January 30, 2020: Dr. Tripthi Pillai

Dr. Tripthi Pillai was our featured speaker for the 6th annual Georgetown Shakespeare Festival on January 30, after the matinee performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the American Shakespeare Center, which she attended with several of her students from CCU.  She spoke on audience engagement with Shakespeare and involved our students, faculty, and some of the ASC actors in a consideration of how gender, class, and humor work in this play.

“The play doesn’t start with love,” she pointed out.  “The dad wants his daughter dead.” In Shakespeare’s time, women were valued while they could produce offspring and a father could force his daughter into an arranged marriage (Hermia/Demetrious) or women could be captured in war and forced to marry (Hippolyta/Theseus). By the end of this play, though, even some men were “forced” into marriage by magic or witchcraft. 

The play features three “classes”: the noble Athenians, the Faeries, and the Rude Mechanicals.  Dr. Pillai told us that in Shakespeare’s time, fairies were not cute—they were “monstrous and destructive.” Since they could not have children, they stole children from people (the Boy is neither Oberon’s nor Titania’s child). The Mechanicals are lower-class laborers, whom Shakespeare identifies strongly with poets, playwrights, and artists.  Bottom and his band put on a terrible performance of Pyramis and Thisbe, which still somehow emotionally moves Titania and the others. Bottom’s “profound speech” when he wakes up from his “dream” of being a king makes us identify with poets and poor people, with anyone whose dream has been snatched away.  We laugh at Bottom, but at the same time we feel his loss.

“Laughter is not the same as joy,” said Dr. Pillai. “Laughter has a cruel side.” But humor in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is always tempered by audience engagement.  When characters are silenced, whether it be through laughter or violence, Shakespeare always gives their voice to another and we hear it again.  Dr. Pillai got the students to talk about which characters had engaged them emotionally and students came up with a variety of characters and reasons.  Fletcher liked the Duke of Athens. “He makes a bad thing seem chill,” he said.

“It is an honor to see all of you relating to Shakespeare,” Dr. Pillai told us.  She complimented our students on their understanding and mastery of the play and encouraged us to keep working. “You all are vibrant with imagination—you should definitely embrace it.  Make it big!” she concluded.

Shakespeare 2020 Ends on a High Note

The Georgetown Shakespeare Festival continued on February 1 with an evening performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The turnout was excellent, with over 225 tickets sold. Theatre patrons waited in the hall downstairs for the doors to open, sipping on bubbly and nibbling delicious food provided by our wonderful PTO.  At 7:00, everyone streamed in to find a seat and the music began.  The audience was enthusiastic and appreciative of yet another amazing performance by the ASC.  This was our best crowd so far.

Mrs. Crosby serves Elizabethan desserts to Blake and Kipper as other MS students get their main dish.

Monday morning, February 3, middle school students brought in mysterious platters and bowls for Elizabethan Food Day, storing them on tables and in various refrigerators until lunch.   They had chosen a recipe from Shakespeare’s day to prepare.  At 12:30, the buffet was ready and Mrs. Crosby had all the students explain their offerings.  Here are a few samples from the groaning table: Jai’Den’s meat pies, Evan’s cheese tarte, Morgan’s chicken pie, Mrs. Crosby’s lamb dumplings, Annika’s currant bread, Hannah and Gabby’s hot cross buns, Quinn’s soup, Fletcher’s mini meat pies.  We all tried something new, and it was good.

As Harold (J’Marion) and Gerald (Morgan) recite to Dr. Alison (Camper), the Walrus (Mason) and the Carpenter (Baryk) reflect on the best way to remove sand from a beach. Seven maids with seven mops? (Hannah, Bristol, Ay’Shona, Gabby, Destiny, Stone, Annika)

The rest of the week was spent preparing for our two drama productions, adapted and directed by our wonderful drama coach, Mr. Daniel Bumgardner.

The Young Oysters (Bryan, Gracin, Kipper) realize that they are dinner.

First up on Thursday evening was Tweedle, Mr. Bumgardner’s whimsical staging of poetry from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, performed by the middle school.  The frame story had two elderly brothers in a nursing home entertaining their doctor by reciting “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” In this classic example of Victorian nonsense, a walrus and a carpenter discuss the amount of sand on the beach, then proceed to eat several young oysters who made the mistake of going for a walk with them.  “Our oyster costumes are so cool,” said Kipper. “Mr. B took coat hangers and tee shirts and made them for us.”

Montjoy (Kate) delivers an insulting message from the Dauphin of France to Harry (Manny) as Exeter (Mr. B), a Council Member (Kelsi), and Westmoreland (Ella) look on.

The high school did a short version of Shakespeare’s Henry V, featuring Manny as Harry.  A static arrangement of chairs on the stage suggested a throne room and uneasy cello music highlighted the political crisis facing the young king.  Characters acted at the front of the stage, on intermediate risers, and on the floor of the Auditorium, animating their speeches about war, diplomacy, justice, and courage.  It was a thrilling performance. Congratulations to the cast, backstage people, and technicians for a job well done, and a huge thank-you to Mr. Bumgardner and his helpers for all their hard work.

Scroop (Ella), Cambridge (Kate), and Salisbury (Margaret) beg for mercy when Harry hears of their treachery.
The Daupin (Margaret) argues with Exeter (Mr. B) over Harry’s claim to France.

Now it’s time to put away all the giant Shakespeare posters, props, and scripts until next year.  O Kingfishers, ye are a rare, sweet honey-tongued, well-wishing band of players!

Harry is now King Henry V and our play is done.

Shakespeare Festival Begins!

The American Shakespeare Center blazed into the Winyah Auditorium Thursday, January 30, and completely enchanted us with their rollicking performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  About 300 area students from GMS, MBMS, and Coastal Carolina took their seats as the actors warmed up the house with live music featuring bass fiddle, guitar, saxophone, percussion, and voice.  Eight lucky students got to sit on stage with the actors, a convention from Shakespeare’s day.  With all the lights on, we enjoyed a far-fetched scenario of nobles, fairies, and laborers by actors who were not afraid to get physical.  Puck (Maddie Calais) and Bottom (Topher Embrey) particularly surprised and delighted the crowd with their antics.  “You guys laughed at all the right places,” Maddie told us later.  “You are a great audience.”

At the end of the performance, the whole house stood and gave the ASC a standing ovation.  “I like how they made Shakespeare appealing to kids,” said Stone, who was not expecting the play to be “so modern.”

After the play, students ate pizza on the front lawn with their new friends from GMS and MBMS.  Later, we watched as they all boarded a long line of yellow buses to get back to their schools.  Then we went back into the Auditorium for a talk by Dr. Tripthi Pillai, professor of Early Modern Literature at CCU.  The actors joined us.

Dr. Pillai focused on audience engagement—how the original spectators would have received A Midsummer Night’s Dream and how it continues to engage modern audiences by focusing on urgent issues of class, gender, and the nature of humor. “As a Shakespearean, I am told every day that my work is irrelevant,” she said.  “It is an honor to see all of you relating to Shakespeare.”  She discussed several themes and kept the floor open for student comments. “It was more like a conversation than a lecture,” said Camper.  Camper had raised her hand to answer Dr. Pillai’s question about which marriage in the play was the creepiest.

Dr. Pillai and the actors themselves were very impressed with our students’ familiarity with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, thanks to summer reading for the high school and graphic novels for middle school.  Some students were able to shout out lines during the interactive portions of the performance.  Our students all were well-informed about the plot and names of characters.  They asked intelligent questions and gave thoughtful answers when questions were posed.  Dr. Pillau encouraged us at the end.  “You are vibrant with imagination,” she said.  “You should embrace it—make it big!”

After the talk, we sang Happy Birthday to Dr. Pillai and settled down for one of the ASC’s most important workshops: “Embedded Stage Directions in Shakespeare.”  Maddie Calais (Puck/Philostrate) and Alexis Baigue (Peaseblossom/Thisbe) taught us that in Shakespeare’s day, actors had different tasks in preparing for a performance than they would today.  There was no such thing as a director and no such thing as stage directions.  Playwrights would make it clear through dialogue what props, actions and tone were necessary.  Actors interpreted the lines and decided how to stage the play.  Our job was to identify embedded stage directions in a passage from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and act them out.

We are so privileged to be able to work each year with the actors of the ASC. Though the troupe changes from year to year, there are always familiar and welcome faces. Their energy, creativity, and professionalism are amazing. We are also honored to have gotten to know Dr. Pillai, who has promised that next year her CCU students will read the same Shakespeare play as our students so that our English classes can do something fun with hers in 2021.

ASC Loads In!

They arrived in two vans and a 24-foot moving van around 4:15 on the afternoon of January 29. The American Shakespeare Center’s previous performance was in Durham, NC, so they had had about a five-hour journey. Dr. Gates, T. J., Rebecca, and Ethan were at the ready when the van pulled up to the side of the Winyah Auditorium and actors got out and released the ramp.

Inside the van was a treasure-trove of mysterious objects, large and small: tool boxes, garment bags full of various costumes, architectural beams and pillars to create structures on the stage. Our student volunteers helped carry stuff into the Auditorium. “Hands on!” meant the object was ready to be carried down the ramp and handed up onto the stage.

“Thank you for having us back,” said Thomas Coppola, tour manager. “We are glad to be here!” This is Thomas’ sixth visit to Georgetown with the ASC. The talented troupe is presenting A Midsummer Night’s Dream tomorrow morning to about 300 area middle and high school students. Many of these students have never seen a professional-quality theatrical production and they are in for a treat!

January 22, 2020: Hannah Grippo

Today we welcomed Hannah Grippo, our 5th and 6th grade teacher, to Open Forum. Miss Grippo shared her experiences teaching English in South Korea from 2015-2017. Miss Grippo has a long-time interest in South Korea. “My family is made up of first generation immigrants from South Korea.” She said. She also minored in Asian Studies at CCU.

Miss Grippo found that life and education are very different than in the US. All of the food was spicy, except for the chips, which were oddly sweet. She would sometimes have to wear goggles and a mask because of pollution from China. She was functionally illiterate because she could not read or write Korean. The education system was perhaps the most different of all.

Miss Grippo’s ESL students ranged in age from 4-14. They attended school year-round with up to 12-hour school days. She was filmed as she taught every day because Korean parents are very included in their children’s education. She taught in English with no Korean translator and had to come up with ways to communicate with the children. For example, some of her students were very interested in dinosaurs, so she brought dinosaur toys to class and used them to engage the students. A lot of the children were looking forward to being parents, so she brought in baby dolls and taught them how to hold babies.

Although she spent a lot of her time teaching the students, Miss Grippo also found other ways to engage in Korean life. She learned how to make Kimchi, a traditional Korean food made from spicy cabbage. She learned all about King Sejong, who invented the language of Korean, and how to honor the living and the dead on Chuseok. On weekends, Miss Grippo volunteered to help teach North Korean refugees. “How do you build trust across cultures?” she asked the students. “I know it sounds mushy, but the answer is love.”

Math Meet 2019

“Are you excited?” Margaret asked, practically bouncing in her seat.  “I’m excited!”  It was the morning of the SCISA Math Meet, and the team met at school bright and early for the big day.  Margaret, Ryleigh, Kate, Rebecca, and Fisher all piled into Mrs Crosby’s truck, along with chaperone Dr Gates.  They set off for the Sumter County Civic Center, although they ran into trouble along the way.  Navigating road closures and dirt roads riddled with potholes, they made it just in time.

The Math Meet is composed of two parts: the written test and the speed round.  On the written tests, students had one hour to complete a set of 50 questions.  Ranging in subject from logarithmic equations to geometry to calculus, the questions were designed to challenge students and really make them think.  After the test, the TGS team enjoyed a game of cards while they ate their lunches, and then it was time for the speed round.

Each student had to answer five questions, with only one minute to solve each one.  Calculators were not permitted in the speed round, adding another layer of difficulty.  It was a tough competition.  Ryleigh scored the highest out of the team, but everyone did their best and had a great time.  Although they didn’t win any awards, the Kingfishers were all smiles when they left.  “It was a long day,” Ryleigh shared after the competition, “but I think we did pretty good.”

By Ryleigh

A Trip to Narnia

Although it was the coldest day of the year so far, Middle Schoolers were lively and excited on the morning of January 21 as everyone from grades 5-8 packed into various SUVs and headed off to Charleston. Their destination was the Dock Street Theater, where they had tickets to Charleston Stage’s production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

First things first, though. Lunching at the downtown Waterfront Park, Kingfishers were chilled and whipped by the wind coming off of Charleston Harbor. Mrs. Crosby very thoughtfully had packed thermoses of hot chocolate for all the kids and chaperons. She turned an outdoor meal into a treat.

Everyone was glad to be snug in their seats at the Dock Street by 11:30, where they were soon drawn into C. S. Lewis’ “classic tale of discovery and adventure” with Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.

“It wasn’t like the book,” said Blake. “They took out a lot of scenes and put more details into other scenes.” Corrin said it was fun. The students enjoyed the performance, but most agreed with Hayden that “reading the book was better.”

Thank you to Mrs. Crosby for the hot chocolate and for arranging the outing. Thank you to our parent drivers, as well: Ms. Craig, Mr. Paul, Ms. Pat, and Ms. Michele.

Shakespeare is Coming… via Louisiana

We are going down to the bayou! An enchanted swamp full of hobgoblins and nymphs awaits us when the American Shakespeare Center’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream hits the stage at the Winyah Auditorium. The Georgetown School is proud to be hosting this amazing troupe of traveling actors in our sixth annual Shakespeare Festival.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Nathan Winkelstein, is one of Shakespeare’s most accessible and popular plays, featuring beloved characters like the oblivious Bottom, feisty Helena, and devilish Puck–all played by the talented young actors of the ASC.

Our students have been getting ready for the performances by reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream in their English classes. Miss Grippo and Mrs. Crosby have their middle school students working through a graphic novel version, while the 9th and 10th graders tackled the play in its original version for summer reading with Dr. Simmons. Students have also been checking out the ASC website to see which of our favorite actors are coming back this year.

The ASC preserves the theatrical conventions of Shakespeare’s day: universal lighting, seating on the stage, cross-gender casting, and audience/player interaction. Every year, the ASC wows us with their live music performances, chosen from popular genres that reinforce the themes of the play. This year’s music was inspired by be-bop, bluegrass, and barbershop.

The first performance is a matinee for area English and Drama students on Thursday, January 31, after which Kingfishers will hear a talk by Shakespearian scholar, Dr. Tripthi Pillai of CCU. The second performance, on Saturday, February 1 at 7:00 is open to the public.

For tickets to the February 1 performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, visitwww.georgetownshakespearefestival.org or call the school at 520-4359. Tickets are $35 and general admission.

Basketball Begins!

In their first games of the season, Girls’ Varsity and Boys’ Junior Varsity Basketball went up against the Knights of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on January 7 out at the Tara Hall.  Up first were the boys, who held their own despite their youth and inexperience.  J’Marion led the scoring.  “I was so proud of Kipper when he realized that he could really get something done out there,” said Qulex, who serves as assistant coach to Coach Gates.  “The most impressive thing was the number of times they forced turnovers on defense,” said Coach Gates.  “We were ahead with that stat.”

Next up were the girls, led by Coach Ken Wright.  They put up a good fight but came up short, letting the other team make several easy lay-ups and get ahead.  Under the basket, Margaret led the scoring and yelled at the girls to stay focused.  “My favorite part of the whole game was when Emily scored her three-pointer from the corner,” she said.  “Did y’all see her face?”

The Kingfisher girls face off against the Lady Marlins on January 9 at Lowcountry.

January 8, 2020: Dr. Gary Gates

Our own Dr, Gates spoke at Open Forum this week about the purpose of homework.  “Just between you and me,” he said, “I want you to realize why we teachers assign homework.” 

He began by telling us what homework is not: it is not a punishment, it is not a way to use up time, it is not even ultimately a way of getting permanent knowledge into your head.  “You read and take notes on math concepts you may never use again as an adult,” he said. “But learning specific information is not the final goal of homework.” 

Dr. Gates explained that the work teachers assign is intended to help students learn how to learn and learn how to pay attention for longer periods of time.  “These are the skills that will help you later in life,” he said.  Dr. Gates has analyzed his students’ scores on standardized testing over the past 20 years and the data shows an extremely strong correlation between students who do their work and those who improve their scores the most on standardized testing.  Moral of the story?  Doing your homework is good for you—now and for the rest of your life.