The Viola Voice

Shakespeare for Girls: The Blog


leave a comment »

The National Women’s Studies Association has a blog for students. Check it out!

Written by Ellie

31 July, 2008. Thursday. at 5:09 pm

Mathematician Moon Duchin

leave a comment »

I used to love math. It was one of my favorite subjects in high school, in part because I was lucky enough to have really good teachers who were excited about the subject themselves. Even though I went on to pursue more arts-oriented subjects in college and beyond, I still think math is pretty cool– so much so that I have my old calculus textbook in my apartment, which I look through every so often.
Anyway, partly because of my love of math, I thought I’d share this article about a mathematician named Moon Duchin, who also had an interest in math at a young age, and then went on to Harvard to study both math and women’s studies. She was particularly interested in the Great Man theory of genius, and how it is dependent on the organization of society. Now, she weaves together her love of math with her quest for gender equality. I love that she had two seemingly separate interests which she has combined to do something truly meaningful with her life.

Read the article and tell me what you think:

Written by Ellie

16 July, 2008. Wednesday. at 2:42 pm

New Summer Workshop!

leave a comment »

We’re almost done with A Midsummer Night’s Bootcamp! The girls are doing amazing work, and you should all come to see our final performance tomorrow (Friday), June 27, at City Lit Theatre, 1020 W Bryn Mawr. The performance starts at 3:15pm, free admission. It’ll be a great show, filled with lovers, fairy royalty, clowns, magic, and lots of trickery. I guarantee you will be entertained.

And the shameless plug continues: The Viola Project is adding ANOTHER week-long bootcamp in July! Here’s the info:

The Tempest: An Enchanted Boot Camp

July 7-11, M-F 9am-4pm. $275.

Join TVP in exploring one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays. Find your way to an enchanted island where sorcerers, spirits and monsters rule the land, finding romance, magic and comedy along the way. Students will rehearse scenes and work as an ensemble to create their own version of the play to perform at the end of the week. Click here to register!

In addition, we’ve added a one-day workshop on July 26, our THIRD annual Sonnet Slam! Read on…

A Summer’s Day Sonnet Slam

Saturday, July 26, 9am-4pm. $75.

Love to act? Love to write? Why choose? This one-day workshop, back by popular demand, will combine the performance of Shakespeare’s poetry with a chance for students to write their own. Open to girls 11 and up. Click here to register!

Whatever plans you have for the summer, we hope that you include some summer Shakespeare fun with The Viola Project!

Written by Ellie

26 June, 2008. Thursday. at 7:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

I DEMAND a recount!

with 2 comments

Where are all the artists?

Apparently, not in Illinois. According to a 2003-2005 U.S. Census Bureau, Illinois is home to 79,932 artists. We come in fifth place to states California, New York, Texas and Florida. Our number reflects only 4% of 1.99 million U.S. artists.

While Chicago is home to one of the largest “cluster” of artists- third after New York City and Los Angeles- artists fall relatively short in Illinois compared to the overall labor force: 6,390,213.

This makes me a little outraged. I have lived in Chicago all my life, and feel like this place is teeming with artists. Granted, I have my biases- growing up in artistically diverse Oak Park, in a theatre family, graduating from college with two “arts” degrees and working what I consider two “arts” jobs- I’ll admit I come in contact with a great deal of the 4% of artists cited. However, I still feel as if the number falls short.

This makes me wonder: How does the government define the term “artist”?

I decide to make a quick check on the U.S. Census Bureau website. Searches such as “definition artist”, “occupation artist”, “arts”, “artists in Illinois” and just plain “artist” come up empty. I google “what is an artist” and come up with such prolific answers as “Obviously, an artist is someone who creates art, just as a baker is someone who bakes bread, and a plumber is someone who installs and repairs plumbing.”

I don’t feel the answer is as easy as that.

I think of my orthodontist growing up in Oak Park. Dr. Alyward spent five days a week working at a job that, no doubt, brought home a majority of his income. Yet, the man was mean when it came to playing the guitar. While regluing a bracket or changing the rubber bands on my braces, he would talking about the bands he played with, and the songs he would sing. I will always remember him serenading me with “Seasons of Love” during some long, tedious dental procedure that required me not to talk. And have you seen my teeth? I haven’t worn braces for years, and they are still perfectly straight. The man is an artist, in every sense of the word.

I guess I just want to know what the government thinks of me, because I consider myself an artist. At one part time job, I sell theatre tickets. At TVP, I teach Shakespeare to girls ages 8-18. Simply put, I am in education and work in retail. But it isn’t that simple. The government doesn’t take in to account the time I spend reading the various theatre reviews in Chicago newspapers. Nor do they register the amount of Chicago theatre I’ve spent money on so I have my own first hand account. Or my hours reading and taking notes on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, trying to turn the themes and concepts from the play into activities that would interest the average eight to eighteen-year old. Or the hundreds of e-mails I send to Ellie, Reina, Andy, Molly and Alex to prep for a one day workshop or our upcoming benefit.

I wonder how many people in Illinois consider themselves artists in comparison to that 79,000. Less or more? What do you think?



Written by theladyshakes

22 June, 2008. Sunday. at 9:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Chicago SWEEPS Tony’s 2008!

leave a comment »


I don’t know about you, but I have never been more proud to be from CHICAGO!

Congrats Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and Steppenwolf!

Now, all you bloggers, I have a mission for you: GO SEE A PLAY!



The Viola Project

Chicago’s Premiere Shakespeare Company for Girls

Written by theladyshakes

15 June, 2008. Sunday. at 7:55 pm

Posted in shakespeare, theatre

An Intergrated Prom- in 2008

leave a comment »

Did anyone else see this article this morning? I literally double-taked this blurb I saw on the NPR homepage.

Born and bred in a liberal home in Midwestern Chicago, I guess I just cannot believe that something like Prom ISN’T integrated. At a public school, no less.

Mississippi School Holds First Interracial Prom

Catherine Farquharson and Paul Saltzman. All rights reserved. From the film “Prom Night In Mississippi.”
The Bryant Park Project, June 11, 2008 · Mississippi integrated its public schools in 1970, but segregation still haunts parts of the culture. One example of this could be found at Charleston High School. The Delta town had maintained a system of separate proms — organized privately — for black and white students.

As far back as 1997, actor Morgan Freeman, a Charleston local, offered to pay for the dance if everyone could go. This year, officials finally accepted the offer. A Canadian film crew led by Paul Saltzman documented the event for the upcoming Prom Night in Mississippi.

A photographer working with the crew says people in Charleston didn’t question the segregated dances. But as the big night approached, the importance of the change became clear. Catherine Farquharson followed several kids as they washed their cars and had their hair done.

She describes one encounter in an African-American beauty parlor, in which an elderly woman who’d been part of the civil rights movement stopped in to see what the hubbub was about. The woman ended up giving an impromptu testimony about the history these young people were about to make. “It was almost like it didn’t occur to a lot of the kids, until the day of the prom, how important what was going on really was,” Farquharson reports.

Student Chasidy Buckley says that Charleston’s first interracial prom made for a happy and comfortable night. Some white parents wouldn’t let their kids go, and some insisted on holding a private prom for their kids. But mostly, Buckley says, students enjoyed themselves — even if they’d expected a boring formal.

“It was just magnificent,” Buckley says. “That night, when we stepped in that door, everybody just had a good time. We proved ourselves wrong. We proved the community wrong, because they didn’t think that it was going to happen.”

Buckley says the school has decided to host a prom next year, giving black and white kids another chance to dress up and step out. “It’s going to continue to go on in our school, and if it continues to go on in our school, then our community will continue to improve,” she says. “It’ll impact them, too, because once they see that blacks and whites can come together in school and have fun together, then they’ll see that the community can change, too.”

Well, bloggers, what do you think?

Written by theladyshakes

11 June, 2008. Wednesday. at 3:37 pm

Posted in media, schools

Theatre Aids Emotional Development

leave a comment »

Theater Aids Emotional Development
By: Psych Central Senior News Editor
on Friday,
Jul, 20, 2007July 20, 2007 at 8:05 amUniversity of Illinois,
Urbana-Champaign, and the study’s lead author.

Reviewed by: John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Researchers report high school theater programs can strengthen
adolescent emotional skills.

In a unique study, researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-
Champaign conducted open-ended interviews and observations to gain an
in-depth understanding of one setting—a high school theater program.

Ten teenagers were interviewed every two weeks over a three-month
period while the theater group rehearsed a musical.
The study appears in the July-August 2007 issue of the journal Child

Adolescents face formidable challenges in emotional development. To
become functional adults, they must learn to manage the emotions that
unfold in complex social interactions, including those in
collaborative work groups. Yet little is known about the day-to-day
circumstances of adolescents’ emotional development.

Two adults who led the production also were interviewed biweekly. In
addition, the researchers observed the rehearsals weekly. During the
rehearsals, teenagers reported frequent emotional experiences,
including disappointment, anger, anxiety, and exhilaration.

The program provided a culture that helped them learn to respond
constructively to the events and feelings associated with these
different emotions, the researchers found. The adults provided models
and helped the teens cultivate strategies to manage strong emotions.
The youth learned from repeatedly using these strategies to employ
positive emotions to motivate their work; they also learned how to
manage their own and others’ negative emotions.

The theater setting supported this process by putting the youth in
situations in which emotions were likely to occur because the
expectation of hard work created stress and tension. Moreover,
intense emotions were accepted and discussed openly with a climate of
concern for others. The adults and youth alike stated shared beliefs
about the importance of emotional experience, and the adolescents
drew on the models and ideas of the culture as they learned about the
dynamics of emotions in themselves and in groups.

The researchers also found that the young people were very actively
engaged in the process of emotional learning. In the theater setting,
they were proactive in learning to manage emotional situations,
evaluated experiences and put to use the insights they gained, and
actively drew on the ideas and assistance of adults and peers.

“The development of ‘emotional intelligence’ is important to adult
work and family life, but many young people arrive in adulthood with
incomplete emotional skills,” according to Reed W. Larson, professor
of human and community development at the

“These preliminary findings suggest how, under the right conditions,
adolescents strengthen these skills. Although further research is
needed, youth programs and schools that provide these conditions may
be more likely to facilitate emotional learning. “

Source: Society for Research in Child Development

Written by theladyshakes

9 June, 2008. Monday. at 11:46 am

Posted in schools, theatre

Shakespeare Behind Bars Trailer

leave a comment »

I have watched this trailer many, many times, and I am truly awed and inspired by it.



Written by theladyshakes

9 June, 2008. Monday. at 11:45 am

Posted in shakespeare, theatre


leave a comment »

Buon settimana, raggazzi e raggazze!

I’m really getting into mask work this summer, and I thought it might be cool for you to check out one of the great artists of Illinois.

His name is David Knezz, and he offers fantastic workshops I hope to be taking soon.


Written by theladyshakes

8 June, 2008. Sunday. at 1:59 pm

Posted in theatre

Illinois Arts Funding RESTORED!

leave a comment »

This is a recent letter I received from the Illinois Arts Alliance.

“On May 21, the Illinois House passed HB6429, a budget plan that would restore all of the $4.5 million cut from the Arts Council’s FY2008 budget and allocate an addition $2.6 million.

A few days later, on May 23, the Illinois Senate passed SB1130, a measure that would restore $3.5 million of $4.5 million cut from the Arts Council’s FY2008 budget.”

This is great organization for the arts in Chicago!

This is what Ra Joy, its Executive Director, had to say about the Arts in our own Prairiegrass State:

“The arts are the very fabric of Illinois and represent a powerful tool for attracting and uniting residents, strengthening our cultural heritage, stimulating innovation, and contributing an overall culture of excellence in our neighborhoods and schools.

To find out more about the Illinois Arts Alliance go to:



Written by theladyshakes

3 June, 2008. Tuesday. at 12:03 pm

Posted in media, politics, schools, theatre

How far have we come?

leave a comment »

With comments about how adept a woman president would be at handling a crisis and the remaining pay gap between men and women (For the same job, on average, men earn approximately a quarter more an hour), this doesn’t seem so long ago.  We’ve come a long way but ….. 



Written by alexmlong

22 May, 2008. Thursday. at 12:39 pm

Posted in feminism


leave a comment »

This article, in the Wall Street Journal, addresses the practice of “bodysnarking” (making comments about someone’s appearance). An interesting read.

Written by Ellie

16 May, 2008. Friday. at 11:35 am

Posted in feminism, media

gasp– sexism in the movies

with one comment

We’ve been a little neglectful of the blog lately. For those of you out there, I’d like to direct your attention to a wonderful commentary from Peter Sagal at NPR about the sexism in the movie version of Horton Hears a Who. Very worth reading and sharing.

Written by Ellie

24 April, 2008. Thursday. at 4:19 pm

Posted in feminism, media, movies

Phillip Pullman- The True Key Stage

leave a comment »



Children need to go to the theatre as much as they need to run about in the fresh air. They need to hear real music played by real musicians on real instruments as much as they need food and drink. They need to read and listen to proper stories as much as they need to be loved and cared for.

The difficulty with persuading grown-up people about this is that if you deprive children of shelter and kindness and food and drink and exercise, they die visibly; whereas if you deprive them of art and music and story and theatre, they perish on the inside, and it doesn’t show.

So the grown-ups who should be responsible for providing these good and necessary things – teachers, politicians, parents – don’t always notice until it’s too late; or they pretend that art and theatre and so on are not necessities at all, but expensive luxuries that only snobbish people want in any case; or they claim that children are perfectly happy with their computers and video games, and don’t need anything else.

I’m not going to argue about this: I’m right. Children need art and music and literature; they need to go to art galleries and museums and theatres; they need to learn to play musical instruments and to act and to dance. They need these things so much that human rights legislation alone should ensure that they get them.

But just let’s think about the theatre for the moment.

The experience of being in the audience when a play or an opera is being performed is not simply passive. It’s not like watching TV; it’s not even like going to the cinema. Everyone in that big space is alive, and everyone is focused on one central activity. And everyone contributes. The actors and singers and musicians contribute their performance; the audience contribute their attention, their silence, their laughter, their applause, their respect.

And they contribute their imagination, too. The theatre can’t do what cinema does, and make everything seem to happen literally. There are no pixels on the stage; what happens is caused by physical bodies moving about in real space, not by computer-generated imagery on a screen.

So it has limitations. That isn’t a real room, it’s painted canvas, and it looks like it; that isn’t a real boy, it’s a little wooden puppet. But the limitations leave room for the audience to fill in the gaps. We pretend these things are real, so the story can happen. The very limitations of theatre allow the audience to share in the acting. In fact, they require the audience to pretend. It won’t work if they don’t.

But the result of this imaginative joining-in is that the story becomes much more real, in a strange way. It belongs to everyone, instead of only to the performers under the lights. The audience in the dark are makers, too. And when it all works, the experience we take away is incomparably richer and fuller and more magical than it would ever have been if all we did was sit back passively and watch.

I can remember evenings in the theatre, both as a child and as an adult, which were among the most important things I’ve ever known. Seeing Frankie Howerd as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Old Vic when I was nine, and laughing so much I fell off my seat; watching Peter Hall’s production of the Oresteia at the National Theatre, and feeling a sense of awe at the gradual unfolding of this ancient, savage, profound story; more recently, simultaneously helpless with laughter and shivering with pity and terror at the extraordinary Shock-Headed Peter. If I hadn’t seen those things, my life would be much the poorer. Theatre feeds the heart and nourishes the soul and enlarges the spirit.

When we are adults, and if we’re lucky enough to have developed the habit, we can find our own way to plays and operas, but children can’t do it on their own. They need to be helped into the experience by people who’ve been there before, and who can excite their curiosity. A little knowledge helps a great deal. A theatre especially set up for children helps even more; and plays presented by people who know how to perform for children without talking down to them, or being facetious, or leaving their brains behind, are best of all.

Written by theladyshakes

20 April, 2008. Sunday. at 11:19 am

Posted in schools, theatre

another Ted Talk

leave a comment »

I’m a big fan of these Ted Talks. This one is Erin McKean, a lexicographer (a person who writes dictionaries; she defines herself as a “dictionary evangelist”). Her speech focuses on the idea that the dictionary, in its current form, is too limiting. We need, she argues, to find a new way of tracking language. I love how excited she is about language; my two favorite new words from the speech are defined below.

go watch the video

 polysemy: n. having multiple meanings; the existence of several meanings for a particular word or phrase.

synecdoche: n. a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole (as fifty sail for fifty ships), the whole for a part (as society for high society), the species for the genus (as cutthroat for assassin), the genus for the species (as a creature for a man), or the name of the material for the thing made (as boards for stage)

Written by Ellie

18 March, 2008. Tuesday. at 10:19 am

Posted in WOTD

Happy International Women’s Day 2008!

leave a comment »

Visit the offical IWD site.

Written by Ellie

8 March, 2008. Saturday. at 7:49 am

Posted in feminism

Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs!

leave a comment »

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. Why not couple some Shakespearean quotes to quell your stomachache chock full of all those saccharine sayings and candy hearts? The Bard is the best at comparing love with madness, and here are some excellent examples: 

Cupid is a knavsh lad, thus to make females mad, a midsummer night’s dream – act 3, scene 3  

I will not be sworn but love may transform me to an oyster, much ado about nothing – act 2, scene 3  

Is this the generation of love? Hot blood, hot thoughts and hot deeds? Why, they are vipers. Is love a generation of vipers?, troilus and cressida – act 3, scene 1  

I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me, much ado about nothing – act 1, scene 1  

For all those lovesick folk out there, revel in this interesting fact I found:

 “The Italian city of Verona, where Shakespeare’s lovers Romeo and Juliet lived, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet every Valentine’s Day.”

Written by theladyshakes

13 February, 2008. Wednesday. at 8:08 pm

Posted in shakespeare

Theatre is EVERYWHERE!

leave a comment »

While interning at The Viola Project, I’m also beginning my student teaching at a High School in the Chicagoland area. My awesome cooperating teacher reminded me of a book I had in my collection by a man named Michael Rohd. He wrote the book “Theatre for Community, Conflict and Dialogue” and has this amazing Theatre Company in Portland called Sojourn Theatre. I had the opportunity to witness his keynote speech at the Illinois Theatre Association conference this year, and was wowed. He mentioned this project he had done in the Summer of 2007, and I was delighted to find a YouTube video. Based loosely on a Chinese fairytale, Sojourn theatre uses all parts of a Subaru dealership in the tale of Lucy, who is given riches by the gods to reward and test her goodness. In this modern adaptation, Lucy is rewarded a Subaru dealership. What happens to Lucy? Find out in this video and let me know what you think! 

Watch ‘Good’ by Sojourn Theatre and Michael Rohd! 

Check out the Sojourn Theatre Website! 

Buy his book on Amazon! 


Written by theladyshakes

7 February, 2008. Thursday. at 10:00 pm

Posted in theatre, video

How do we change this?

leave a comment »

A few days ago I came across this letter to the editor in the Tri City Herald from Washington State:

Men presidents only
I think that having a woman president would be a bad idea for our country. Women are not meant to rule countries and be in charge. They are meant to make decisions but not confirm them.
Our president deals with some countries that don’t respect or allow women in leadership positions. I wonder if the United States would have more terrorist attacks because we would be seen as weak with a woman leader. I agree that women can do many things, but leave the ruling of the countries to the men.
BRITTANY BAYLES, 13, Kennewick

My immediate reaction was sadness. We live in a society where people are constantly saying that the feminist movement has done its job, that it’s unnecessary and outdated. This is proof positive that things still need to change. What experiences has Ms. Bayles had, what messages has she been given that she has come to this conclusion?

With the current election going on, I’d like to know your thoughts, Viola Voicers. Do you feel the same way as Brittany Bayles? Do you think it’s a common opinion? Which Presidential candidate would you vote for? And a bigger question: how do we get to the point where a person’s gender isn’t thought to affect the way that person can do her job?


Written by Ellie

6 February, 2008. Wednesday. at 7:09 am

Posted in feminism, politics

There are no coincidences…

leave a comment »

Coincidentally, Amelia just brushed what I thought of to blog on this week: Finding your voice.  Shakespeare found his — made up words, a funny rhyming rhythm and plays that we can all relate to.  I think it’s important to find a voice; your voice.   I don’t mean this in the literal sense. Most of us have been blessed with working vocal cords and all the mechanisims to make them vibrate.  I mean a way to express your thoughts.  Your opinions.  Your own creativity.  Some people are attracted to the solitude and process of writing.  Some love the light of the stage.  Some enjoy the physical outlet of sport or sculpture.  Judging by the fact you’re reading this post, you’re at least somewhat attracted to theatre as your voice.  Use TVP and the theatre as an opportunity to learn and let your creative juices flow.  Be bold and let this be a way for you to create something. My own personal experience has shown me that this outlet can change and grow.  It used to be I couldn’t imagine a life without a play or rehearsal schedule.   Now I can’t imagine one where I don’t get to show that opportunity to others.  Or cook a delicious veggie dinner and practice yoga.   So now is the time to find what you have to say.  I’d certainly love to hear you – and so would TVP.   So that’s a few thoughts for you to think on. 🙂    Thoughtfully,           Alex  

Written by alexmlong

29 January, 2008. Tuesday. at 3:30 pm

Posted in feminism, Uncategorized