Friday Two Cents: What A Piece Of Work Is A Man


 

This past week I have been enjoying my vacation time by indulging in some of my favourite pasts. Bike rides and walks along the lakeshore, reading, writing, drawing and painting. During these long periods of activity, my mind has been free to wander and think of endless possibilities and things that are right in front of me.

The best way to make any sense of what I have been thinking can be best said from a quote in Shakespeare’s Hamlet …

Hamlet
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god!

Hamlet Act 2, scene 2.

 

Hamlet said this little speech in irony. Perhaps Hamlet intended to fend off the questions or nosy inquiries from the kings’ spies, yet he finds nothing too impressive about man (humanity). Yet what Hamlet says in irony I take as my conviction.
During my activities I have had time to reflect on what we (humans) have done with our time on this planet. For I have seen the evils of what man can and have done to their fellow-man, yet I have seen many examples that man has the capacity to do good as well. Art has given me the means to look into the soul of humanity and try to understand what makes us tick. Engaging in my own art projects helps me to understand the soul of humanity and our desire to understand the world around us. What other creature on this planet can create something as breathtaking as the Mona Lisa or apiece of street art I see in downtown Toronto. All of this is an expression of us trying to understand why we are here. Art has developed and grown as our civilization has grown. Humanity’s journey of self-discovery and understanding can be reflected in its many forms of artwork. In many ways our art is a window into our very soul.
My own exploration and experiences in art has given me some insights, yet I am far from finding the answers to these questions; but I know the journey is worth it. Lao Tzu once said …

 

‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’ Lao Tzu

I would add to this …
“Sometimes the journey is as important as the destination.” Paul Gauchi
  

Here’s to the journey into the soul of humanity and my own.

Friday Two Cents: Summer Vacation Part 1: Stratford Ontario


 

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This week I was able to indulge in one of my favourite activities, live theatre. Even better is that it is Shakespearean theatre. This year I was able to enjoy several shows on several trips to Stratford Ontario. Every year they have a wonderful collection of shows that excite the mind and touch the soul. I have already seen two plays earlier this year , ‘A Chorus Line’ and ‘As You Like It’.   This past week I was able to enjoy two more plays “Shakespeare in Love’ and ‘Macbeth’.

I can write pages on how I enjoyed these shows but I think Less is more.

A wonderful musical that kept me singing after the show was over.

 

A fun Canadian take on a classic that made me laugh throughout the performance.

 

Love, Sorrow, Fear, Excitement. I felt every emotion as it was happening on the stage.

 

Hauntingly spectacular. Descent into evil, obsession and madness. Was Macbeth always evil or did the prophecy kindle the embers of evil within every human.

 

What have I learned from my journey?  What Hamlet says with irony I say with Conviction,

 

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel,

     Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act 2, scene 2

 

Friday Two Cents: Visiting Local Communities in Ontario Part 6


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This summer I have been visiting different communities around my hometown, Toronto. Yet Toronto has a lot to offer for a vacation. From going to the CN Tower, Casa Loma, the Zoo and the shopping to the theatres with wonderful live performances and many more that I haven’t mentioned because of the time.

High Park Amphitheatre

High Park Amphitheatre

Yet I was able to partake in two that I truly enjoyed and would like to share with you. The first was a little known production called Shakespeare in the Park. It is located in High Park situated in the west end of the downtown core. For the past 32 years they have been performing Shakespearian plays in the park amphitheater. I have seen many wonderful plays there and this year is no exception. This year I saw As You Like It and Titus Andronicus, two wonder plays yet very different. As You Like It is a funny adventure into love and Titus Andronicus is Shakespeare’s most violent and bloody tragedy. Despite the contrasting themes of the plays they were both amazing to witness.

The second was the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). I have been going year after year to the Exhibition for most of my life. I enjoy going to see the art, craft and hobbies exhibits, the shows and of course sampling the different types of foods they have to offer. I even have a tradition of getting a corn dog once I enter the grounds. I know that it is not a healthy choice but once you enter the grounds healthy choices are thrown out the window. Besides, it is the only time during the year when I eat a corn dog.

This year I was able to see different shows such as the birds of prey show, the acrobatic show Mirage and performances in the International Pavilion. The one new thing I did this year was taking the walking tours. The first was in the afternoon with an Architectural Tour of the buildings of the CNE and the second was the more disturbing Ghost Tour of the CNE after dark. They were both great with a lot of historical information of the CNE grounds dating back to the war of 1812 when the grounds was the site of the Battle of York (the original name of Toronto).

These two wonderful events in the heart of Toronto are amazing every year. Unfortunately these two events are only available in the city for a limited time and as of the 1st of September they are gone for the year. That’s why I always have mixed feelings about the CNE. I love going but I know that once I leave the grounds it means summer is over and school will start soon. Oh well I guess I have to just wait and look forward to next year.

 

Friday Two Cents: Visiting Local Communities in Ontario Part 2


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   If you are a lover of live theatre than this Ontario community is for you. For more than fifty years Stratford Ontario has hosted a theatrical experience based in classic theatre, Shakespeare. They put on many other shows but Shakespeare is at the heart of the festival. It is a wonderful experience where you can immerse yourself in the plays and learn something of the human condition.
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Attending the Forum for King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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Forums before the performances.

   I can hear many of you out there groaning and rolling your eyes thinking, “Shakespeare? Uhh! The only reason I read the plays was because they made me in high school.” I was the same way for a time; yet I have to admit the only thing I did enjoy in English class was Shakespeare. When I got older I began to read and enjoy Shakespeare and the many different ways you can interpret his meanings. Many of his stories are still relevant in today’s world. Seeing what factors can drive you to madness as in King Lear, or racism in Othello and Merchant of Venice are still pertinent today. But you do not have to read up about the plays to refresh your memory; they have forums where they have speakers come in and discuss the plays. I went to two forums this visit for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and King Lear. Both were very informative and helped me to ponder about other things I may not have when I go and view the performances.

The Gazette Photograph by: Michael Cooper

  Yet the plays are not just a wonderful exploration of the human condition but they are wildly entertaining. In many cases the directors interpret the plays for a modern audience. One such example is being performed this year at the festival with ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. It is about a play that is performed at a wedding for the couple as a present. The story follows two couples where a woman Hermia is promised to wed Demetrius, by her father, but loves another Lysander. But at the same time Helenia loves Demetrius and follows him around. Then there is the sub-plot with Oberon and Titania the King and Queen of the fairies having a squabble. I do not want to go too in-depth with the plot but suffice it to say this is a comedy with many twists and turns.

Evan Buliung (left) as Oberon and Jonathan Goad as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Michael Cooper.

   However the director has added a few modern twists too. He has staged the play as if it is a real marriage present for a couple at their reception. The twist is the couple is a same-sex couple, two men. Therefore, in the play Lysander, usually portrayed, as a man is instead a woman, adding a same-sex relationship into the play. But to add more to the plot, a woman plays Puck and two men play Oberon and Titania. I can tell you that it is funny and fantastic to see a big beefy man wear a dress and play a woman.

   I saw this play and they advertise it by saying you are invited to a wedding, so I dressed in a suit and with my friend we went to a wedding. Many others did the same and it was a fun experience and I have to admit it was as if I was at a wedding. It was an amazing performance and I laughed the whole way through.

Sara Farb, as Cordelia, and Colm Feore, as King Lear, from the Stratford Festival production of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The Beacon Herald

   I also saw King Lear, a darker play, one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. It was a complete opposite to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Yet you can see that the theme of madness is present in both plays. The madness of losing ones mind at the loss of ones station and at the loss of a child, to the madness of falling in love. I am so glad that I saw both; one after another to truly feel the plight of all the characters and compare the theme of madness in both plays.

Colm Feore performs as King Lear. (David Hou / Stratford Festival)

 

 

   Yet Stratford is not only about plays, it also is a wonderful small town in the heart of farm country in Ontario. It has picturesque trails around the river where you can forget about the world for a day and just enjoy the scenery. On my walk around the river they had a band perform as part of their music festival in the summer. I continued to walk around and simply enjoyed the gardens, homes and people around me. On many occasions I have sat by the river and bin inspired to draw or write.

   If you are interested in visiting the Stratford Festival here is the website http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/Default.aspx  .

    I know you won’t be disappointed. I know I wasn’t I will be returning to see Man of La Mancha.

Friday Two Cents: The Play’s The Thing


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I apologize for the lateness of this Friday Two Cents; I came back home late from my well-earned vacation Friday night and needed some time to prepare my post. 

I returned from a marvelous adventure to Stratford, Ontario where I indulged in the famous Stratford Festival.  I did a few tours, forums, meet and greets, enjoyed the local atmosphere but I truly went for the plays.  I was fortunate to experience three magnificent plays with such sound and fury.  They were, in order of how I viewed them, The Three Musketeers, Shakespeare’s Othello and The Merchant of Venice. 

The Three Musketeers was a bright adventure with King Louis XIII Musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis.  These three are then joined by a headstrong young D’Artagnan, which came to Paris to join the Musketeers.  They have great adventures and in the end they win the day.

Othello is one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies equal to his Macbeth and Hamlet.  The Moorish Othello is a General of Venice because of his deeds to Venice.  He wins the love of Desdemona, who does not care about the social issues about marrying him.  Enter the villain of villains, Iago that spreads roamer, jealousy and doubt.  Iago’s performance by actor Graham Abbey is nothing if not spectacular. He sows the seeds of jealousy in Othello and in the end, well Shakespeare is not known for his Disney endings. 

The most moving show I saw was The Merchant of Venice.  This was the very first Shakespearian play I read and I have always enjoyed it.  The villain is Shylock yet have I never saw him as a villain but a victim, mind you in Elizabethan England he would have been.  It was made more poignant with the director’s setting of the play in Fascist Italy of the 1930s-40s.  The play was and is an absolute masterpiece.

Yet each play had one scene that moved me to such and extent that I must write about them and how I saw that they were all related. 

In The Three Musketeers, the Milady de Winter remarked that it took eight men to capture and execute her, the men involved all had a part to play in why she became the villain, the “foul temptress”.  The original judge that marked her with the Fleur-de-lis because she temped a priest to break his vow and run away with her and he stole from the church. She was thus punished with the branding.  Then when making a new life with Athos she hid the mark but once discovered he cast her away, sending her on the road to more unspeakable deeds to try to survive.  Then D’Artagnan tricks and uses her, which pushes her further.  She is then captured and executed for these crimes.  Punished because of the men’s failings and she must pay the price, not them.  She stands alone against the male world because she is a woman trying to survive punishment for men’s deeds.

In Othello, the villain Iago hates him and plots his down fall.  Why?  We do not even know why.  Shakespeare is telling us in this world there are people who do evil things just because.  He pits the world, including Othello’s own mind, against him with doubt and jealousy.  Othello murders his love, his wife in a pit of jealousy and he truly is alone; the world against him even after Iago’s plans is discovered.

Scott Wentworth’s portrayal of Shylock is haunting, which words fail to adequately describe.  The courtroom scene is beyond moving, full of meaning and emotion for the villain Shylock but I could not see him in such a role.  Within the play and the time period he might have been seen as such. However, all I could see was everyone against him, Shylock alone in a den of lions, I wonder if Shakespeare might have originally meant it this way?

I saw three different plays yet they all had the theme of one person against the world.  Do to circumstances beyond the control of these characters they are hated, reviled, envied and feared and they are made outcasts. 

I believe many people, including myself, have felt this way at many points in their lives.  The world pushes upon us and we cannot stand against the ‘slings and arrow of outrageous fortune’.  And yes, there are real villains out in the world such as Iago, or the Christians in Venice or the men against the Milady de Winter, who hates someone just because of who or what are.

I myself have had jealousy and hatred thrust upon me because I am a male teacher in a female dominated profession.  I sympathize with Milady de Winter, Othello and Shylock, to demand my pound of flesh when the law says that I am owed it.  Thankfully I have these lessons and examples to help me make decisions, for I am a student of human behavior and you are never to old to learn. 

I learned or more importantly I reaffirmed the lessons I have learned through experience.  I went on vacation to relax and enjoy the beauty of Stratford, which I did.  Yet among the loveliness of this small city, among the trees, river, swans and wonderful people I got more than simple entertainment out of the plays.  I believe Hamlet was right: ‘The Play’s The Thing’

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