Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Not-Back-to-School picnic, Yeast Nation, and the start of the semester! (duhn-duhn-DUHN!)

Well, it's apple season, the leaves are turning... And it's finally time for school!
The start of the semester was heralded by the Not-Back-to-School Picnic, a picnic held every year in Central Park.  It's open to all homeschoolers, even the new ones.  I love coming and meeting the new recruits!  
I've always thought it must be intimidating for recent additions to the community, to be at the picnic for the first time.  
BUT I've come up with a solution:  the SALT club.
Years ago, one of my closest friends moved to Australia, and it was really tough on me.  My mom suggested creating a group where homeschoolers meet up, break the ice, socialize, and make new friends to help me brighten up.  So she and I sent out an email that was circulated amongst the homeschool community.  Boom!  I got nearly a dozen responses!  The first SALT club meeting (Society for Artistic and Literary Teens) was held at Edgar's Cafe (where Edgar Allan Poe lived).  They had FANTASTIC cheesecake, and we all brought books to share.  
It's a shame that that cafe closed down.  BUT I am SO grateful that my mom suggested doing this!  We meet on alternate Fridays (more or less) at museums or cute little artsy cafes to discuss our interests, do fun, creative activities, or dress outrageously for conversation starters.
So at the picnic I meet the homeschool cadets, make their acquaintance, and give them my email.  I usually bring a balloon for people to recognize me, but this time I wore a very conspicuous Steampunk outfit. 
Most of my classes had already started, not to mention rehearsals for a play that I and 15 of my friends were in, and the four of the parents (including my own mom, who is in charge of music) were directing. The play?  Yeast Nation.
The play is by the two guys who wrote Urinetown (Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman).You may not have heard of it before, as it was only done twice or thrice (I forgot which), and wasn't quite as successful as Urinetown. BUT Greg's wife, Ayun (homeschool mommy and writer), suggested that WE might be able to do it!  
The play takes place at the bottom of the sea, at the beginning of time, when life was but the humble yeast cell!  (although that is not true scientifically at all, kids.)

All of the characters are named Jan (pronounced yahn), ruled by the King, Jan-the-Elder (played by Ayun's son, Milo).  (Coincidently, the yeasts eat SALT!) They all value stasis, and there's a FAMINE going on.  They eat salts.  There's a lot of deception, romance (I get to be in a love triangle!), one-liners, and death.  It's rather cool how all of the yeast are anthropomorphized! It's a VERY serious play.   But we're all single-cellular organisms.  So it's basically microscopic Shakespeare.
The rehearsals all take place at our friend Coco's house.  Coco plays Jan-the-Sly, the devious princess that gets everyone killed.  She's very excited about playing a villain, having played "golden-hearted orphans" in previous plays.  Her parents, Ben and Tiina, also direct the play, and they very generously lent us their studio space for rehearsals and performance.  Ben and Ayun's directing style is very spontaneous, and they are extremely talented at couching our acting, as well as being very theatrical themselves.  (I don't think I need to tell you that they're actors...?)  Tiina is a dancer, so I THINK she's directing dance.  My mom mans the keyboard, and directs the music.  And oh, my gosh, the choral bits sound GLORIOUS after she's worked with us!  She and Tiina are rather good at bringing us back into line when we're rowdy.
My mom and those other three worked their butts off all summer, planning the scheduling and whatnot. I don't want to give too much away... but all I can say is that the performance is going to be spectacular.  So come and see it!  Performances are on the weekend before Thanksgiving, in Williamsburg.
I also have biology class taught by another homeschool mommy.  She's my friend Luna's mom.  (remember Luna from the previous post?  The girl with a mohawk?  Except she shaved off her mohawk now.)
Her name is Holly, and oh my god, she is amazing!  First of all, she had a baby.  She had a baby and the baby is being held when she's talking about homeostasis or the process of experimentation.  She worked as a science teacher some years ago, she's fluent in two and a half languages, and she's an actor!   
Most of the class in in Yeast Nation, so she is incorporating the subject of microbiology into her classes.  Holly promised to bring in microscopes next week, so I'm rather excited about that!
One of her first homework assignments was to watch a documentary about cells called "Secret Universe: The Hidden Life of the Cell".  I never thought I'd say this about a documentary- but it was thrilling!  Just like a sci-fi movie, and I enjoyed every bit of it!  The animation was beautiful, and I learned SO MUCH.  Not to mention it's narrated by David Tennant.  i highly recommend watching it.  
Welp, I've got work to do!  I will blog soon.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


What's interesting about Shakespeare, is that it's really not meant to be read. Perhaps that's why some people think his works are boring. It's meant to be performed, acted in, seen, EXPERIENCED!
Last July, I had the pleasure of performing in Love's Labour's Lost.  (Well, technically speaking, I was in the ukulele crew... ah, I'll explain it later.)  
In case you don't know the story of Love's Labour's Lost, this is basically it:

  1. The king of Navarre and his three buddies make an oath to study rigorously, to fast, be sleep deprived, not drink, and not see women.  Oh, and women weren't allowed to come to their court.
  2. They totally forget that the Princess of France, her three friends, and their... butler, i guess, were visiting in a few days.  
  3. Before the ladies and their butler arrive, there's this servant, Costard, that works in the court, and he was seen with some girl named Jaquinetta, and claims he doesn't know about the oath.  After throwing puns around with the King of Navarre, he gets thrown into jail.
  4. A Spanish guy, Don Adriano de Armado is also hopelessly in love with Jaquinetta.
  5. The ladies of France arrive, and predictably, the King of navarre and his buddies fall head over heels in love with them.
  6. The Spanish guy, Armado, laments about his love.  His servant sings to him, he feels better, and them writes a love letter to Jaquinetta.  He pays Costard to deliver the letter.
  7. Then one of the King's buddies (Biron) pays Costard to deliver a love letter to one of the Princess's friends (Rosaline).
  8. Costard mixes up the letters and gives Rosaline Armado's letter, and Jaquinetta Biron's letter.
  9. The king and his buddies, each one thinking that they're alone, declare their love for the ladies in sonnet, but they're spying on each other.  Everyone leaps out of their hiding places and accuses each other.  So they're like, 'Screw the oath.  Let's throw them a ball and send them gifts."
  10. So the ladies recieve their gifts, and their butler says that they're coming in disguise.  The ladies don masks and decide to turn the tables on the dudes of Navarre.
  11. The dudes of Navarre arrive, badly and obviously disguised, as Russians.  
  12. The ladies reveal themselves, and showing the four dudes of navarre that they were flirting with the wrong people.  The four dudes of Navarre sheepishly reveal themselves, and watch a play put on by the other characters.  
  13. The princess's dad dies and the four ladies of France leave.
Yeah, it's a weird ending.  If you want an explanation of what might have happened in the sequel, watch "The Shakespeare Code" from Doctor Who.  Season 3.  
Also, if you want to see a funny, musicalized version of Love's Labour's Lost with Nathan Lane, just look up love's Labour's Lost on Netflix.

My friend Luna (she also likes to go by Lucia or Sam) has been very involved in this Shakespeare camp in the Catskills for quite a few years.  Luna's awesome; she has a mohawk, and she likes Nirvana and Anime.  My mom is her piano teacher.  So by some way or another, my family found out about it from her, and my mom decided to sign my brother and I up for it.  I didn't have a problem with it, but my brother was reluctant.  It's kind of a cycle: 

"Mom, I don't wanna be Bill Sykes,"
"You're going to be Bill Sykes!!"
*is amazing at being Bill Sykes*

"Mom, I'm not going to sing this song,"
"You're going to sing that song!!"
*is amazing at singing the song*

"Mom, I don't wanna be in this!"
"Apparently, you got the part of Longaville, Quintin."

Luna's friend, Zephyr got the part of Armado (the Spanish guys, remember?), and his mom Karine (EXTREMELY nice, also an avid foodie and architect enthusiast) took care of us for two weeks in her house.  Luna, Quintin and i slept in a tent (more like a canvas house on a platform) on her property.  And oh!  the moonlight and stars!  I don't get out of The City often, so I had forgotten how BLUE the sky could be, and what moonlight looked like!
The town where we were close to had tons of health food stores and farmer's markets, so everything we ate was organic.  
Predictably, Quintin ended up loving Shakespeare camp, and he was obsessive about learning his lines.    He liked to stroll through the woods, practicing: 

"I am resolved!"      
                                       "I am resolved!"    "I AM... RESOLVED!!"   
                                                                                            "I am resolved!"
        "I am RESOLVED!!"  

                                                                  "I am--"
                                 "QUINTIN, GO TO BED!!!!!"

In this interpretation of Love's labour's Lost, the director decided it was going to take place in a 1960's summer camp.  The dudes of navarre (Camp Navarre) were boyscouts, and the ladies of France (Camp France) were girl scouts that were frankly more bada$$ than the boyscouts.  
And every camp needs cheesy camp songs, right?  So that's where I come in.  I and two other girls were supposed to play songs between the scenes, and I know it doesn't sound like it was fun or exciting, but we got to hang out in the shade while everyone rehearsed in the hot sun, not to mention honing my ukulele skills.  
The performances were held outdoors (rain or shine), and us ukers stayed to the side until we were needed, so we could watch the show most of the time.  Our friend Zephyr played Armado (spanish guy) and boy, he brought out the pompousness out big time.  It was very entertaining to see him strutting all over the stage in a sailor's cap.  Zephyr brought the house down.
The director had Quintin's Longaville obsessed with FOOD, so he was well supplied with sweets poking out of his pockets.  And you know that part where I said that the four guys all spied on each other while they were all performing their sonnets?  Well, Quintin was reciting his sonnet to an oatmeal raisin cookie.  Enough said.  (I'm very proud of him for memorizing an entire shakespeare play in two weeks.)
The third day of the performances it RAINED.  Us ukers had a tent, but I felt so bad for the rest of the cast!  You could barely hear them!  Quite honestly, I thought Luna's sassiness still got through to the audience, though, and some kids used the rain for COMEDY GOLD.
And... Just like that, it was over.

Now, every year in manhattan, there's a thing in Central Park called Shakespeare in the Park.  You get two free tickets for a SUPERBLY done shakespeare play with great actors, and with real seats and a real stage and high quality everything.  Plus they often get celebrities to perform.  They got Amy Adams last year.

The catch is, you have to get into line at six AM.  (They give out tickets at noon)
Well...actually, it's not too bad if you have a couple of friends to wait with you, and honestly, it goes by very quickly.  You can order take out, and a dude on a bicycle brings your breakfast to you.
This year, they were performing (you guessed it) Love's Labour's Lost.  And this was a musicalized version!

The thing is, with my group of friends, when there's an event, it's as if there's a collective subconcious message pulsing through our heads- "Either all of us go, or none of us go."
We all ended up waiting in line.  It was rather uneventful, except for the time my friend Thomas (who recently came back from a vacation in Europe) made a Doctor Who quote, and a girl with purple hair passing by finished it.  We invited her to play Apples to Apples with us.

I've done Shakespeare in the park a few times before, and it's always in the same place; the Delacorte Theater.  They serve drinks and snacks right outside.  Also, there is ALWAYS live music in the performance.

Now, this production of Love's Labour's Lost couldn't be more different from the one I was in.  For one thing, they cut out a LOT of sonnets/witty dialogue, which upset me and infuriated Luna.  BUT there was better character development.  It also took place in modern times.  There was a "tuba song" instead of "The Nine Worthies" (that play within the play). Also, it was a lot raunchier than our version *blush*.
BUT there were some hilarious scenes.  My favorite scene was the part when the four dudes of Navarre were spying on each other and reciting sonnets, EXCEPT THE SONNETS WERE SUNG.
Quintin's character, Longaville, came out dressed in Elizabethan garb, followed by two guys (also in period costume) with a lute and double flute.
But Biron's character probably had the best solo.  He sat down and started singing.  Then he tapped his foot.  Thomas and I turned to each other, looks of glee on both of our faces.  I could tell we were both thinking the same thing.  He stood up and sang some more.  Tapped his foot again.  THEN HE RIPPED OFF HIS CLOTHES, REVEALING A SPARKLY SILVER DRESS.  At least twenty other people came out dressed similarly, and had a SPECTACULAR tap dancing routine.  That got a huge round of applause.

The show had it's ups and downs, some of us loved it, some, not so much.  But we all agreed it was very entertaining.