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Emergence (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 7, Episode 23) Enterprise-D subsystems exhibit emerging intelligence

Rewatching ST:TNG When I first read a blurb about this episode, I thought maybe the ship’s computer would develop an attitude and say, “I’m tired of taking your orders and shutting down systems and whatnot; I want to star in an adventure all about me!” In the cold opening, a costumed Data delivers Prospero’s speech about giving up his art towards the end of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Picard bardsplains the…

‘Tragedy of Macbeth’ Review: The Thane, Insane, Slays Mainly in Dunsinane

What a headline. The poet John Berryman wrote of “Macbeth” that “no other Shakespearean tragedy is so desolate, and this desolation is conveyed to us through the fantastic imagination of its hero.” The universe of the play — a haunted, violent patch of ground called Scotland — is as dark and scary as any place in literature or horror movies. This has less to do with the resident witches than with…

I’m really enjoying seeing how my students are responding to Hamlet.

As part of a class assignment, one student took some friends to see the Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Park all-female production of Hamlet. One of her friends is from Vietnam, and my student was very proud that she could answer his questions about what was going on. Many students, even the English majors, confess that in high school they never tried to read Shakespeare’s language, but instead depended totally on…

Breaking up with your favorite racist childhood classic books

A good article analyzes the strong cultural reactions to voluntary changes made by the companies that manage the “Potato Head” toy line and the books of Dr. Seuss. Cries of “censorship” and “cancel culture” rallied passionate citizens who defended their nostalgic memories of childhood and sought targets for their rage. I just read an article on new allegations against Peter Yarrow. I knew that he was convicted of sexually assaulting…

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Ménage à Troi (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season Three, Episode 24) Lwaxana, Ferengi, Chess, and Poetry

Rewatching ST:TNG after a 20-year break. The teaser features Picard fibbing awkwardly to evade Troi’s mother Lwaxana, nicely setting up a later scene when he woos her with snatches of Shakespeare and Tennyson — first clumsily, then enthusiastically, as part of a ruse designed to… oh, nevermind why. Seeing Picard save the day with love poetry is well worth the cringeworthy setup. (And the scene also provides the visual for the…

“I don’t view Shakespeare’s work as intimidating anymore.” — midterm reflection from college freshman

“It has made me more confident in myself, and I don’t view Shakespeare’s work as intimidating anymore.” –freshman student reflecting on the first half of my “Shakespeare in Context” course. In lieu of reading comprehension quizzes, I have students post informal responses. They respond to an orientation lecture and each act of the play as they read, and finally they write a brief synthesis paper. That cycle usually takes about…

Preview of “The Fantasticks” (thanks, Tribune-Review, for covering the arts community)

For Luisa, Jerz’s character, “the world is still a magical place, full of epic characters and situations and — above all — romance.” She says the audience should like Luisa and care about her, not wanting the world to hurt or change her. A fun show to perform “‘The Fantasticks’ music is uniquely beautiful, and the script very clever. We have a lot of fun performing it,” she says. Jerz…

Me (glares in iambic pentameter)

Me: I need to post the opening lecture for my online Shakespeare class. Also me: I should compose it in blank verse. Me (glares in iambic pentameter): Also me: O for a Canvas of fire, to surpass The farthest distance of instruction. SHU tech is cool, but can a Macbook hold A seminar discussion? Can we cram Within an LMS the self-same class That does engage the students on campus?…

Fast-paced, articulate cast shines in Viking-themed Othello

I saw my first Food for Groundlings show this weekend. It won’t be my last. I see a lot of theater, and am used to seeing professionals here or there stutter or jump a line. But the actors in Othello at CCAC Sunday night really impressed me with their mastery of Shakespeare’s verbiage. Desdemona in particular took my breath away as she defended herself against Othello’s accusations, ploughing through the…

Set Phasers to Teach!

Fans of Star Trek have thus already been introduced to the plays of William Shakespeare, and experienced intertextual analysis in action as the aforementioned Star Trek episodes directly relate to Hamlet and Henry V. The same can be said of the motion picture The Wrath of Khan, which portrays Ricardo Montalban’s villain as a futuristic Captain Ahab from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. More important than the interconnection of Star Trek narratives to classic literature of the past, however, is…

Because Internet: the new linguistics of informal English

I’m planning to begin my online Shakespeare class with commentary on how it’s a good thing that language changes, so that students will (I hope) see the effort they will need to put into understanding English from 400 years ago as part of the process of engaging with a living language, the same process that inspires each generation to change the language to suit their needs. Large-scale analysis of internet…

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Quantum’s King Lear at Carrie Blast Furnace

The girl and I were thrilled to catch Quantum Theatre’s outdoor production of King Lear. The smell of a storm in the air, gusting wind, piped-in industrial sounds (metallic groans and rumbles) and the knowledge that the only reason we were able to get tickets was this was a special add-on performance to make up for a show that was rained out over the weekend all added to the tension…