Maybe things can’t be beautiful without being scary.

Something I said to my husband tonight just hit home. We were talking about, of all things, our dog yawning. She is so adorable (to us), but as we roused her to go outside for the last time she opened that huge mouth with those huge teeth, and we could see the power inside of a being who could do any amount of harm whenever she chooses. But she doesn’t. And we invite her into every part of our lives and trust that she will give us her best self.

Giving our best to those around us is what creates the space to embrace the fear and overcome it. Shakespeare, let’s face it, is scary. Come on. Is there any monolith in literature for whom, in order to appreciate, we are required to wrestle so substantially with his creds (looking at you common core standards and AP lit)? with his reach? with his, goodness, confusing-a** language? No. It would be easier to turn away than to explore (see this article for reticence). But, I must insist, as a previous (and current) scaredy cat, the more we dive in, the more we discover. And, I want to take a minute to thank those who, this year, have helped me to focus on the dive and overcome some of the fear.

Starting from the most recent:

  • November 16: Omigoodness. Josh, first time attendee at an ASC Teacher Seminar says (paraphrase): “My teaching of Shakespeare will never be the same.”
    • Why? Rhetoric. Thinking about the patterns of speech as a way to invite character choice. 
  • November 15: Mary Baldwin Freshman Global Honors 102 blow minds with their thoughts about Community.
    • What: Okay, every teacher knows that feeling. “This is going to be a really good group. I love this class. From day one. These are great kids.” But, seriously. These kids brought it. We are working though Ethos, Pathos, Logos, on their feet. They are applying what Shakespeare does with those figures to their own communication. Evaluating. Sharing. Being vulnerable. They knock it out of the park. (I’m happy to share the syllabus if you email me!).
  • November 14: Leadership Consortium residency. 3 workshops of the 10 this program includes.
    • How: Heading down to our partner school, we are excited to be part of the Dance and Classics programs, having already interacted with the theatre and English departments this term (and looking forward to law school and history programs in the spring). We talk about non-verbal communication and dive deep with how to tackle equity and justice in those conversations with an amazing group of students, then go into storytelling techniques and rhetoric.  Students share so many experiences about transformation in thinking through their own communication based on their classics knowledge and the new (so funny, it is 400 years ago for us, but new to Latin and Greek brains) thoughts Shakespeare generates for them given the information we shared.
  • November 13: Homeschool Days: We should all Just Stab Caesar.
    • Who: I LOVE that we have found a relationship with our Virginia (and other nearby) homeschool groups, like HEAV and VA Homeschoolers, and that our homeschool parents are embracing the ASC approach to Shakespeare in droves (droves, I tell you). I had a wonderful time exploring cue scripts and (of course) staging blood with these 8-18 year old kiddos. 100+ of them. Talk about capacity.
  • November 12. Note that punctuation. End stop.
    • This is the day that I learned that one of our valued and beloved interns was gone. Kirsten Richardson-Pearce gave us her time and insights as she made her way down a path that included wrestling with one of the most formidable foes anyone has to face: cancer. Young, vibrant, beautiful, brilliant Kirsten interviewed former ASC actors for a chapter in a forthcoming publication. She left us too soon. We will celebrate her life in the space she loved as a final tribute. Our interns are beyond the pale; Denise Kinsinger, Margaux Delaney, and so many more, make our world work. We can’t thank them enough.
  • November 5-8: MAINE. My first trip.
    • Many thanks to The University of Maine and Stephen King Chair, Caroline Bicks, for bringing the ASC to conduct workshops over several days. Cordell Cole joined us for a deep dive into the role he recently played at the Texas Shakespeare Festival. So many wonderful experiences. 9th graders lost their minds learning about cue scripts and audiences in the light.  Adults dug into how Shakespeare presents the “Other” in these difficult plays. I spent time with a truly insightful actor who helped me to wrestle with the challenges of the role as we approach the Marquee Season of 2020.

Y’all, I didn’t even get out of November–we hosted 200 scholars in an amazing conference, a week-long leadership class for International Paper, the Road Scholars. I saw the return on investment from our 2008 National Endowment for the Humanities group as they presented and led our conference, and our friends from many study abroad programs. Our SHXcademy programs nearly out-paced our ability to staff and our friends return again and again for the programs we offer and want to build.

Give us your feedback. Which of these programs are essential? What should we dive in to with the most dedication? How do we keep our team of three doing the work without burning so bright we will expire? I would love to hear your thoughts (and votes).

This was meant to be an appreciation of our year…but you can see how busy we get, that would have been a Love’s Labour’s Lost last scene-style exposé…too much. Each of these, and the other events in the ASC year, have moved us further from the scary and closer to the beauty.  I am looking forward to finding more chances to explore with all of you in the coming months. Thanks for reading and for joining us in the fruitful and beautiful world of ASC.