Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Finished Shakespeare’s Henry VI

Since the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California) Shakespeare Reading Group started meeting in 2012, we have read almost all of the Bard’s plays at least once.  We meet about every two months for a potluck dinner and to read a play – taking turns hosting.  Since April, we have been reading one of Shakespeare’s early hits, the three play history series on Henry VI and the Wars of the Roses.  Our group of 13 last night ranged in age from 92 to 16 years.  I am the group Mentor – sending out recommended reading and movie links in advance, assigning roles, and giving an overview on each play before we read.  The Rev. Stephenie Cooper prepares a role analysis to keep us from having too many readers being assigned roles who speak with each other. Melita Thorpe is in charge of the theater program for the parish. Some of us read from paper books and others from iPads.

The favored roles in our group are the evil characters.  Our 16-year-old reader of Richard of York (the future Richard III) enthusiastically murdered most of the other characters. John Watson-Williams, our 92-year-old reader, asked to read the role of the classic politician Warwick the Kingmaker.  I read King Edward IV whose unwise marriage to Elizabeth Woodville changes his reign.  My husband John Plocher read all of the messenger roles in his usual energetic and irreverent style.  We had a delightful evening!

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Starting Book Two

Last month, I finished revising and printing/binding 256 pages (in 17 sessions of Book One – “The Hebrew Bible“) for the pilot version of the new “The Transforming Literature of the Bible” (TLB) course. Today, I finished revising 140 pages in the first 9 sessions (out of 19) of TLB Book Two (“The New Testament“).  Production starts tomorrow.  I am collaborating on the revision of TLB with the Rev. Canon William H. Barnwell who wrote the original course. In addition to revising Canon William’s 2008 course materials, I am running a pilot version of the class itself at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California). I am grateful to my Co-Mentors Diane Lovelace, and my husband, John Plocher (with the Rev. Peggy Bryan as backup). This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy  (CIC) and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.  Thanks to Collette Lynner of CIC for supporting TLB production.

Six students are finishing the 17 sessions in Book One this Friday.  We start studying Book Two next week.  The inmates are very enthusiastic, doing their extensive homework reading and participating energetically in in-class discussions and reflections.  There is a waiting list of inmates from two dorms to join us.

Literary selections are included in TLB to provide a diverse context in which to understand some of the major themes in the Bible passages under consideration.  In addition to readings in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), the students of Book One have also read:

  1. “The Welcome Table” story by Alice Walker (1973)
  2. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1955)
  3. “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” poem by Mohja Kahf (2003)
  4. “The Son from America” story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1973)
  5. “The Big Red Apples” story by Zitkála-Šá  aka Red Bird (1900)
  6. “My Last Duchess” poem by Robert Browning (1842)
  7. “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King (1963)
  8. O Pioneers! excerpt by Willa Cather (1913)
  9. “The Family of Little Feet” story by Sandra Cisneros (1984)
  10. The Gangster We Are All Looking For excerpt by Lê Thị Diễm Thúy (2003)

The Book Two (New Testament) students will read these literary selections in Part One “A Journey With Mark“:

  1. “At the Arraignment” poem by Debra Spencer (2004)
  2. “A Private Experience” story excerpt by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)
  3. “Sonnet XXVII” by William Shakespeare (1609)
  4. “Under the Poplars” poem by César Vallejo (1919)

One of the TLB students wants me to start another Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar in their dorm after I finish Books One and Two of TLB. Joel Martinez and I are Co-Mentors for a weekly EfM seminar which started in 2015 in another dorm where inmates tend to stay inside longer. I designed TLB to be finished in 5 months but EfM takes four 9-month terms to complete. I told him that if he can find ten other students who will be there for long enough, I will start another EfM class.

Other than my ongoing project as the Mentor for the Shakespeare Reading Group, TLB is one of the few times since I was graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in English (with a specialty in Shakespeare) that my knowledge and passion for literature has been of such use.  I am very much enjoying reviewing potential TLB selections.  Thanks to my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman for her advice on some of the selections, and to John for reviewing my drafts.

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Postcast Interview

Katy Dickinson Sun Microsystems badge 398 in 2010

I very much enjoyed being interviewed by Akshay Birla for his “Life of the Mind” podcast last month. He just published the interview as “Episode 19 | Katy Dickinson on Technology, Mentoring, and Religion”.

Katy Dickinson has been around the tech-block. Hired by Eric Schmidt at Sun Microsystems, she literally wrote the book on the software development lifecycle that Sun used for release of almost 10,000 releases. She is a technologist, entrepreneur, mentor, and writer.

In our conversation Katy talks about her work as a technologist on creating processes:
A process has to not assume that you have world-class people working on it. A process assumes that that not everybody — while they are good-intentioned and competent — [is] perfect. You have to have a system that allows for lack of perfection but can work if you have the best that there is.

and the futility of only having excellent coders:
A good coder is a wonderful thing to have but you have to create something that the customer wants and feels comfortable with. Good coding and user experience are sometimes at odds.

But we spend the most of our conversation talking about mentoring programs that deliver high return-on-investment, and the intersection of religion and technology.

On the importance of example and networking provided by the Grace Hopper Celebration:
While they may be the only women in the room – which has certainly been my experience in 30+ years in the Silicon Valley – there are a lot of rooms.

Listening to your own recorded voice is always surprising – it sounds so different from the inside!

Happy New Year!

Sun Microsystems gate Menlo Park California in 2010

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Shakespeare in Ashland for our 16th Anniversary

Nut Tree Train Vacaville California 1 July 2016

John and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary last weekend with a road trip to Ashland, Oregon.  On the drive north from San Jose, we visited the Nut Tree Train in Vacaville and saw Shasta Lake full of water (a welcome sight after a long drought).

While in Ashland, we enjoyed a clever and entertaining production of Twelfth Night by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (set in 1930’s Hollywood, with twins Viola and Sebastian doubled by one actress), celebrated with an excellent dinner with Rogue River Valley wine at Amuse Restaurant, and enjoyed long walks in historic Lithia Park.

On the drive home, we visited our favorite rock shop (Consolidated Rock & Mineral in Vacaville) and commemorated our anniversary with the purchase of a Crinoidea sea lily double fossil, originating in the Paleozoic Era by way of Morocco. On the way home, we had dinner at Bud’s Pub & Grill in Dixon, which has more animal hunting trophies hanging on its walls than anyplace I have seen. It was a delightful celebration!

Lake Shasta California 1 July 2016

Twelfth Night at Oregon Shakespeare Festival Ashland 2 July 2016

Katy Dickinson and John Plocher Ashland Oregon 2 July 2016

Amuse Restaurant dessert Beignets, Ashland Oregon 2 July 2016

Lithia Park Ashland Oregon 2 July 2016

Meyer Lake ducks in Lithia Park, Ashland Oregon 2 July 2016

deer in Lithia Park, Ashland Oregon 2 July 2016

Cascade Range, Shasta River California 3 July 2016

Mount Shasta on Highway 5, California, 2 July 2016

sunflowers Dixon California 2 July 2016

Crinoidea sea lily fossil from Paleozoic Era from Consolidated Rock and Mineral, Vacaville California 2 July 2016

Buds Pub in Dixon California 2 July 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Celebrating Sir John Falstaff

John Watson-Williams 90th Birthday

Last weekend, our Shakespeare reading group celebrated the 90th birthday of our senior member: John Watson-Williams. We are reading Shakespeare’s “Henriad” tetralogy: Richard II, Henry IV-i, Henry IV-ii, and Henry V. John W-W and I usually compete for who is assigned the lead role. Our 90th Birthday present to John W-W was that he gets to read the role of Sir John Falstaff every time.

Our group meets every two months and watches Shakespeare films in between. We are currently watching The Hollow Crown series – and are very excited that The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses comes out in DVD next month!

The Henriad includes some of Shakespeare’s greatest roles. The four plays are excellent individually and as a set. Part of the particular charm of Henry IV, Part i is its balance of excellent roles: Falstaff has 616 lines, Prince Hal has 551 lines, and Henry Percy “Hotspur” has 562 lines. John W-W, Melita Thorpe and I had a wonderful time sparring through the play!

I have been the Mentor for this Shakespeare reading group since we started in 2012, providing background reading and film homework and assigning roles at the start of each party.  Melita and I sometimes coach readers but we are blessed in having many experienced voices from whom to select.  Role assignments are made easy by the line analysis prepared in advance by the Rev. Stephenie Cooper. Our primary difficulty is that we do not all use the same Shakespeare editions, so sometimes there is confusion as to line assignment. For this reading, an extra challenge was offered by the Goodyear Blimp which was circling noisily overhead while we read in Melita’s garden.  In August, we take on the least popular play in the Henriad: Henry IV Part ii.  My husband John and I are hosting.

Shakespeare Reading Group 4 June 2016

Shakespeare Reading Group 4 June 2016

John Watson-Williams 90th Birthday cake - Sir John Falstaff

John Watson-Williams 90th Birthday cake - Sir John Falstaff

Goodyear Blimp, 4 June 2016

Henry IV-i marble carving Folger Library Washington DC 2012

Shakespeare dolls and books June 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Understanding King Lear

IMG_5625

Our Shakespeare reading group met on Sunday to read his 1606 masterpiece King Lear aloud, and share a potluck meal in a local home.  I wrote my Honors Thesis at U.C. Berkeley on King Lear, so I felt very well prepared for this reading.  John Watson-Williams presented the part of Lear wonderfully, and I very much enjoyed reading both Cordelia and The Fool (as a doubled role).  We had fifteen readers in all to cover characters of the court and countryside.   It is delightful listening to good people enjoy developing nasty roles like Edmund the Bastard, Goneril, Regan, Duke Cornwall, and Oswald.

When I wrote my thesis as a university student, I understood the interaction between Lear and his daughters in a 21-year-old’s context. Now (a few years later), after my father passed on at 85 (about Lear’s age), and I am managing my 84-year-old mother’s affairs, I hear the play differently. I know Goneril to be greedy, vicious, and unfilial but her plea to her father in Act I, Scene IV rings true:

Come, sir,
I would you would make use of that good wisdom,
Whereof I know you are fraught; and put away
These dispositions, that of late transform you
From what you rightly are.

King Lear is part of my life: a play that is deep and broad and always fresh, offering new understanding with every reading.  The Shakespeare reading group is based at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California) but we welcome readers from the community.  We meet every other month: next up is Richard II, in April.

On 24 January 2016, I asked John Watson-Williams to pose as King Lear in front of St. Andrew’s Mark Adams stained glass window of Chaos. John WW gave me three aspects of Lear: benign, stern, and mad:

John Watson-Williams as benign King Lear 2016 . John Watson-Williams as stern King Lear 2016 . John Watson-Williams as mad King Lear 2016

Top Image: King Lear Act I, Scene 1: Image from Shakespeare-Gallerie, printed in Berlin around 1885

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Giving Voice to Kings: Richard III, and the Bible

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church 2014

The St. Andrew’s Shakespeare group read The Tragedy of King Richard III last Saturday night, with John Watson-Williams and me splitting the title role by acts. Laura Biche was kind enough to host our dinner and reading in Redwood City. The next morning in church, I was the Old Testament Lector at St. Andrew’s in Saratoga, reading the lesson from Second Kings 2:1-12. Even though these two texts are extremely different, I enjoy using my voice to bring a story to life – whether the charmingly evil Richard or the story of a great prophet.

The St. Andrew’s Shakespeare group meets every two months, taking turns hosting. (John and I are hosting Comedy of Errors in April.) Sometimes we become the St. Andrew’s Players to act out a lesson for the church congregation.

Richard III, Act I, scene ii

Richard III vies among Shakespeare’s characters with Iago as being the greatest villain who is most satisfied by his evil deeds.  Here is Richard (still the Duke of Gloucester) gloating over his seduction of the Lady Anne Neville:

Was ever woman in this humour woo’d?
Was ever woman in this humour won?
I’ll have her; but I will not keep her long.
What! I, that kill’d her husband and his father,
To take her in her heart’s extremest hate,
With curses in her mouth, tears in her eyes,
The bleeding witness of her hatred by;
Having God, her conscience, and these bars
against me,
And I nothing to back my suit at all,
But the plain devil and dissembling looks,
And yet to win her, all the world to nothing!
Ha!

2 Kings 2:1-12

Kings presents the biblical view of the history of ancient Israel and Judah after the death of King David, for a period of about 400 years, including cycles of stories about various prophets (c. 960 BCE – c. 560 BCE). Elijah was a prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of Ahab (9th century BCE). Elisha was a disciple of Elijah and lead the prophets after Elijah was taken up into the whirlwind.

… they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

Images Copyright 2013-2014 by Katy Dickinson

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church Shakespeare group 2014 . St. Andrew's Episcopal Church Shakespeare group 2014

John Plocher - St. Andrew's Episcopal Church Shakespeare group 2014

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