Project Shakespeare: month #9 wrap up

Well… we did it! We have officially performed every* Shakespeare play in quarantine over Zoom. We started this in March – my friend Abby had the idea to invite a group of her friends to read Midsummer together, and then it just… blossomed into this constant and extraordinary thing that I am so grateful to be a part of.

(*except the ones with non-white characters. As a predominantly white group we opted out of performing Othello, Antony & Cleopatra, The Merchant of Venice, and Titus Andronicus – instead I ran book clubs on each of those over the last few months.)

So without further ado… the final Project Shakespeare wrap up of Round 1 (more on that in a minute). See all wrap ups here.

my roles: Third Witch, Duncan, Siward, Second Murderer, Porter, Old Man, Third Apparition

For the eagle-eyed among you: yes, we already did Macbeth back in April. But as Halloween fell on a Saturday this year, we thought what could be more appropriate than doing Macbeth again? We did the casting a bit differently too – ordinarily Abby and I cast the plays every week (taking people’s preferences into consideration and also making sure to alternate people playing leads vs. ensemble), but for Halloween Macbeth we decided to make the casting entirely random. This actually resulted in Abby playing Macbeth, which ended up being such an extraordinary performance that I think we were all thrilled with that outcome – and I ended up with the Old People Track, which I found rather amusing since I almost always play young gen characters. This was a great time.

Henry VIII
my roles: First Gentleman, Duke of Suffolk, Porter, Brandon, Servant, Vision

I fucking hate this play. What a SLOG. Our performance was as good as it could possibly have been given that the material is hot garbage. But there was plenty of silliness and an amazing performance as Katherine, as well as an utterly bonkers interpretation of the vision scene, so, still a good time. (Oh, and Biden had been declared the president elect a few hours before so… very good, very weird energy that night.) But if I never have to read Henry VIII again it will be too soon.

Troilus and Cressida
my roles: Achilles, Paris, Boy, Andromache

I love this play, but not because it’s particularly good – I’m just a big Iliad nerd (I don’t know if you know that about me) so I’ll take any excuse to spend some time with these characters. Playing the little bitch himself, Achilles, was a DREAM – and my friend made me armor so… what more could you ask for.

Richard III
my roles: Lady Anne, Sir Richard Ratcliff, Second Messenger, Second Citizen

And… the last one! It felt fitting to end Project Shakespeare as a tragic history woman when they have consistently been my favorite characters to play throughout this whole thing. Anyway, as everyone knows Richard III is a fantastic play and it was a great one to end on.

Now let’s take a quick walk down memory lane. Looking at these photos is just… I don’t know; I know I’ve already talked a lot about how shy I am and how outside the box this has been for me, so I don’t want to belabor the point, but also, if you had told me a year ago that I was going to spend 2020 acting and being silly on camera I’d have told you to get your head tested. This has just been such a special and unexpected thing in my life.


But it’s not quite the end. As anyone living in the U.S. knows, quarantine does not appear to be ending any time soon, so we are… diving right back into the plays and beginning Project Shakespeare: Round 2 this weekend. What can I say – the consistency is nice.

Now my question for you all is whether there’s any interest in me continuing to do Project Shakespeare wrap ups for Round 2? On the one hand, I think the majority of my blog audience could do without these in their lives (trust me, no hard feelings – none of us signed up for this); on the other hand, it might be cool to document my evolving relationships with the plays…? Anyway I’m on the fence so let me know! See you soon for my (ir)regularly scheduled blog content.


book review: The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

THE PULL OF THE STARS by Emma Donoghue
HarperAvenue, 2020

I have a very strong stomach but I am triggered by three things. 1. Vomiting, 2. Childbirth, 3. Pandemics (this last one evoking existential dread more than nausea but do I find reading about them almost as painful as living through one). This book has all three, so, it’s a testament to how much I like Emma Donoghue’s writing that I: a. Made it through this book, and b. Actually enjoyed it. 

Set in a maternity ward in 1918 Dublin over the course of three days, The Pull of the Stars follows Julia Power, a nurse attending to expectant mothers who are sick with the flu.  It’s a fast-paced, frantic novel that contrasts the hectic episodes on the ward with the tender, budding friendship between Julia and her new volunteer helper, an uneducated girl named Bridie Sweeney.

This book is thoroughly engrossing–it immerses you in a borderline excessive amount of detail, but Donoghue manages it in a way so that it pulls the reader in rather than alienating them.  Full disclosure, I had to skip entire paragraphs of this book that were too gruesome for me, but it was entirely with regret that I did so–there’s something so transfixing about Donoghue’s storytelling, and I’ve felt this about all three of her books that I’ve read.  She also nails the evocation of this Irish hospital in a city under siege by a deadly virus. With obvious parallels to 2020 in a lot of ways, this still felt firmly fixed in its historical setting, which was a positive for me.

I did find The Pull of the Stars rather heavy-handed at times (notably in its treatment of Irish political history; it felt very transparent that Donoghue was framing Julia as an outsider to the rebellion in order to spoon feed the reader about how maybe the British empire aren’t the good guys after all!–though I will concede I probably read more of these narratives than most), but that was my only real complaint.  On the whole I thought this was a compelling, moving read, though I must caution that you need either a strong stomach or a strong conviction to make it through.

I won this copy in a Goodreads giveaway; all thoughts are my own.

Project Shakespeare: month #8 wrap up

Can you believe I’ve done so many of these I just forgot about this one…

Anyway, here we go: see all previous wrap ups here.

Two Noble Kinsmen
my roles: Wooer, First Queen, Prologue, Epilogue, Messenger, First Countryman, Third Countryman, First Knight, Taborer

This was a lot of fun! I like this play, and I couldn’t even tell you why; I just think it’s a bit fun and stupid in a way that really charms me (similar to Comedy of Errors and Merry Wives of Windsor). Arcite and Palamon are such a charming and dynamic duo and our two actors in those roles did such an amazing job coordinating that it was such a pleasure to watch. And shoutout to Abby for playing Jailer’s Daughter as Eponine, a truly inspired choice.

Henry VI Part 2
my roles: Queen Margaret, Mayer of St. Albans (lol)

As discussed in my last wrap up, I LOVE the Henry VI plays. This one is actually my least favorite of the three, but only narrowly. I find it a little more unfocused than the other two but its saving grace is Margaret of Anjou, simply one of the BEST female characters, and I had such an amazing time playing her. This monologue is one of my favorites:


“Die, Margaret! For Henry weeps that thou dost live so long.” I LOVE HER. Also, Suffolk 😦

Two Gentlemen of Verona
my role: Thurio

Guys… I don’t even know what to say. We cracked. Project Shakespeare finally cracked.

Well, first off – this play is not very good at all. It’s funny because I saw a production of this in college, I remember very few details but I do remember being VERY charmed by it (in hindsight I think it was just the dog…). So, this ENTIRE TIME that I’ve been reading Shakespeare this year I had in the back of my mind that Two Gentlemen of Verona was one of my favorite comedies. Then I finally read it and… yeah it’s absolutely one of the worst. 3 stars may be generous actually but I’m going to revisit all of my star ratings at the end of this project anyway so take them with a grain of salt.

Anyway, I don’t even know why but a few minutes into this play we all just… lost our goddamn minds. Every single person was laughing so hard that we had to stop for like five minutes which has NEVER HAPPENED, IN 8 MONTHS OF DOING THIS!!! So this actually ended up being my second favorite Project Shakespeare experience (after King Lear), it was just… very very joyous. For reasons I absolutely cannot explain.

Henry VI Part 3
my roles: Henry VI

UGH THIS PLAY. The thing about the Henry VI cycle is that none of these plays really works on stage as a stand-alone; you have to perform them all in succession which is a lot to ask of an audience and so I understand why these aren’t exactly crowd-pleasers, but… ugh, this play, these characters, this story. In my opinion this is hands down the best history play. It’s brutal, it’s devastating, the characters are all flawed and heartbreaking. The Margaret/Richard of York scene in act 1 is almost painfully savage but it’s also one of the most compelling scenes of all time – the paper crown, ugh, I just —

Also I ADORE Henry VI as a character, flawed as he is as a ruler – I’m charmed and saddened in equal measure by his gentleness. I had a blast playing him.

We’ve done a couple more since 3H6 but those will have to wait for the next post. Stay tuned for the 9th and FINAL WRAP UP of Project Shakespeare: Round 1…

book review: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
originally published in 1945

I’m rarely at a loss for words but Brideshead Revisited has thoroughly stumped me.  I cannot put my finger on how I feel about this book.  It took me the better part of half a year to read, so… that is certainly a point against it – but I also found it remarkable?  I think it’s worth noting that my expectations going into this book were all wrong; I neither expected nor needed this to be an explicit romance between Charles and Sebastian, but I did expect Charles’ and Sebastian’s relationship (in whatever form) to provide this novel’s framework, and I couldn’t help but to find it occasionally aimless as a result – though that isn’t really a fair criticism.  I also felt a bit “right book, wrong time” syndrome-y about this; I didn’t feel like I was in the right headspace to engage with it exactly the way it deserved (notably on a theological level).  But that said, I did find it worthwhile and certain passages quite arresting.  I think this book captures the feeling of nostalgia in a poignant and special way – it left me aching for a time that I never lived through.  I’m definitely going to want to revisit this one day when I can give it the attention it deserves.


wrap up: October 2020

  1. Henry VI Part 2 by William Shakespeare ★★★★☆
  2. This is Shakespeare by Emma Smith ★★★★★ | review to come
  3. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare ★★★★☆ | review to come
  4. The Call by Tanya Barfield ★★★★☆ | mini review
  5. Henry VI Part 3 by William Shakespeare ★★★★★
  6. The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton ★★★★☆ | review
  7. Henry VIII by William Shakespeare ★★☆☆☆ | mini review
  8. Between The World and Me by Ta-Nahisi Coates ★★★★★ | mini review
  9. Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh ★★☆☆☆ | review to come
  10. Abigail by Magda Szabo ★★★★★ | review to come
  11. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh ★★★★☆ | review to come


Favorite: Abigail
Least favorite: Death in Her Hands

Other posts from October:

Life updates:


Currently reading:

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