Busy Busy Busy

Man oh man the semester is in full swing and it’s going to be a long and complicated one!

I’m able to now officially announce that I’ll be teaching stage combat at Apollinaire this fall with their actor training program.  We’ll start with a six week unarmed fundamentals class, then move into a six week class on swashbuckling.  If you’re looking to pick a fight with me, coming to my class is a great way to do it.  I’ll be excited to teach this as, let’s face it, fighting with others is my favorite means of paying my rent.

I also recently put together a bit of violence for Zeitgeist Stage Company’s production of Bent.  If you’re at all interested in hard-hitting theatre performed by extremely talented actors, you should check this one out.  The performance, from what little I saw at the edges of my fight call, is going to be intense.  These guys are the real deal and, as usual, Zeitgeist is producing theatre that speaks to the darkness of man.  Prepare for some emotional after-care after this one; whether that means beer or chocolate, you’re going to need it.

In addition to my two department-sponsored classes (one as an instructor, one as a TA), I’m also teaching another OSHER class this fall.  We’re reading Twelfth Night and Merchant of Venice.  I love teaching adult students and find it incredibly fulfilling to spend a couple hours a week discussing Shakespeare with the brilliant folks who come through OSHER.  And, really, what teacher wouldn’t want to be given a classroom full of people who took their class by choice, for self enrichment purposes only, and who are doing it for the pleasure of doing it?  Oh… and I don’t have to grade them.  That also helps to make this class one of the more enjoyable things I do with my precious time.

Have I mentioned recently that I love teaching?

Someone remind me of this around finals when I’m going nuts trying to make sure that everything gest graded in time.

Ascendance

After a hard-fought uphill battle, I am EXTREMELY pleased to report that I have ascended to Candidacy (with distinction, even!).

I would like to say that this occurred with great pomp, ceremony, circumstance, a standing ovation, and an elephant parade.  In actuality, it occurred in an office, at an unremarkable hour on Friday with little ceremony other than a few hearty handshakes.  T.S. Eliot’s prediction about the world ending could very well apply to my ascendance (…while I could also use the word “advancement”, how often in life do you get to say that you “ascended” as applied to yourself?).

I didn’t then make a great clamor, but rather had a lovely lunch with a friend, went directly to rehearsal to choreograph the murder of Young Siward on the battlefield by a bloodthirsty Scottish King whose name shall remain unsaid (using broadswords even), then went out to dinner with my beloved.  Saturday we celebrated with a spectacular trip to an ice castle in the White Mountains (a gorgeous drive, even when

At night, lit up, the ice was just lovely.

At night, lit up, the ice was just lovely.

headed through a not-so-small snowstorm on your way home).

I’ve begun a two-week sabbatical from most things academic because I’ve been running on overdrive since May.  I can only stop doing “most things” because the semester has already begun and, therefore, my acting class is in session.  Luckily it’s a joy to teach and not as thinky as something like… say… Postmodern Theory.

While I would like to say that being ABD doesn’t feel any different from being a Ph.D. Student, right now it feels completely different.  For once, I get to think about my own projects and only my own projects.  I get to stop worrying about crazy exams and tests that measure my aptitude for things that I may or may not use (probably will, but who knows?) in the near future.  I get a chance to really stretch my wings and fly home to victory while dancing in the glory of my subject matter.  In other words: from here on in, it’s all-Shakespeare all-the-time.

Mostly.  Unless I pick up an intro class, or a history of theatre class, or a writing seminar, or any number of things that they might ask an adjust instructor with a degree in English to teach.  I might even teach (gasp!) novels!

But for the next two weeks, I’m catching up on e-mails, putting projects to bed that have been awake for far too long and are (thereby) cranky, running errands that have lain dormant far past their expirations dates, and on the whole preparing for the next step in this grand adventure that is doctorhood.

So for now, I sign of as (for the first time),

Danielle Rosvally
ABD!!!!!!!!

Mid Semester Slump: Fall Edition

Even though it’s well past midterms, I’m definitely feeling the effects of mid-semester crunch.

This is partly due to how my semester is scheduled (two conferences in three weeks will make a girl extremely tired; especially when she’s still dealing with orals, work for various professional committees she’s on, teaching her class, and still trying near-futilely to catch up on sleep/sanity from the summer).  But I think there’s also a certain degree of universality to it: suddenly, those piles of grading on your desk have a new urgency.  The star-struck wonder and optimistic first few weeks of any fresh start (a semester included) has faded; this is where the real work begins.

With fatigue setting in, I’m having to return to my old “find the energy” axioms.  Here are a few that are keeping me going right now; hopefully some of them can also add some inspiration to your day.

1)   It’s fall in New England and everything is beautiful.  I can barely move without

Captured on a walk yesterday!

Captured on a walk yesterday!

having to pause for a foliage picture (thanks to a new-found interest in photography apps for my pocket-robot, I have some great tools with which to capture these).

2)   Fall also means pumpkin flavored everything.  Though by virtue of having discovered a wonderful pumpkin spice flavor syrup recipe I am no longer limited by the calendar as to when I consume my pumpkin coffee, it’s still comforting to know that on days when I just don’t have time to make myself a latte I can rely on good ol’ dunks to provide.

3)   Soon it will be winter.  Winter is when a break happens.  Winter is also when my favorite holiday happens.  This also means that, very soon, I will have full social license to blast my Christmas Music for at least a few months before it becomes taboo again to do so until next year.  Believe you me, nothing brings a smile to a poor downtrodden graduate student like pop culture icons belting Christmas tunes.

 4)   While conference season is stressful, it also gives me an excuse to wear my favorite tweed jacket.  Though I haven’t had a moment to install the requisite leather elbow patches, that particular upgrade is definitely in the works and I hope to have it in place by the next wave of professional gigs which require professorly clothing.

The blue mountains as seen from my plane during the fly-over last week

The blue mountains as seen from my plane during the fly-over last week

5)   Despite all efforts by nature to kill it, my herb garden is still going strong.  As is my aloe plant.  For those not in the know, I (until very recently) was self-titled DANIOR MURDERER OF VEGETATION (caps required for proper voice intonation).  When my trusty bamboo plant was killed by a tragic fungal infection last year, I thought my days of caring for flora were over.  However, convinced by my own tenacity, I managed to overcome my grief and acquire several new plant-friends.  I don’t want to say this too loudly for fear that they might overhear and decide that it’s a great time to kick the proverbial bucket, but they may just be long-lasting installments in my life/office.

6)   Even though I’m really tired, I know that I’m just one workout away from an endorphin high and a quick battery recharge.  It’s not a permanent solution, but it definitely helps me plug along and plow through the multitudes of material on my desk (today’s challenge: several period fencing manuals, most unavailable in modern typesetting… the joys of archival/textual scholarship).

And on that note, perhaps hitting the gym will give me a little pick-me-up and help me through the rest of this afternoon.

I hope you’re having a productive day, and that the mid-semester slump isn’t hitting you too hard!

…ergo sum

I am really tired.

Everything is funny.

Everything is beautiful, and nothing hurt.

No wait, that’s not it.

I am… a seagull.

…no…

I am… an actress.

I am… over-worked and completely stressed out.

I am attempting to find comfort in frozen yogurt and hard cider.

side-note: the acorn head at Tufts has been replaced by this dapper gentleman.  Whomever worked the sparkly tophat onto this deserves a good hardy handshake.

side-note: the acorn head at Tufts has been replaced by this dapper gentleman. Whomever worked the sparkly tophat onto this deserves a good hardy handshake.

I am reading and re-reading, copying information onto index cards, thinking deep thoughts, trying to make the puzzle pieces slide into place and keep them slid once they get there, trying to control the number of books I have in my house, trying to make sure I don’t rack up overdue fees on anything.

I am prepping my syllabus for Acting I, scanning readings, setting up my online bulletin board for my students.

I am bracing for the new semester and all the meetings that come with it.

I am evaluating my fall wardrobe and what pieces I need to acquire/dispense with.

I am both praising and cursing the coming of seasonal pumpkin flavored treats.  This is not going to be good for my diet but OH MAN DO I LOVE ME SOME PUMPKIN.

I am counting the days until this is all over and the next chapter begins.

I am cursing myself for counting the days because that means I have to face the reality of this test actually happening.

I am going back to work.

Lazy, Hazy Days

Yesterday, I meandered onto campus to run a few errands in what I will blissfully refer to as “the last golden days of summer”.

Summer (or any large break for that matter) on a university campus is a blissful time.  A peaceful time.  A time when graduate students can haul books around without fear of being held up by a large pack of care-free mozying undergrads taking up the entire sidewalk.  A time when a graduate student can be assured that librarians (or diligent hard-working student laborers) will be at the circulation desk and, thereby, will not be told that she can just “leave her books over there” when clearly she wants them checked in in front of her because she has 150 check-outs and can’t afford overdue fees due to some error or loss between her hand and the library’s tender cradle.  A time when on-campus errands can be accomplished in a breezy way since there are no lines at the public safety desk and thereby IDs and Parking Passes can be picked up in fifteen minutes rather than two hours.

In this last week of summer, I was smart enough to do all of my pre-semester business before the crowds arrive (a wonder in itself that I had the presence of mind since my brain is essential blown for anything that’s not theatre history right now, and even that is touch and go).  As I looked around I realized a few things:

1)   Wow, this was really smart.

2)   Some of these fresh-faced kids sporting around campus may be my students in just a few weeks.

3)   …I had probably better find somewhere else to practice my bullwhip.

Sixteen days to comps lift-off.  Headed back to the grind now.

 

Work Habits

As August stretches out before me, I begin to hone in on the methods which create the best study environment for myself.

This is, of course, assisted by the magical early arrival of autumn here in New England.  I can definitely say that my work habits are much healthier when I can comfortably sit at my desk all day as opposed to having to find alternate places to work due to the heat.  My office is wonderful and sunny with lots of windows… though these qualities also make it the hottest room in the house (lots of windows = greenhouse effect and essentially bakes me out of the entire area as soon as the temperate spikes much above 75°).

I’ve come to carefully and jealously guard my weekdays.  While technically I can work anytime anywhere, I find that I am much less inclined to work on the weekends.  I have no qualms about working late, but if there is anyone else in the apartment I become distracted; I mean, really, who wouldn’t prefer to watch episodes of Supernatural with housemates than read about Weimar Classicism?  So, despite the HUGE amounts of temptation* to go do other things during the week, I am extremely careful to keep my work hours to work hours.

I’ve found that a pile-system works well.  When I move into a new unit, I order somewhere

....just my supplies for a normal trip to campus.

….just my supplies for a normal trip to campus.

between 20 and 40 books from the library.  When I get those books home, I pile them on my desk in thematic piles.  I can generally go through between four and five volumes in a day, so I try to pile them in approximate daily-dosage.  When I go to work in the morning, I pull a pile and see, visually, how much work I have to get through in a day.  It’s a good way to track how much I have accomplished in a time period (be that time period a morning, a week, etc.) and a good way to track how much more I have left to cover before I can move on.  Since I’m a kinesthetic learner, this is HUGE in terms of facilitating my study plan.

As I (not so slowly) reach burnout point, I’ve also learned to prioritize information.  I will look at everything on my desk, but the amount of time I devote to a volume will depend on that volume’s readability, the ease with which I know I will digest the information in that volume, and my ability to connect the volume to something else I know.  Learning is facilitated by connections.  As I fill in the edges of the theatre history map, it is much easier to move outward from territory I have some passing familiarity with than to plonk myself in a strange land where I know nothing and try to figure out the local culture.  Sometimes, I will have (and have had) to start from scratch (let me tell you how much I knew about the Spanish Golden Age before I started this process… there we go, that’s about all I knew), but by and large I can relate most things to something either historical or theatrical that I already have in my arsenal.  As such, if I find something that’s difficult to digest, completely unrelated to anything I already know, and written in impenetrable academicese, I tend to set it down and move on.  The time I would devote to decoding this piece of information is valuable and could better be used finding a book which will explain it to me in a way I can readily understand.

I do find ways to give myself little rewards and motivational things for reaching the next hundred pages, the end of the next book, etc.  Often times these thing consist of “okay, we will send that e-mail AFTER we get to page 150” or “you can check in on facebook/twitter once you finish x more chapters”.  This way, I’m not distracted by the completely natural urges to participate in the rest of the world for longer than I can afford, and I’m motivated to get through my workload.

side-note: I also taught myself to embroider this summer.  This is my first piece (mostly done, I may add some highlighting to the roses).

side-note: I also taught myself to embroider this summer. This is my first piece (mostly done, I may add some highlighting to the roses).

Speaking of distractions, I know that I work better if I can silence my phone and leave it in another room.  No matter how well intentioned, mid-day texting completely breaks my concentration and instantaneously takes me out of whatever it is I’m doing.  Chatting while working seems to be a phenomenon that desk-job people can accommodate (I know when I worked a desk job, I had an IM window open all day every day).  Because of the nature of my work (deep thought, deep research, uninterrupted brainwaves yield the best results), I simply can’t do it anymore.  Even when I’m in the deepest portion of research mode, the smallest thing can jar me back to reality and, often, I find it twice as hard to recover whatever it is I was doing before someone decided to ask me some menial question or send me a selfie.  Solution: silence the cell phone and put it face down on the desk.  Unfortunately, this is a do as I say not as I do item as my self-control tends to only go so far with this rule.  But!  We are all in a process of bettering ourselves as individuals and if this is what I need to work on as a human being, I’ll add it to the list right under “being careful of caffeine overconsumption”.

Obviously everyone is different so what works for me may not work for you.  My point is that astute self-observation will lead you to the path of righteousness and productivity.  Sleep well, study hard, and get ready because autumn is coming.

*By “HUGE amounts of temptation” I’m talking huge… like the knowledge that my entire family is having a get-together in New York because my scattered-across-the-country siblings all happen to be free on one weekend and are flying home and so I should totally join them two weeks before my test.  Let me tell you how painful that was to turn down, especially when a certain family member who shall remain nameless simply won’t stop pushing the issue no matter how many times I say “no, mom, I can’t come down to New York two weeks before my exam”.

After the End Times

If you are reading this, it means that I have survived finals.

Well, actually, it means that the programming on my website didn’t fail me as I scheduled it to post this entry at a time after which I would have turned in my last paper and during which I would be in a car driving home to New York for the holidays and, since blogging while driving is not something that computers have figure out yet (I’m confident that Siri will change this soon), decided that was my best course of action.

Life: I'm doing it right

Life: I’m doing it right

Here is a still-life I managed to capture of my desk the other day (completely not posed, just how my desk looked at the time).  Yes, that is my ukulele and those are my chord charts.  Yes, that is a nineteenth century print of an engraving depicting Act V of As You Like It sent to me by my Academic Fairy Godfather.  Yes, my tape dispenser is in the shape of a black platform stiletto.  As far as I’m concerned, this picture is proof-positive that whatever life choices I’ve made which lead to this moment are absolutely correct.  A pretty validating thought for the end of my last fall semester of coursework.

This semester’s been tougher than I thought it would be.  That said, I learned a lot, met some really interesting people, and have some shiny new projects to get me through the winter/Spring.

So, since I’m done, I’m taking a short break to be with my family for a week.  I promise I’ll be back after the holiday.  For now, have a watch of this “holiday card” I prepared for you (…when I say I’m only a “passable ukulele player” I really do mean it, so please take this as a sort of “amusing anecdotal internet offering” rather than any sort of masterpiece…. I know I messed it up at least once).

Happy holidays, happy finals being over, and happy take-a-friggen-break.  You deserve it!

Lost of love,

Dani

A Little Help from my Friends…

I had a moment of panic the other day.

I had been summoned to participate in a departmental thing.  I’m really not sure who decided it was a good idea to schedule any departmental thing smack dab in the middle of finals time.  This, to me, seems like a sure-fire way to make at least one of your graduate students slit her wrists in hopelessness.

Any who know me will tell you that one of the things I am best at is time management.  I never leave anything to the last minute, I have a good sense of how much I can handle, I work until I’m done, and I know what is okay to sacrifice and what simply can’t be cut from any given day.  As such, my schedule books very far in advance.  Often, I have trouble squeezing in social engagements unless I’m made aware of them at least two weeks before they happen (at the busiest times of the year, this becomes more like a month).  As such, if I was having trouble departing from my desk to attend said departmental thing, it was not because I was having last-minute finals panic, it was because scheduling a departmental thing during finals is inhuman.

The departmental thing took longer than I had planned (but not longer than it had been scheduled, I simply misread the schedule and under-calculated my timing).  I got into my car and felt like my chest was clenched in an iron clamp.  I still had errands to run.  I still had all kinds of work to do.  And I still had one more appointment with my ever-wonderful Partner in Crime that I could not miss because of a long, convoluted series of events which amounted to him helping me clean my apartment (I think he realized by looking at me that even mundane tasks were well beyond my capabilities to handle and, left to my own devices, I was in very real danger of exploding… spontaneous human combustion: not just an urban legend).

During the drive home, the panic attack symptoms started setting in.  Increased heart rate, hopeless whirl of uncontrollable thoughts, and pressure behind the eyes that threatens to burst into uncontrollable weeping.

I got to my desk, sat down, and forced myself to breath.

For those who have ever experienced a panic attack, you will know: the only way to coach yourself through it is slowly and methodically.  You need to clear your mind, breathe deeply, and slow your heart-rate back something resembling normal.  Sometimes you need to cry for ten minutes just to get it out.  I don’t have them often, but my PhD has taught me all kinds of new and wonderful things that my body is capable of when pressed against the wall (some of these things are more useful than others).

This time, head in my hands, trying to calm myself down enough to look at the word documents I had left up on my machine, my gaze drifted to my desk ornaments.

I’ve spoken about them before.  Over the years, I’ve accumulated a seemingly random assortment of bits and bobs which have come to reside in happy harmony upon my desk.  What I didn’t realize until that moment is that all of the little guys directly under my monitor (and, in fact, most of the baubles as a whole) were given to me by various important someones in my life.  Shakes-cat: a gift from a dear old friend.  Baby-hatching-Gargoyle: a

a selection of my desk baubles.

a selection of my desk baubles.

present from my grandmother upon realizing that it looked just like the logo for the theatre company I ran out of New York.  Liberty-Duck: a random Monday offering from my Partner in Crime.  Long-Duck-Silver: from my mom when she came to visit me during my brief-tenure in a soul-sucking office position pre-Master’s (it came in a box of Band-Aids and helped to cheer my gloomy day).  Tribble Fluff the Yarn Monster: made for me by my wonderful penpal and sent in a box of comfort yarn around the holidays one year.  The list, believe it or not, continues to the point where I really can’t chronicle all the things on my desk attached to all the wonderful people in my life.

And, in that moment, it was like getting a hug from all of them simultaneously.  Like somehow they were all there (without even knowing that I needed them) to tell me to get my act together because I could totally handle this.

Over the past week or so, I’ve received an immense amount of support from my usual support network, but also some very unexpected places.  People who are around, but whom I don’t speak with frequently (perhaps the epitome of this being a random and unprompted text from an old friend with the news that he had procured a GIANT BAG full

some very old friends who are still in my life came to help me celebrate my birthday this weekend; they are amongst the awesome folks who helped me get through finals this semester.

some very old friends who are still in my life came to help me celebrate my birthday this weekend; they are amongst the awesome folks who helped me get through finals this semester.

of my favorite girly-scented lotions and things and was sending them to me imminently… thanks again, Brian, you seriously made my week).  People who would have little way of knowing the insane amounts of pressure and stress that I’m under right now who, from some twist of the universe, had me in their thoughts on a given day and thus found some way to send some extra love my way.

My point is this: no man is an island.  The PhD is the equivalent to academic boot camp.  It will strip you down to your most basic human elements, take those away, then re-build you (and I’m not even through the “easiest” part of the process yet).  But just because you’re stressed, just because you’re tired, just because you think your brain is going to melt out the side of your head, doesn’t mean that you should forget something: you are loved.  And if you can’t remember that, take a moment to find someone who will help you remember it.

So many thank-yous to all of my wonderful friends who, wittingly or not, have once more gone above and beyond to help me get through this difficult time of year.  If I seem ungrateful or passive in person, it’s just because I lack the brain cells to express how much you mean to me right now.

And on that note, it’s time to face the music.  Turning in my first final today.  Queue The Imperial March, La Marseillaise (it always sounds victorious to me), anything from Newsies, or One Day More and send some good thoughts to Dani-land.  Here we go.

Thanks

Hello from the finals front!

Things are really starting to get hairy here. I’ve pinned down my seminar paper topics, I’m beginning to push up on some deadlines, and the book fort is full to toppling (though I did manage to return 25 books to the library yesterday with the help of some very sturdy reusable shopping bags). In addition to my own deadlines, I have the students’ deadlines to worry about and, what with the hurricane having set all of us back, what I am certain were some very well-planned due dates have become a muddle of insanity and piles upon piles of things for me to do over the next couple weeks.

In light of this, it is difficult for me to see these next few days as holidays. Yes, campus was technically closed today; I was still in dropping off papers and picking up books. No, I

the pile of drop-off books from the other day riding securely in my passenger seat. Also, validation for when I say “Shakespeare is my co-pilot”.

don’t have to go to class tomorrow; but I have still been up since before the sun working steadily on my piles of to-dos.

Despite this, I would like to take a moment now (as I do every year) to think about the things I am well and truly thankful for.

Inter-library loan; making it so that I don’t have to drive all over the city state country to hunt down the research materials I need. Thank you, ILL and the Boston Library Consortium, for bringing books in a steady flow directly to my home library.

My family who puts up with random phone calls at odd times of the day with the usual “sorry I haven’t called in a while, been really busy, I’m working on this new project about Shakespeare as performed in the [eighteenth/nineteenth/seventeenth] century by [aristocratic hacks/black people/circus clowns]. I’m working really hard for that class I’m TAing and I have a TON of grading on my desk right now, but I have to go because I’m on my way to [class/the library/a meeting/rehearsal] so… love you! Call you later!”

My dear friends who make my life a happier place and remind me that despite my best efforts, I am not a research machine and do occasionally need to leave my desk in order to make eye contact with actual human beings. Special shout-outs go to my gay best friend who knows both how to hash a research problem with me and the fastest way to make me forget about whatever the day’s stress was, my roommate who knows not to make eye contact with me before 10AM and that the best way to appease the savage beast is to feed me, my girls’ weekend girls who are always there for me (if not in person then in well-timed letters and boxes of comfort-yarn), and my Partner in Crime without whom I would be well and truly lost (and much sadder for the wear).

The faith of my department (which, for those who are keeping track, hasn’t gotten rid of me yet so I must be doing something right).

Totally my fairy godfather; this was taken at my MA graduation.

The aforementioned Best Professor in the World; my academic fairy godfather who somehow knows from two to three states away precisely when I’m in my darkest hours of crisis. Without even having to send up a bat-signal, I always seem to receive an e-mail of some kind from him during my most hopeless moments.

The theatre, my man Will, and all those who are keeping him alive onstage. Live theatre makes life worth living, and the people who make live theatre are no less than great magicians of our time. This means you, Bob Colonna.

And you, dear reader, because without you I would be talking to an empty room. And, really, there’s nothing engaging about a crazy person ranting about her insane life to an empty room.

So have a good holiday, take some time off, and for the sake of all things Bardy walk away from your desk for at least a few hours. Personally, I’m going to go finish packing and then I have a date with a turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Three is Company

Right now, I’m living with some really interesting roommates.

You may recall last year at about this time when I announced that my current couch-surfer was RSC director Peter Brook. This is a similar situation. I find that, when you’re truly in the thralls of research, the process takes on a body of its own. It whispers to you in the night, alternately taunting and teasing you, sometimes telling you things you had never thought of before (though for me, it usually waits to do that until I’m in the shower).

Right now, my research doesn’t have a face (it’s so much easier to personify when it does). More, it has a body. I’m living with a few different projects and, consequently, a few different plays.

As you know by now, I’ve been serving as dramaturge for Tufts’ February production of

book piles next to my desk… teetering dangerously on the brink of collapse

Measure for Measure. Over the summer, the director and I put hours into creating a two-hour cut of the script (no small task, especially for a text-purist like yours truly). Now, we’re girding to enter the rehearsal process. This also means that it’s time for me to send my deep thoughts on the play to the theatre manager for inclusion in the program/department newsletter thingy. I’m also preparing to teach what we’ve lovingly dubbed “Shakespeare Boot Camp” this weekend; a three hour text workshop tag-team-taught by myself and the AD in order to ensure that our cast doesn’t go into the rehearsal process without some tactics to deal with Shakespeare’s language. All of these things should be a lot of fun, it just means that dystopian governments and broken chastity vows are constantly at the back of my mind. Not the most pleasant backdrop for your day, let me tell you.

There’s a lot at stake in Measure (and certainly a lot at stake which speaks to us particularly in an election year). We’re dealing with a city built on crumbling foundations. We’re dealing with an aging government that can no longer connect to its people. We’re dealing with extremists; extreme absolutists, extreme libertines, and extreme fundamentalists. We’re dealing with characters who disguise themselves for various reasons and utilize that disguise to trick each other into pursuing courses of action which would otherwise have proved impossible (or at least unpalatable).

We’re also dealing with a comedy that isn’t all that comedic. The ending seems a mere nod at the conventions of comedy (every one of the play’s four marriages are forced/arranged either by law or circumstance). Death is an ever-present force on the stage and at least one character suffers a grisly demise during the play’s action. The play includes a rape or near-rape (depending on how it’s staged). Oh certainly we have a few clowns to lighten the mood, but there is nothing airy or fairy about Measure‘s deeper themes (or even its not-so-deep themes).

The instinct to call Measure a “problem play” and leave things at that is one that I find horribly simplistic. It’s like calling Richard III a history. While I understand the need for short-hand categories, reducing Shakespeare’s more complicated works to one catch-all word does them a disservice. Yup, Measure has its problems, but the play is so much more than those problems. The problems open avenues of exploration through which we can delve into something deeper; what makes a comedy? What does a comedy need to have? If a play has all those things, can it still be something else?

My desk right now with books and sundry stacked work

In addition to this, a second specter has been haunting my footsteps similar to its iconic title character’s father. Hamlet seems to be everywhere I turn (more so this semester than usual). In a little over a week, I will be in Nashville at ASTR speaking about a paper I wrote which involves Garrick, Hamlet, Shakespeare, and the canonization of all three. Hamlet remains the most-referenced play in my studies, there are at least two productions of the show going on in Boston right now, and I’m relatively certain that the other night I dreamed I was performing the “too too solid flesh” speech in front of an audience of extremely intelligent (and extremely receptive!) chimpanzees…

Is Hamlet is in this fall? Is it my personal bias? Or is there just something about Hamlet?

That’s not even to consider the two research projects/seminar papers which are still in their budding stages at the moment. I haven’t yet immersed myself in them completely enough to be having haunting visions or dreams, but it’ll happen sooner rather than later.

Suffice to say that things are getting pretty crowded over here. I’m pretty sure that I could build a fort with the library books on the floor next to my desk, and (as usual) the deeper I plunge into the semester, the more appealing this course of action becomes.

Password is “foul fiend flibbertigibbet”. No boys allowed.

…except my man Will. And maybe a certain Danish Prince.