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Pencils December 22, 2007

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Are pencils period at all?


Yes, some sort of pencil could be used, but it would not be the manufactured wooden sticks we are familiar with today. The first mass-produced pencils weren’t created until   1662.

Graphite was discovered in England by 1594. It was almost immediately quarried and used to create writing instruments. Previous non-ink writing instruments would include a metal (typically lead) stylus. Due to the fact that graphite left a darker mark than lead, it was soon the preferred material for writing. However, graphite was much softer and more brittle than lead; it required a type of container. The first graphite pencils were solid pieces of graphite wrapped in string. In the mid 1600s, the graphite would be inserted into sticks hollowed out by hand.

Life of a Script December 8, 2007

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 What happened after an Elizabethan author finished a script?

Life of a Script

Gestures December 7, 2007

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I have a new packet of information about rhetorical hand gestures. This translating captions from John Bulwer’s 1644 publication Chirologia, The Natural Language of the Hand. For your benefit, I have translated the captions into English. Please note, the words and phrases are not directly translated. Instead, I chose to provide the infinitive verb tense as I believe it is better suited to today’s theatrical ear. I am distributing copies at rehearsal today, but please ask for one in case I missed you.

I’d like to thank Brad for the visual source material and Leah for the Latin assistance. I used the University of Notre Dame Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid as  guide.

I hope these gestures compliment the architecture.

Dramaturg’s Notebook: 12/4 December 5, 2007

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Our third rehearsal began with a meet and greet with the entire PCS staff. It takes a lot of bodies to get a production on its feet, and we had a sizable congregation to meet or greet.  We introduced ourselves with a brief explanation of our first exposure to Shakespeare.  There was a diverse set of introductions, from “the horrible Ms. Butts” high school English to the Little Rascals to RSC in the park. It was great to be better acquainted with the faces on staff (and to indulge with a slice of delicious beet cake).

Tablework resumed shortly after the meet and greet and continued through the end of the day. We made it through the first scene of Beard of Avon working backwards through the text. Twelfth Night is also making marked progress, though the nature of Shakespeare script work slows its pace.  In addition to talking about ideas, characters and plot elements, Shakespeare often necessitates a consideration of punctuation and changes to the script which will inform the development process.  It’s been a fascinating process, and my list of research topics is getting dangerously long!

Dramaturg’s Notebook: 12/2 December 5, 2007

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Today marks the beginning of the tablework process for both plays. I like tablework, particularly because it is an active outlet for dramaturgy. I think I was particularly antsy to get this process underway after spending he past few weeks holed up in my apartment (or nursing the same cup of coffee for six hours at Pix Patisserie) absorbing information. While I’m glad I had the opportunity to fill my dramaturg’s filodex, my brain was telling me it was time for me to be engaged in a different set of pursuits.

I’ve been really impressed by the collective group of minds in this production process.  It’s fascinating to consider the perspectives, insights, and personal research of our assembly as it informs the business of the texts. Everyone here has a lot of gifts to offer the process, and, as the holiday music in the PCS lobby reminds me, ’tis the season for giving.

We made it through the entire second act working backwards through Beard of Avon. Chris brought this back-to-front approach to tablework after reading Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. It’s an interesting process to approach Freed’s story from this perspective, particularly as it reveals how the story is told.

Our Twelfth Night tablework included a lively discussion about the use of dialect. Using British dialect goes against the grain of most American theatre training, but the use of dialect could tie the two productions together.  What does the use of dialect in Shakespeare imply? How will our audience perceive this choice?  These are big ideas to consider, and I am glad we have the time to flesh out both perspectives in rehearsal. We also began to look at the first few scenes beat by beat.  We’re well on our way…

Glossary of Names, p. 53 December 5, 2007

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“By the way, I’ve just finished most of the books you gave me—I’ve got Lyly, just done Euphues, Sydney, Spenser (and oh, by the way, a-DORED Catullus—)” Will, p. 53 The Beard of Avon


John Lyly (1554-1606) was playwright, raised in Canterbury and educated at Oxford. Lyly moved to London after several fellowship petitions to Lord Burleigh failed. Shortly after his arrival, he published his first plays and gained instant notoriety. By 1583, he controlled the Blackfriars Theatre. Nearly all contemporary playwrights emulated Lyly’s style and language.  Lyly also wrote many plays for children’s companies, which were popular for their allegorical and satirical material. His reputation was discredited for his prolific contribution to these companies after professional adult theatres were established as the principal source of entertainment in the 1590s. Later in life, Lyly had an active political life, and served as a Member of Parliament three times.

Lyly’s influence on Shakespeare was tremendous. Characters such as Polonius in Hamlet, Jacques in As You Like It and Moth in Love’s Labour’s Lost emulate characteristics of Lyly’s writing. Shakespeare biographer Peter Ackroyd notes that Shakespeare was “indeed a great cormorant of other writer’s words,” and cites Lyly’s influence in nearly all of Shakespeare’s comedies.


Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) and its sequel, Euphues and His England (1580) were two of Lyly’s most famous works. These prose plays were noted for their rhetorical style, which incorporated such literary devices such as alliteration, anaphora, antithesis and rhetorical questions. The style became a literary fashion known as “euphuism” and was noted by an elaborate sentence structure based on parallel figures. Ornamentation was central to the style and included incidents from history, proverbs, poetry and philosophy. Euphuism was parodied and replicated by Shakespeare. It was a contemporary fashion and most of Shakespeare’s contemporaries would have employed the modern style.

The complete text of both Euphues plays can be found here. http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/lylybib.htm


Philip Sidney was a prominent Elizabethan poet, courtier and soldier.  He quarreled with Edward de Vere and challenged him to a duel to the death.  The queen forbade the duel, which prompted Sidney to write a detailed declaration of his distaste for the Queen’s developing French marriage. He retired from court as a result of this letter. Coincidentally, Sidney’s marriage arrangement with Anne Cecil, daughter Lord Burleigh fell through while they were bothe underage. Anne Cecil later married de Vere. Sidney married the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham in 1583.



Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for his epic poem The Faerie Queen. The poem was an allegory of Tudor England under the control of Queen Elizabeth I. The title of this fantastical poem became an emblematic epithet of the queen.  Spenser was educated at Cambridge. He is known as one of the leading contributors of early Modern English verse.


Gaius Vallerius Catullus was a Roman poet from 1st century BC. His poetry took up many subjects, including friendship, love, and politics. Many of his poems are explicitly erotic. Cicero condemned Catullus for his obscenity, and Catullus fell into obscurity until the middle ages. His most famous poems honor a woman called Lesbia, who is believed to represent the poetess Saphho of Lesbos. Catullus’ poetry indicated heterosexual and homosexual liaisons. He is considered one of the foremost writers of Latin lyric poetry. 

Astrophil and Stilla

A sonnet sequence published in 1591 by Thomas Newman. It features 108 sonnets and 11 songs. Though the author was anonymous, many believe it was written by Philip Sidney. The sonnets are adapted from the Petrarchan model. Some believe that the sonnets are autobiographical allegory of Sidney’s love affair with the wife of a courtier.

Sonnets December 4, 2007

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A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem, thought to have been invented by the poet Giacomo da Lentini (ca. 1200-1250). It is one of the most well known of all the verse forms in the Western world. The word sonnet is derived from the Italian word sonnetto, a little sound or song, which came from the Latin sonus, meaning “a sound.”

The sonnet form involves a certain way of thinking: the setting up or development of thought or idea which is brought to a conclusion at the end of the poem. Sticking to one subject in the sonnet and creating pauses at the ends or in the middles of lines make the poem resemble the way we think when we are thinking about a single idea.

The most common form of the sonnet is a fourteen-line poem in two parts: an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). The octave can be divided into two four-line stanzas and the sestet can be divided into one four-line stanza and a couplet (the two lines at the end). The chance to have two lines at the end, set off from the rest of the poem, often gives the poet a moment to conclude the poem’s thought in a momentous and satisfying way.

In terms of sound and rhyme, there are many different ways of writing a sonnet. Many traditional sonnets were written I in the meter of iambic pentameter. Traditional rhyme schemes for the sonnet vary a lot, the most famous being abab cdcd efef gg (Shakespeare). The rhymes and sound schemes of the sonnet are similar to those of the ballad and of popular songs, but the sonnet is not a narrative poem, and is usually more complex or condensed, and more contained within itself, since it is shorter and has no repetition of lines or refrain.

Though sonnets can be written about any subject, they seem very often to be written about love, philosophy, or both. This is because, as each poetic form reflects a human way of thinking, he sonnet form seems to reflect the way people think about ideas of love. Maybe that’s why there is the need for a conclusion—as if we could attempt, through poetry, to make sense of our feelings about love, or to say something final and sublime about a particular thought about love, even just for the moment… besides writing about love, you can write sonnets about things that happen when you’re walking down the  street or any thing or idea you want to describe (octave), and then, what you think of that (sestet).

Excerpts from The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms, edited by Ron Padgett.

From the above information, I would venture to guess that sonnets were much closer to a pop song than an email or text message.  Many speculate that code or autobiography was an implicit part of Shakespeare’s sonnets; some feel this is conjecture.