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Signal-boosting as best I can. See also an article in the Economist from last weekend.

Originally posted by gabrielleabelle at Mississippi Personhood Amendment
Okay, so I don't usually do this, but this is an issue near and dear to me and this is getting very little no attention in the mainstream media.

Mississippi is voting on November 8th on whether to pass Amendment 26, the "Personhood Amendment". This amendment would grant fertilized eggs and fetuses personhood status.

Putting aside the contentious issue of abortion, this would effectively outlaw birth control and criminalize women who have miscarriages. This is not a good thing.

Jackson Women's Health Organization is the only place women can get abortions in the entire state, and they are trying to launch a grassroots movement against this amendment. This doesn't just apply to Mississippi, though, as Personhood USA, the group that introduced this amendment, is trying to introduce identical amendments in all 50 states.

What's more, in Mississippi, this amendment is expected to pass. It even has Mississippi Democrats, including the Attorney General, Jim Hood, backing it.

The reason I'm posting this here is because I made a meager donation to the Jackson Women's Health Organization this morning, and I received a personal email back hours later - on a Sunday - thanking me and noting that I'm one of the first "outside" people to contribute.

So if you sometimes pass on political action because you figure that enough other people will do something to make a difference, make an exception on this one. My RSS reader is near silent on this amendment. I only found out about it through a feminist blog. The mainstream media is not reporting on it.

If there is ever a time to donate or send a letter in protest, this would be it.

What to do?

- Read up on it. Wake Up, Mississippi is the home of the grassroots effort to fight this amendment. Daily Kos also has a thorough story on it.

- If you can afford it, you can donate at the site's link.

- You can contact the Democratic National Committee to see why more of our representatives aren't speaking out against this.

- Like this Facebook page to help spread awareness.


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So, quite by accident yesterday evening, I ended up catching one of the preview performances of Henry VIII at the Folger. It was a production I'd wanted to see, but hadn't quite figured out when I'd manage it. Through a nice series of coincidences, I was spending yesterday afternoon in the Folger and after finishing dinner, realised I had enough time to get back for the evening performance. So, there we go.

Short version: SEE IT IF YOU CAN. IT IS GREAT.

Fairly long and extremely impressionistic review below.Collapse )

To conclude, a striking production that uses visual and thematic cues to hold a disjointed play together. I definitely recommend it. Running through November 20.

Oh, and the Henry VIII exhibit in the Library is also really good. I drooled over lots of books, including a 1548 edition of Le miroir de l'âme pêcheresse as translated by Elizabeth I. It's TINY. And ADORABLE.

Also, I sniggered every time I saw something I'd quoted in my dissertation. That made for a lot of sniggering. They sadly did not have a copy of Hall out, though they did have a Holinshed, and a facsimile of the 1550 frontispiece to Hall, with its miraculous all-male family tree (except for Elizabeth of York, Margaret Beaufort, and 'Eleanor, doughter to the Earl of March', who I am fairly certain was actually named Anne; bad Grafton!). So, well worth having a look if you're around.
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Day #26: Your favourite couple

Beatrice and Benedick have to be up here. She gives as good as she gets, and vice versa. And you really do get the impression that they actually enjoy one another's company and that the love that apparently comes out of nowhere probably does have some sort of foundation.

On the tragic side, I have to go with Humphrey of Gloucester and Eleanor Cobham. Because, really, you can tell this is a couple who love one another. I sort of think of them as a much older Hotspur and Kate Percy, where they squabble and snipe regularly but really do love one another. And it may be that I am reading too much into the text but it seems to me that Eleanor's fall from grace just breaks Humphrey. He protests when the King demands that he step down as protector, but there's no force behind it. And that is probably because he lost the only person he could truly trust.

Day #27: Your favourite couplet

I am just going to go with the first line that comes to mind:

Can I do this, and cannot get a crown?
Tut, were it farther off, I'll pluck it down.
--3 Henry VI, Act III, Scene II

You wouldn't think the word 'Tut' could make or break the end of a scene, but in this case, it TOTALLY does. It embodies so many different significations -- Richard's pride, his ambition, his utterly shameless confidence in his ability to deceive. And it's this brilliantly executed conspiracy between him and the audience -- we want to see if he can do it, how far he can go. So much, to rest on one little word.

Ron Cook in the BBC 3 Henry VI (1983) - He is charming and utterly adorable. And he nails this couplet.
Andrew Jarvis in the ESC Henry VI, 'House of York' (1990) (speech starts around 3:25; also featuring Ann Penfold as a wonderfully clever and snarky Elizabeth)

I'm out of town this weekend to go to my cousin's wedding in New York, so I will hopefully finish off the meme next week.

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Day #24: An actor or actress you would love to see in a particular role

There will be a list. Nobody should be surprised by this at all.

Jon Slinger in anything. ANYTHING AT ALL.

David Tennant as Richard II - His Henry VI made me wibble, and I loved him as both Berowne and Hamlet. And then there's Ten. Who has more in common with Richard II than he really should. And, really, who wouldn't want to hear Tennant do that final speech? (Note: I don't think he could do what Slinger did with the role. I frankly don't think anybody else could pull that off. But Tennant would be an equally fantastic Richard, if quite different.)

Tilda Swinton as Margaret of Anjou - Can you picture this? I can, and it is magical.

Kate Winslet as Desdemona - And, no, I am not just saying this because of my enormous crush on her. I do think she'd strike the right balance of innocence and sensuality (we get some hints of this in the way she played Marianne Dashwood) that I just haven't seen in any of the filmed productions so far.

Jeremy Northam as Iago - One of my problems with Kenneth Branagh's Iago was that he overdid the evil; part of what makes Iago so scary is how little he actually does to destroy the lives of everyone around him, and Branagh's style of acting just doesn't convey that for me at all. Northam is incredibly charming, and would probably, now I think about it, also make a fantastic Richard III. And, yes, I am also deeply amused by the irony of the same actor playing Thomas More and Richard III.

Sophie Okonedo as Cleopatra - Her Duchess of Malfi was just brilliant and I think she'd make a sublime Cleopatra. Also, further yay for Cleopatras of colour because there are simply not enough of them.

James Purefoy as Antony - WHO DID NOT SEE THIS COMING. The way he played Antony in Rome fits so well with the way I read Shakespeare's version -- impulsive and brilliant and so completely unaware that he could at any moment fail. Super massive bonus points for Simon Woods reprising Octavius.

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So, I am very glad I am assuming the 30 days of Shakespeare are not consecutive because I just missed roughly...eleven. My apologies. I was shuttling my way round the Midwest to visit various family members and only got back home last night. I love my family and my in-laws-to-be, but it is so nice to have all family obligations finished until the wedding

Without further ado, here we go.

Day #23: A role you've never played but would love to play

Ye gods. SO MANY. It is not even funny how many roles I would absolutely love to play and will probably never get the chance. Unless I actually manage to get a full-time job and therefore have the schedule and funds to start my own playreading group in whatever department is crazy enough to take me. ;)

I will preface by saying that, after a number of years in amateur productions, I've learned that although there are a vast number of roles I would love to play, there are far fewer at which I would be at all good. So this list is going to stick to characters that fit both criteria, from what I can see.

As such, Juliet is Right Out because I have never looked young enough to play her, least of all now when I am well past the right age.

Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra - The only character in Shakespeare who looks remotely like me! I'm not saying I actually look like Cleopatra -- just that I look more like her than I do any other Shakespearean character. More importantly, however, she is such an amazing character and the absolute emotional centre of that play; she's got so many layers and there are so many directions to take her, and that final scene is just magnificent. I don't know if I'd be any good, but I would relish the chance to give it a try.

Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing - She's just so much FUN.

Margaret of Anjou in the First Tetralogy - I don't need to explain this, do I? ;)

Elizabeth Grey in 3 Henry VI and Richard III - See above.

Desdemona in Othello - This would never happen except in a playreading, but I would love the opportunity just so I could really delve into her character and figure out what makes her tick and how much she realises before the end of the play. This is something I know actresses engage with a great deal in playing Gertrude or Cordelia, for instance, but in my limited viewings of film versions of Othello, never with Desdemona. I really, really, REALLY wish I'd been able to see the Donmar production with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Othello because the audio version is marvellous and stupid Donmar for having a tiny performance space.

If gender were irrelevant (as it often is in playreadings), I'd probably engage in all sorts of group-related corruption to read Richard III or Edmund in King Lear or Prince Hal or Richard II. I did actually manage the latter, albeit in Thomas of Woodstock rather than in Shakespeare. In fact, here is Act II, Scene I, where Richard totally forgets how old he is and an entire room of early modernists bursts into slightly hysterical laughter at the mention of chronicles.

Anyway, we return you to your regularly scheduled postings. :)

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Day #22: An underrated play - Coriolanus

I could very easily list any of the Henry VIs here because they never get enough love, but I talked at length about their utter brilliance on Day 10. Then I was tempted by Henry IV, Part II, but I actually know quite a few people who love that play, so I decided to go with something completely different.

Namely, Coriolanus.

I only read this play recently, on the repeated suggestion of gileonnen, and it is absolutely fascinating. I knew absolutely nothing about the actual Coriolanus -- a far cry from reading Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra with all their accompanying cultural baggage. And Coriolanus himself is just a very different kind of tragic hero. He's exactly the right man for the military aspects of his job, but he can't handle the politics. Or, perhaps more accurately, he refuses to be a political animal. I suppose if Hamlet is driven by his brain and Othello by his heart, Coriolanus follows...his gut? His first instinct?

gileonnen makes the point that what makes Coriolanus interesting is its rejection of heroic tropes -- it's not about love or revenge or patriotism, but about how Coriolanus' actions are constantly misread as being something greater than they are. Actually, just read her entire post. She's got far more cogent thoughts on it than I do.

I'm not sure why this play isn't more popular. Possibly it is because it gets overshadowed by the better-known Roman plays, or maybe because the different levels of conflict are a bit hard to parse on first glance (Romans v. Volscians, plebes v. patricians, Coriolanus v. everybody, etc). Or possibly it's just not performed enough, though I expect that will change with the upcoming film version.

Also, Volumnia is BRILLIANT. She's got incredible power over her son and is completely unashamed of it, and powerful women in Shakespeare always make me happy.

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Day #21: An overrated play

I'm probably going to end up burning in Shakespeare Hell for this, but The Tempest really doesn't do anything for me. I can, to an extent, appreciate it -- the language and the imagery are positively gorgeous -- but I don't love it, and I doubt I ever will.

More below.Collapse )

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Day #20: Your favourite movie adaptation of a play

To be honest, I almost put the Loncraine Richard III under this heading because it really does feel like an adaptation of Richard III that just happens to contain the same dialogue (a bit like Chimes at Midnight). But I will try to follow my own self-proclaimed definition that 'adaptation' denotes a Shakespearean plot without Shakespearean language.

And, that being the case -- and, perhaps this is a bit embarrassing -- I have to go with Ten Things I Hate About You. And not just because of Heath Ledger, although he is by no means insignificant.

Seriously, this is kind of embarrassing. But there you go.Collapse )

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Day #19: Your favourite movie version of a play - Richard III (1995)

I first ran across this film while watching the 1995-6 Oscars, oddly enough, where it was nominated for a number of different design-related awards. It didn't really register until I read the play for the first time, roughly three years later. I borrowed the film from the library and promptly fell in love.

In which I descant on why I love this film in spite of everything it cuts out.Collapse )

Although I obviously don't agree with a number of the directorial choices made in Loncraine's production, I do think it does what a feature-film version of this play ought to do -- it's entertaining, incredibly well-acted, and the alternate setting isn't just window-dressing (I'm looking at you and your ninja, Branagh). Plus, on a completely superficial note, it's just pretty.

In the end, if you're looking for a faithful, full-text adaptation with excellent acting throughout and possibly one of the most terrifying endings I have seen in Shakespeare, the 1983 BBC production is what you want. If you want a clever and interesting interpretation with a fun alternate setting, and are willing to overlook some rather egregious cuts, Loncraine is well worth a try.

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Well, as angevin2 reminded me, this is 30 Days of Shakespeare, not necessarily 30 Consecutive Days of Shakespeare. So, back to it.

It's really hard to define 'dialogue', as I discovered while trying to come up with answers for this day. Is it literally a piece of dialogue -- two lines, maybe three or four in total? Or can it encompass most of what we would think of as a scene even if it's not listed as such in the text?

Day #18: Your favourite dialogue - Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet

Much as I adore the stichomythic exchanges peppered throughout the First Tetralogy (including a_t_rain's answer, which is one of my absolute favourites), I expect everyone is thoroughly sick of hearing about those plays, so a bit of variety wouldn't go amiss. Three selections here, in no particular order.

Much Ado About Nothing, Act IV, Scene I, the final section.

a_t_rain has pinpointed everything I love about this scene, so I will just refer you all to her entry, which is wonderful and detailed and says everything I would have wanted to say only better :)

I love how many unexpected turns this particular dialogue takes -- Beatrice is grieving, she's furious, she's moved by Benedick's declaration but so very -- rightfully -- angry when he refuses to back it up with action. Much like Juliet, she has no interest in pretty words. The man she loves will rise to the occasion and defend a wronged woman even against his closest friends. But what makes me happiest is that Benedick does it.

Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene IV

This exchange between Mercutio and Romeo, when played properly, is hysterically funny because they are both such utter dorks who love puns and bad sex jokes. Also, unexpectedly poignant, I think, but that is because I, like any sensible person, believe Mercutio fancies Romeo, and that Romeo is either completely oblivious or aware of it but unsure of what to do, especially now that Juliet has entered the picture.

Also, it is far more fun when Mercutio actually tries to bite Romeo on 'I will bite thee by the ear for that jest', which he did in the production I directed.

Hamlet, Act II, Scene II

I love the exchange here between Hamlet and Polonius at least in part because of the RSC production that had me nearly falling out of my seat from laughter. It's also one of the few instances where I like the Q1 placement; having this exchange right after 'To be or not to be' and Hamlet's rejection of Ophelia (which Polonius has already seen) makes the entire thing both completely laughable and far, far creepier. Also, Hamlet is kind of a jerk, but we knew that already.

I can think of half a dozen other bits of dialogue that I love probably as much as these, but I will stop now. :)

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