Tag Archives: Shakespeare

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


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!

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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Happy 450th Birthday, Shakespeare!

Shakespeare Bust 2014 by Katy Dickinson

Today is the traditional celebration of the birth and death of William Shakespeare – in fact, this is the Bard’s 450th Birthday! I am dedicating this, my 1,500th blog entry since I first wrote posted on 2 June 2005, to my favorite author: William Shakespeare.

I encourage you to spend today with the Bard:

Today is also the birthday of America’s Folger Shakespeare Library, that opened in Washington DC on April 23, 1932 and is home to the world’s largest and finest collection of Shakespeare materials.  Whether you loathe or adore Shakespeare, today is his big day!

On 3 May 2014, the St. Andrew’s Shakespeare Reading Group celebrated The Bard’s 450th birthday with a cake:
William Shakespeare 450th Birthday Cake

King Lear card by Katy Dickinson 2014
Antique German collectable card showing Shakespeare’s King Lear and his court

Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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After Christmas


Only a few Christmas presents are left to be distributed. We sadly bid farewell to Jessica and Matthew, who have traveled back to their jobs. John and Paul and I are still happily investigating our own presents here at home. For me, this means watching the Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and the four movie set of The Hollow Crown (Shakespeare’s “Richard II”, “Henry IV” i and ii, and “Henry V”). Yesterday, John posted his code and instructions on how to program a Christmas tree, on: http://www.spcoast.com/wiki/index.php/Christmas2013.  Paul is enjoying post-final-exams, pre-quarter-start downtime. John and I went out on a movie date to see “Ender’s Game”, which was a good representation of that disturbing and superb book. It is pleasant to have some quiet days together.






Images Copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson

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Reading Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” Aloud


The St.Andrew’s Shakespeare Reading Group decided to read Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” in honor of the season. Above you can see our hostess, Melita Thorpe, with John Watson-Williams dressed for his lead role as Ebenezer Scrooge. It took about 4-1/2 hours to read the entire short novel aloud (with breaks between staves for refreshments and a potluck dinner). We considered using one of the plays but decided that reading Dickens original 1843 text was better – since the plays both add and remove some of Dickens’ excellent prose. We distributed the text among our dozen readers:

  • Taking turns reading narration (about half a page before going to the next reader).
  • Dialogue was spoken as assigned parts.  Some famous parts (including the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) have no spoken lines. We doubled up on small roles.

It was a delightful evening! Several of us plan to follow up by going to the Dickens Christmas Fair (at the Cow Palace) and to the ACT “Christmas Carol” stage play in San Francisco.

Image Copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson

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