Friday, April 27, 2012


What the title says.

Monday, August 23, 2010

My electronic scrapbook

Because I have nowhere else to store it:

An article about SJYS

Don't expect 'dumbed down' performance from San Jose Youth Shakespeare

By Mary Gottschalk
Posted: 08/12/2010 08:04:59 PM PDT
Updated: 08/12/2010 08:04:59 PM PDT

In Silicon Valley one doesn't expect to hear Shakespeare quoted by youths as young as 8 years old, but that's exactly what San Jose Youth Shakespeare is all about.

On Aug. 19-22, children and teens ages 8 to 19 will be onstage at Historic Hoover Theatre and asking such questions as, "Are you good men and true?" or advising others to "Patch grief with proverbs."

Yes, for those who know their Bard, it is Much Ado About Nothing and it will be the 12th Shakespeare production by the group since 2004, when it started with As You Like It in Willow Glen.

Bob Rumsby, who co-founded the group with his wife, Barbara, says it began when his daughter Audrey was really interested in Shakespeare and had been studying it with other children. "The idea came up that we might be able to put on a show, and it took off from there."

Audrey and her younger sisters Jeannette and Evelyn were part of a group of children being home-schooled, and the initial membership of Youth Shakespeare was made up of these students and their families.

Over the years it has expanded to include youths from throughout Silicon Valley, and the age range has widened. Rumsby has served as director for all the productions, and his wife serves as general manager of the company.

Rumsby's enthusiasm for Shakespeare is understandable when you learn he is a native of Surrey County, near London, and before coming to the United States he was a member of the National Youth
Theatre of Great Britain. He studied drama at the University of Birmingham before traveling in 1982 to UC-Davis, where he earned his master's of fine arts degree.

Now the Cambrian area resident works as a technical writer at ParAccel in Cupertino and calls his theater work "my hobby."

Rumsby refuses to dumb down Shakespeare in any way, sticking to the original language and length.

"We don't change anything," he says. "We do make small cuts here and there, the same thing that professional companies do. We don't cut the plays heavily, and that sets us apart from a lot of children's theater groups that reduce plays down to an hour or an hour and a half. If we reduce, it's to 2½ hours."

And he doesn't tamper with the Bard's language. "We really don't change any words at all, and we don't change any characters. The only thing we do is increase the number of characters in certain ways, and we use more people than the chorus lists."

As an example, Rumsby says that Much Ado About Nothing calls for a group of three to four watchmen, but he is using 10 in this production.

"When you add it up, you can do the script as written with quite a lot more people than the cast list would appear to call for," he says.

As for the language, Rumsby admits, "Some of them struggle. If they start out at 9 or 10, they do struggle, but by 13 or 14 they're doing really well. It's not as hard for the kids who have an intellectual interest in this as it might be for other kids."

Rumsby is particularly pleased with the teen musicians in this production. Sharon MacCauley is playing a full-size harp, Naomi Smith is playing violin and Maya and Ziad Khayat are playing Elizabethan-style classical guitar.

The group rehearses for at least three months before each show.

"It means once a week for eight to nine weeks and then two or three times a week for the remaining month. We work every Saturday basically for about five hours," Rumsby says.

When it comes to selecting each production, he adds, "We try to do different things, and I choose plays I think are reasonable for young people to do. I wouldn't try to do King Lear or Othello. It's too difficult in intellectual terms."

He says he tries to pick comedies or if not, he says, "They have to be simpler in some way and they have to have plots the children can really understand."

However, Rumsby has already chosen Hamlet for 2011 and admits, "It's a big risk and it's a real challenge. It will take a lot longer to rehearse."

This will be Youth Shakespeare's second performance this year at the Historic Hoover Theatre. Past performances were held at Mulberry School in Los Gatos, Canyon Heights Academy in Campbell and Theatre on San Pedro Square in downtown San Jose, and the group's first performance was at the Center for Spiritual Living in Willow Glen.

Rumsby says the Hoover theater has turned out to be very easy venue for the group's shows. "The facility is good, it's easy to find parking and it works out well for people."

The only drawback, he says, is that the stage is at one end of the theater, and he prefers to do shows in the round.

San Jose Youth Shakespeare presents "Much Ado About Nothing" Aug. 19-20 at 7 p.m., Aug. 21 at 2 p.m. and again at 7 p.m., and Aug. 22 at 3 p.m. at Historic Hoover Theatre, 1635 Park Ave. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door for adults; $5 in advance and $7 at the door for ages 8 to 17 and free to children 7 and under. Visit or call 408.978.5516.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Maya (looking at the label on her dad's shirt pocket): Does your shirt say Calvin Kleenex?


Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Western Skink

We saw one.

Hiking the New Almaden trail at Quicksilver Park, on a sunny afternoon after extensive rain, we came across this reptile sunning himself in the path. Although we tried not to scare it, this is a pretty skittish reptile. After extensive arguing, we believe that this is the animal we saw -- it's so great that we could look it up on the internet while our memory of it was still fresh. Maybe now we can go to the library for some follow-up research.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Afternoon at the Ballet

As I was leaving the house, Ziad said to me, "Aren't your legs going to get cold?"

As we were standing in the Opera House lobby, Maya said to me, "Why is your skirt so short?"

Sheesh. My dress may have been above the knee, but it was hardly a miniskirt. This is what happens when you spend most of your life in blue jeans. It's nice at my age, though, that my kids can actually make me feel so daring. A short skirt! What next?

The ballet, of course, was incredible. It was Swan Lake. That ballet inspires so much love in people that apparently many ballet companies are heartily sick of it, but there are so many reasons why it's a perennial favorite.

The music is beautiful. The costumes are beautiful. The story is structured so that the ballet covers all the bases -- romantic swans in the moonlight, richly costumed character dances for variety, joyous pastoral celebration, and of course, the beautifully sad ending. It was the perfect choice for the opening ballet of the season. The clip above has excerpts from each of the first three acts, and you should watch it to the end, because that's Yuan Yuan Tan dancing the black swan.

Here is a clip of her dancing in Othello.

Just amazing. She danced Odette/Odile on Sunday. What a perfect afternoon.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

In which Ziad apologizes, and I have mixed feelings

Behold Ziad's latest poem:

I'm not very smart and I know it
I'm also a terrible poet
I'm almost as smart
As a blackberry tart
I'm not very smart and I know it

This poem accomplished it's intended purpose, which was to make me laugh. Maya also found it very amusing. Still, I can't help wondering ... am I too hard on the boy?

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Science Camp: The Good

A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to get a week at Science Camp. This is essentially the same Science Camp that public school children get, but the program was slightly modified to accomodate homeschoolers and their propensity for participating as families. So the children got to go off with their naturalist during the day and do various cool project, while the mom and siblings still to young to hit the trail chilled back at camp. It was a good setup.

There were cabins for the families to sleep in (bring your own sleeping bags, natch) and a dining lodge where meals were held. The lodge had a big fireplace, with a fire going all day, and the meals were surprisingly non-horrible. A few of them even attained goodness. In any event, we all ate a ton in an attempt to ward off the cold. Calories! Give me calories!

The meals also featured a surprisingly popular appearance by a recurring character, the Waste Wizard. Who was played by the naturalists, dressed up in ridiculous costumes. The kids went nuts! They loved it. Although the Waste Wizard had various things to say about reducing all kinds of waste, they would also carry around a bucket for the table scraps, which was used to measure how much food people had left on their plates. If, like me, you think the sight of children filling up their plates and then eating two bites is an abomination, then this is the place for you. After the first meal, there was much less of this behavior -- in fact, there was never a meal after that with more than half as much leftover food. Go, Waste Wizard!

We really enjoyed our time in the redwoods, even though it was colder and darker (those trees just don't let much light in, not even at high noon) than we had expected. A couple of mornings we were the first up, so we got to light the fire in the dining hall. There was actually an early-morning patrol, in the words of one regular attendee. She was the mom of a young child who didn't really let her sleep in in the morning, and it was great fun to hear her reading board books to her little boy. There was a guitar-strumming dad and his son, and various other drop-ins. Then breakfast, then off to the woods!

Ziad and Maya were in the same group, at my request. Not having been to this place before, our personal family protocol dictates that I keep them both in my visual sphere as much as possible, which means they HAD to be in the same group, and I had to accompany them. The very cool thing was that, despite the prevailing ethos of "Butt out parent! Your child cannot possibly achieve their full potential with you breathing down their neck!" we managed to land a naturalist who completely understood that I was NOT their to police him, my children, or their interaction, but merely to keep an eye on things and back him up if he needed it. Also to take note of any interactions during the day that might merit some discussion amongst ourselves in the evening. Because, really, no one needs to be in a group where Ziad has decided he is justified in carrying out some vendetta against a perceived slight. I actually think I may have averted that scenario, although, of course it's possible I'm exaggerating my own importance.

The days were very cool. There was a stream day, where they studied the invertebrate population of a stretch of water, and learned that the presence of the caddis-fly larvae, which cannot survive in pollution, indicated clean water. They also learned about a bunch of interesting insects and got to observe the fern-like gill structure of a salamander under a microscope. Then lunch on a huge fallen redwood, featuring runny grape jelly that was the most delicious I have ever tasted.

Next was a forst day, where they hiked up a hill to Big Tree, a large sequoia that we could not encircle with our arms, even though out of the eleven of us there, three were adults. That was also the Professor Trail, or each-one-teach-one day, where every student got to be an expert of one member of the forest biosphere and impart their wisdome, one-by-one, to the other members of their group.

The last full day was the ocean day, where everybody trucked down to the coast to look at the nature center, take a hike on the bluffs, then head to the beach for some habitat restoration. Then they got stainless steel water bottles with an insulating cover and carabiners attached to the tops! Way cool.

The last day ended at noon, and consisted largely of cleaning the cabins, cleaning around the camp, and saying good-bye. It's a very good program, and I would recommend it highly.

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