surreptitiously films the entire show on their phone. That's a very naughty and obnoxious thing to do.

At the same time, once a Broadway show has come and gone, it is -- in a way -- lost to the ages. Therefore, I appreciate being able to watch those very Youtube videos that are morally questionable.

Obviously, the better course of action would be to make certain every Broadway production is professionally filmed (most are, I believe) and then, more importantly, give viewers the chance to watch them via a streaming service.

This might be sounding like an advertisement for Broadway HD -- a cool streaming service that let's you watch lots of plays and musicals, all professionally recorded. But it's not. Hopefully Broadway HD will expand in the very near future. Right now, they really don't have that many musicals from which to choose.

So, in the meantime, I'm setting my ethical quandries aside so that i can watch the Original Cast of The Drowsy Chaperone in all of its crappily filmed glory.

Here's a Tumblr page that has organized a whole lotta links to Broadway's best musicals... 

Monday, October 8, 2018

"My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek; perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat.” Such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace—all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men—good! but thanked
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech—which I have not—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse—
E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

KidTime StoryTime Presents: There's a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor

Here's an adorable retelling of my Dino Book -- complete with a couple of zany puppets.

Thanks, KidTme!!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Female Dramatists in the Early Days of European Theater

Meet Hrotsvitha... 

What's cool about her? She is the first person since Ancient Rome to bring theatrical literature back to life in Europe. She was a nun who lived in a 10th century commune of women, thus allowing her time and independence to pursue her own educational goals and creative pursuits -- so long as they were an extension of her faith. Many of the plays she wrote were a Catholic response to the works of Roman playwright Terence. She retold the stories of the saints, and created female characters of strength and intelligence.

Lady Mary Wroth... 

She wrote "household" or "closet" plays, dramatic works not necessarily intended to be performed on a stage... perhaps not expected to be performed at all. However, a British theater company has recently launched a production of her play, Love's Victory. (Written in the early 1600s). 

She also wrote plays and a work of fiction (that may or may not have been based upon real experiences) called Urania. One critic who hated her book called her: "hermaphrodite" and a "monster" --- I don't know if this is much better, but a fan of hers, Ben Jonson, said that her work made him not only a better poet but a better lover! 

Aphra Behn AKA Astrea

Her origins are shrouded in mystery and rumors... one of my favorite being that she traveled to a South American colony to serve as a spy, hired by Charles II. (She did perform spy duties in the Netherlands... and records indicate that the king failed to pay for her service.)

Since the life of a spy didn't pan out, and since her husband passed away, she was forced to make end's meet by writing for the stage.

Here's an energetic synopsis of one of her most successful plays: The Rover. 

During the Restoration, female playwrights -- such as Mary Pix -- became less of a rarity. 

This might have been because theater goers at the time cared more about the performances and less about the playwrights -- in fact, playwrights often went unaccredited (though not unpaid).

Susanna Centlivre

She began her theatrical career as an actress, often playing "breeches roles." According to biographers, she left home (due to her abusive step mother) at the age of fifteen. Shen was married at age sixteen, and became a widow at age seventeen. Like others before her, she turned to playwriting in order to gain financial independence. Her comedy, The Busy Body is one of her more oft performed plays, still scene on the contemporary stage. 


What about the actresses? There's a nice overview of female actors in the early days of Restoration theater and beyond... Check out this link from the National Portrait Gallery.

You may also want to learn about the colorful life of actress Nell Gwyn -- an informative overview can be found within the devil's Encyclopedia -- AKA Wikipedia.   

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Characters in the Henriad

Richard II...

Henry Bolingbroke who becomes Henry IV...

Prince Hal... who becomes Henry V...

Hotspur... a fellow rebel, supporter, and then enemy of the Bolingbrokes...

Then, there's the crown's favorite coward... Falstaff!

Then, there's the rest of the gang at Miss Quickly's tavern...

Bardolph... Poins... Anicent Pistol... and Nym...

The Henriad, so called, was actually made into an epic television production titled The Hollow Crown. Check out the trailer...

Oh, and the following is not a speech written by Shakespeare... It's Tom Hanks improvising / stalling for time when the play Henry IV was halted due to a medical emergency of an audience member. Acting as Falstaff, hanks uses his quick wit keep the audience engaged...

Richard Burbage and Early London Theater

Here are some visual notes to help us peek into the early days of Shakespeare's life and career, as well as that of his colleagues.

Here are the plans for the construction of "The Theater." (Constructed in 1576. It was the second permanent structure theater built in London. The first was The Red Lion, built in 1567.

Oh, and in case you didn't know... theaters weren't just for actors...

(Bear Baiting -- behold the works of man.) 

Do you recognize this man???

Heplayed the title character Volpone in Ben Jonson's social-comedy classic. 

(Here's a portrait of Ben Jonson, master of the Comedy of Humours.)


Richard Burbage also starred in plays by John Webster... 

(He's the playwright responsible for the bloody tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi.)

But Brubage is most famous for playing the leading roles in many of the original productions of Shakespeare's tragedies.

He originated the roles of... Hamlet...


and King Lear...

There's also the possibility that he appeared in a play by the handsome young man in a gigantic sweater: Christopher Marlowe...

There were other stars of the stage, though none as big as Burbage. (It helps when your father owns the theater!)

Some of the other actors included Will Kempe... renown for playing clownish characters including Falstaff.

And Augustine Phillips, who perhaps saved the Lord Chamberlain's Players from the gallows!

(Is it prejudice to say that all these dead British actors look alike?) PS -- Check out the details of Phillips' will and you'll get a glimpse of how enmeshed his life was with the theater.

Here's Hamlet's advice to actors of the time...

Here's a great 20 minute promotional documentary about the recreation of the Globe Theater:

Monday, September 17, 2018

Profiling Villains in Literature

I meet a lot of students who want to become detectives, criminologists, and/or FBI profilers. It might be due to the popularity of CSI-styled shows during the last two decades, or maybe they are inantely passionate about injustice. In either case, these types of students enjoy analyzing characters through psycho-analytic criticism, which is a great way to approach a text.

For students who want too peer into a dark mind of a literary character, say perhaps such as an Iago or a Lady Macbeth, I have come up with an entertaining little prompt, a series of questions in which the student attempts to answer from the point of view of the villain.

Here's the prompt... 

Antagonist / Villain Profile (Pretend you are the character)


Approx. Age:


What do you see in the inkblot?

What do you want most out of life?

How do you feel about the protagonist?  Explain:

For each emotion, write the first word or phrase that comes to your mind: 
Society:                                                                       Friendship:

Success:                                                                       Failure:

What do you hate? (Why?)                             What do you love? (Why?)

Do you have any regrets?  Why / why not?

Have you ever experienced a downfall due to hubris?  If so, explain:


One of the creepiest characters in our literature textbook is Arnold Friend from "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" A UC Davis student created an excellent character analysis of this villain, positing the idea that Arnold might be the devil himself.

Read Spencer Martinez's essay: "Satan Drives a Convertible."

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Commedia dell'Arte & the Dawn of Molière

How do you say it? (with a cool Italian accent)

But what is Commedia dell'Arte? According to Encyclopedia Brittanica it is a "lost" theatrical art form. 

We know a lot about this style of theater... but because of the improvisational nature of Commedia dell'Arte, much delivery, dialogue, costumes, and jokes are lost to the ages. 

But we do know many of the key ingredients... 

The Great Outdoors:
Performances of Commedia dell'Arte began in Italy in early to mid 1500s. In contrast to dramas and tragedies, these comedies tended to be performed outside, and were attended by the general population. 

Traveling Troupes:

Actors of Commedia dell'Arte were typically nomadic, traveling from one village (or city) to the next. As the demand for this art form thrived throughout much of Europe (including France), troupe became even more mobile. 

Costumes and Masks:

Distinct colors and fabric patterns denoted the different stock characters. Masks featured highly exaggerated facial features. (I think all of them look creepy, but maybe that's just me.)

Women in the Theater:

Take that, Shakespeare! The first professional actresses (since the fall of Rome) performed Commedia dell'Arte. 

Loose Plot + Improv + Well-Practiced Slapstick = Commedia:

It wasn't pure improvisation... Most shows had a rough sketch with a clear conflict, beginning middle and end. Actors knew each others characters so well that they developed comedic routines, speeches, quips, and pratfalls. 

The medium flourished for centuries... evolving into many different theatrical forms. Including... our hero of the afternoon... 

As well as modern day silly people at Renaissance Fairs... 

And don't forget these guys... 

Unfortunately... when Napoleon took over most of Europe he did not care for the satirical nature of Commedia dell'Arte... So he had it outlawed in 1797. 

But let's back up again... before that that 5 foot, Seven inched general ruined everything. 

In the golden age of Commedia dell'Arte, most troupes consisted of at least ten players. Most storylines contained what was called the Usual Ten... 

Four Innamorati (Two pairs of Lovers)
Two Vecchi (Old men who are often greedy or overbearing or both)
One Captain (who is boastful yet usually a coward)
One Colombina ( often a maid, almost always a trickster -- sound familiar?)
Two Zanni (trickster characters / sometimes servants) 

Now... where does Moliere come into play? He was born Jean-Bapiste Poquelin... he adopted his stage name later in life. The year of his birth was 1622... just six years after the death of Shakespeare. Hmmm... 

(Reincarnation, anyone?)

This French-speaking vlogger provides a quick overview of the playwright's career...