The Titus Andronicus Death Clock

Have you ever said to yourself, "Wow, I really wish there was a handy way to keep track of all the deaths in Titus Andronicus"? Well, are you ever in luck! I am here unveiling the first ever Good Tickle Brain deathographic! (It's like an infographic, but with more death.)

Starting with Alarbus and proceeding clockwise, this chart gives you a chronological rundown of who gets killed when, and by whom. Print a copy out and bring it along the next time you go to a performance of Titus, to help you keep track of where you are in the play.

Don't forget to check out my goodies in the Good Tickle Brain Shoppe! There's no actual Titus death clock available yet, but you never know...

The Joys of Bicycling

I've recently been trying to bike more (something not made easier by the fact that I live in a rather hilly neighborhood). My good friend here is inspiring me by biking everywhere, but, as you see, she has an ulterior motive. 

I try not to do two non-Shakespeare comics in a row, but I really wanted to do this one and I've got a big multi-part Shakespeare coming up next week, so here you go. We return you to your original Shakespearean programming next week!

(Also, my apologies for this comic being up a bit late - I shifted my day job schedule around this week, with the consequence that my brain was totally befuddled as to what day of the week it was at any given moment.)

Review of "Possible Worlds" at the Stratford Festival

Two weekends ago I went up to the Stratford Festival with my co-worker to see Possible Worlds. Here is my review!

Let's get the water thing out of the way: the entire stage was several inches under water. Visually and thematically, it was really really cool, especially given the revelations at the end of the play. However, it also meant that my co-worker and I, being obsessed with the physical workings of theatre, spent a lot of time thinking things like "I wonder what sort of non-slip coating they put on the stage," "I'm pretty sure their shoes are all made out of rubber'" "what are those banker's boxes really made of, they can't be cardboard or they'd be disintegrating in the water," and other such ruminations. 

Again, it is to the actors' eternal credit that the production managed to keep us engaged in the story (and not just the striking methods of storytelling) throughout the performance.  It was, all in all, a mesmerizing production and, despite having reservations about the source material, we both really enjoyed ourselves. 

On the whole (being, as previously mentioned, an inherently frivolous person)  I prefer my plays with more jokes and/or chaotic battle scenes, and less philosophical ruminations on the nature of human imagination and reality, but offhand I can't imagine (ha ha) seeing a better production of this play.

You might bring a towel with you, though, in case you happen to be seated in the "splash zone"...

Shameless Plug Line: Don't forget to pick up at Good Tickle Brain t-shirt and/or comic book at the Good Tickle Brain Shoppe!

Day Trip to Stratford

So, when I posted my 3-panel play summary of the Stratford Festival's 2015 season, I casually mentioned that I wasn't going to be seeing two of the plays and if anyone reading JUST HAPPENED to work for the Festival and JUST HAPPENED to be able to get me tickets to them, that would be great.

Well, their social media coordinator JUST HAPPENED to offer me tickets, which JUST HAPPENED to be awesome. I saw Anne Frank last month, but was then left with the dilemma of who would possibly be interested in accompanying me on what would be a one-day round trip to see Possible Worlds, a bizarre play about alternate realities and brains being stolen.

Fortunately I have an awesome co-worker who is gullible enough to be convinced to join me on my mad-cap theatrical adventures. Here is (more or less) how the day unfolded:

My co-worker is an enabler.

Actually, the border guard asked "What play are you seeing?" When I replied that we were seeing Possible Worlds, she said "Oh, that one." She waved us through before I could get a fuller report from her. 

Stratford has some great bookshops. If there wasn't so much great theatre going on, I would spend all my time there in the bookshops. We ended up going to The Book Stage, right across from the Studio Theatre.

Also, I should point out that my co-worker is a librarian and loves bookshops. I'm doing great violence to her character for the sake of comedy, but she's used to that. 

I had read up about Possible Worlds in order to write my 3-panel play summary of it, but the only thing I could find out about Stratford's current production was that it was going to be played with the stage flooded by two inches of water. 

I'll post a review of Possible Worlds next week, but I have to say that I actually really enjoyed the water. I was afraid it was going to be gimmicky and distracting, but it worked really well with the production's concept. 

Not pictured: my co-worker and I loudly singing show tunes as we drove to and from Stratford. I was actually more than a little hoarse by the time we returned home. 

In other news, I have finally launched my online store, the Good Tickle Brain Shoppe! I'm currently offering the following t-shirts, as well comic book compilations of my 3-panel plays and my Sound of Hamlet parody. Check it out!

Many thanks to my magnificently-bearded buddy Eric for agreeing to help me model my shirts. (Beard not included in shirt orders.)

An Egregiously Brief Overview of Original Pronunciation.

First of all, I apologize for this post being a bit late. I was JUST ABOUT to upload it when the internet at my house cut out. This should not have been a surprise, given all the various technical difficulties in the US yesterday...

Anyways... today's comic deals with one of the more interesting topics in contemporary Shakespeare studies: Original Pronunciation!

O.P. and the amazing ways in which it has been reconstructed deserve a lot more space than six stick-figure comic panels, but hey, barbarically reducing things of great literary and scholarly merit to their bare bones is kind of my "thing". At the very least, now you know that when Hamlet tries to rhyme "move" and "love", it's not actually him pretending to be mad. 

The super-linguist in question is David Crystal, whose praises I've repeatedly sung. In his O.P. endeavors he has been ably assisted by his son, Ben Crystal, an actor who, armed with Shakespeare's O.P., can make the prologue of Romeo and Juliet sound sexier and more piratical than you could have ever imagined. If you don't believe me, just take a listen:

Seriously. That's gorgeous. Here's a longer video, featuring Papa Crystal and Ben at the Globe:

It's easy to get snobbish about Shakespeare and to believe it works only when performed in the elegantly trained received pronunciation of an Ian McKellen or a Benedict Cumberbatch. But, as the Crystals point out, received pronunciation is even further away from Shakespeare's original accent than American accents are from it. 

Shakespeare can be performed in any accent. English, Welsh, Scottish, American, Canadian, Singaporean, I don't care. His words still have immense power. However, when you hear it spoken in O.P., you really get a sense of what it must have been like for those first groundlings at the first Globe Theatre.

Shakespearean Vocabulary, part 2

Time to clear up some more potentially confusing "Shakespearean" words!

Just to clarify, "pate" rhymes with "gate", and is definitely not pronounced like "pâté".

Be sure to check out part 1, and, if you have any potentially confusing Shakespeare words or terms you'd like explained via the medium of stick figure, leave a note in the comments!

Review of "The Diary of Anne Frank" at the Stratford Festival

I wrap up part one of my Stratford Festival reviews today. (Part two has to wait until I see the rest of the season later this summer.) 

The Diary of Anne Frank is a very atypical play for me to go see, in that it is (a) contemporary, (b) based on real events, and (c) definitely not a comedy. I don't tend to enjoy contemporary drama that takes itself seriously (such as Miller or Williams) because, by and large, I really don't enjoy watching people with issues be terrible to each other. I enjoy Shakespeare plays about people with issues being terrible to each other because the distance of time and place and culture somehow dulls the edge.  But contemporary family dramas involving overwrought parent-child relationships? No. Not really my cup of tea. I'd rather, you know, have fun instead.

When my family couldn't fit Anne Frank into our annual Stratford binge, I  wasn't terribly sad about it, but something niggled at the back of my mind. "I really ought to see this," I thought. So when the Stratford Festival generously offered to provide me with a pair of tickets, I decided to take the plunge. (I hasten to note that my review is not influenced by the acceptance of said free tickets - if I didn't like the show I would have just never mentioned I had seen it in the first place.)

I really can't speak highly enough of director Jillian Keiley's decision to break the fourth wall right at the start by having the actors directly address the audience as themselves, not as their characters. As someone who is pathologically self-analytical in a theatrical situation, I tend to wall up when I feel a production is trying TOO HARD to elicit a particular emotion from me. By having the actors disarmingly introduce themselves and the characters they played, Keiley was very sneakily able to circumvent this tendency of mine.

You go into a production of Anne Frank expecting it to be sad, and it is invariably sad. It is to this cast's credit that this production was not uniformly colored with sadness and fear and poignancy, but instead had all the shades of emotion one would expect in a real teenaged girl's life: humor, laughter, frustration, brattiness, rebelliousness, annoyance, love, etc. 

Was this fun? No. But not everything has to be fun all the time, and I'm glad I saw it.