Monday, August 18, 2014

Mother Teresa's Birthday

The Life and Work of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa is an iconic figure that is known for putting the needs of other before her own. Her entire life is seen as a service and a testament to her faith. The selflessness that she showed and the dedication that she gave to furthering humanity is something that is still admired. Even after her death, Mother Teresa and her legacy live on in and her good deeds have been immortalized forever.

Birth and Training

Mother Teresa was born in 1910 as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia. It is said that she always exuded a love for souls that was evident from time of her first communion at age five. Her father passed away when she was only eight years old, which left her with only her mother and siblings to depend on. Her mother was extremely loving and caring, which resulted in the compassion and care for others that infiltrated the character of Mother Teresa even at an early age. Her posit of bettering humanity led Mother Teresa to pledge even at the age of 12 her desire to be a missionary and spread the word and love of Christ. Her dream was finally realized at the age of 18 when she left home and joined an Irish community of nuns in India. This was where she was given her name as Sister Mary Teresa.

The Works of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa spent time teaching at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta and took great pride in instilling values into young students. She was always a person that had deep faith and used prayer as a tool to help others. She simply had a natural affection for the wellbeing of other individuals and found profound happiness in helping others. The driving force behind her life became spreading the message of Christ and showing others the compassion that only he can offer. She felt through prayer that Jesus would reveal her purpose in life and the people that she was destined to help.

Meaning of Life
The entire life and works of Mother Teresa combine to show that every person has value and dignity that should be respected. Her faith and love was something that had a profound effect on those that she came in contact with. Her life is a testament to her faith and she is still known for living what she believed to the fullest.

To read about more folk heroines, click here.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hawaiian Legendary Creatures

Hawaiian Folk Myths 

Ancient Hawaiian folklore includes many mythical and spiritual beings. Myths about such groups of ‘people’ often explain the universal and local beginnings of a particular culture, becoming part of that society’s cosmology. Here are two examples of Hawaiian mythical people:

Menehune (Small People)
Menehune are small in stature and almost dwarf-like. These people were believed to dwell out of sight – away from people - deep in the woods and in hidden valleys. These people were said to be great craftsman and could build almost anything with their hands. Some of the structures that were attributed to their handy-work include temples, roads, fishponds and even homes. Folk legend has it that they lived in Hawaii before the settlers arrived to claim the land and came to be referred to as lowly people.

Night marchers (Warrior Ghosts)
Nightmarchers are known as the spirits of the ancient Hawaiian warriors. They are believed to march together at night to sacred burial sites. These warriors are said to march only after the sunsets and are not seen in daylight. However, careful listening will make it possible to hear the chanting and sound of their marching as they make their way to burial sites of significance. 

Folk legend says you should never look directly at a night marcher because this could end in your immediate death. It is best to lie face down on the ground when you hear them to ensure that you are not seen.
Want to learn more about the folklore of little people?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cumin Lore

Spice Seekers

Cumin is rich in folklore. Not only is it a common spice used in ancient Egypt and India, it has a history of use steeped in mummification. This embalming agent is a member of the parsley family. Its seeds have been sought after by pharaohs and others. Native to Egypt, it was cultivated in the Middle East, India and China and came to be used as an alternative to the more expensive black pepper.

By the Middle Ages people believed cumin could prevent infidelity for the one who carried it. More modern beliefs suggest the power of this herb could keep away ‘the evil eye’. Hence in countries like Germany and Italy it was added to bread to keep thieves from stealing the loaves.
Fun Cumin Facts:
·   Cumin makes up a large proportion of curry powder and chili powder.
·   Cumin is the second most popular spice in the world after pepper.
·   Cumin was once used to pay taxes. 
Cumin Recipes:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mexican Folk Dance


Mexican folk dance is entrenched deep into Mexican culture. Folk dance is a form of dance developed by a group of people that reflects the traditional life of the people of a certain country or region. Historically these dances for common people have been distinguished from dance forms of the upper classes.

The history of Mexican folk dance can be traced back to the Mesoamerican region that extended from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica. As is the case in many regions, folk dance was designed to please the gods.  However, during the 16th century era of conquistadores, European dance styles – waltz and ballet – began to seep into Mexican folk dance. This merging of culture resulted in popular Mexican folk dance forms.
One of the more familiar folk dances is Concheros. This style of Mexican folk dance that began in Central Mexico and is influenced greatly by Aztec symbols. The dance attire and makeup is even closely related to Aztec culture including the glamorous feathered headdresses and colorful breastplates to the intricate face painting details. In order to dance in the Concheros style, you had to look the part from head to toe.

The term Concheros is derived from concha, which is known as an armadillo shell. Many elements of the natural world – like deer hoof bones and sea shells – became musical instruments.  In this dance style dancers gathering into two circles: older individuals form the inner circle while younger dancers move towards the outside. The circles dance simultaneously in energetic and graceful movements.

This folk dance made its way to California in the mid-1970’s and has become a dance form standard in Mexican American communities.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Poetic Folk Hero: Li Bai

Folk lore legend has it that starry-eyed poet Li Bai tried to kiss the reflection of the moon in the water next to his boat when he fell overboard and drowned. It has been said the poet had a penchant for liquor, which may have played a factor in his demise. He even wrote a poem before his death titled “Alone and Drinking Under the Moon.”

Poets and writers of both fiction and non-fiction tell stories. In one way or other they show us how the world looks, what works and how changes can be made. It is through this literary looking glass that the author’s society can be shared. Readers get to learn about specific traditions, beliefs and more. They come to find out what is considered beautiful and worthy in a particular culture as well as what is considered inappropriate and undesired.

Poems, it can be argued, are among the most metaphoric of literary forms. They are often dependent upon figurative language to convey a message (often a feeling or experience). Chinese poet Li Bai captured the world he lived in with very few words.

He lived during 701 to 263 AD he was given the title Poet Immortal during the Tang Dynasty for his whimsical and bright poetry. At an early age, guided by his mother who was of Turkish descent, he began his journey as a poet along with a study of Taoist discipline and ancient martial arts. He took all three with him on a nomadic trek through China’s natural landscapes in search of inspiration.

Li Bai, also known as Li Po (Bo), is credited with a thousand poems, of which thirty-four in the canonical 18th-century anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems. The poems celebrated the pleasures of friendship, the depth of nature, solitude, and the joys of drinking wine. Admired by many, including a famous Daoist priest, Wu Yun, he was to the Imperial County. There he befriended Emperor’s Ming Huang’s favorite royal consort Yang Guifei while offending the most powerful royal eunuch and, eventually others. He quickly fell out of favor and was exiled. It is believed that he was 62 when he drowned in a lake one night while reaching for the moon.
To read a translation of his work, click here.To learn more about last months folk heroine whom was also a well known author click here.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Knights: Men of Honor

Knights were men of repute who were chosen by the monarch or political leader to serve the country. Today’s knighthood is often granted as an honorary title. Historically, however, they were expected to serve in a military capacity and were compensated with land.

During the Renaissance knights became linked with romantic chivalry and gave birth to literary characters like Don Quixote (written by Miguel de Cervantes). Knights, in reality, had to adhere to a code of chivalry. They also had to have excellent equestrian and battle skills.
Such training was costly. Equipment, armor and horses were not cheap. In many cases future knights began their preparations as children. By the age of seven years-old, those supported by well to do families learned fundamental etiquette, including how to be faithful to the monarch.  

Other elements for these men of honor included being schooled in stories about bravery and selflessness. In many cases, the young boy was educated at the castle of a noble. During that process he would serve as a page.
By the age of 14 he would become a squire and his duties would including learning the rules of heraldry.
Here are two famous knights:

Richard the Lionheart of England: Successor of Henry II. After his proclamation, he led a crusade that enhanced his reputation as an excellent military leader.

El Cid: A Castillian Knight. His greatest exploit was conquering the kingdom-city of Valencia from the Moors.

Knights are a central part of today’s Renaissance faires. In full costume, they often accompany Queen Elizabeth as she tours the faire and are prepared at a moment’s notice to defend her honor. 

Renaissance Faires:
Canterbury Renaissance Faire 

Florida Ren-Fest 

Much Ado About Sebastopol 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Congratulations: Marin Shakespeare Company

Marin Shakespeare 

Celebrates its 25th Season!

I recently had a chance to ask Lesley Currier founding Managing Director of Marin Shakespeare Company to tell me a little bit about her role as casting director for this season’s opening production As You Like It.

This pastoral comedy, written by William Shakespeare explores folkloric themes of true love, justice, and the simplicity of country life. Currier noted that when casting lead roles in Shakespeare she looks for actors who convey intelligence, and wit.

 “Shakespeare’s actors spoke directly to their audiences at the Globe and the Blackfriars Theatres, and these roles are written for actors who can connect with an audience.”

Q: Actors and actresses must bring a piece of themselves to the characters who reflect back to us our secrets, hopes, and desires.  Have you had any surprises in casting for this production?

A: We called in Debi Durst to read for the Nurse in ROMEO AND JULIET, knowing that she is a professional comedian, and she absolutely surprised us by how well she read the dark, sad parts of the Nurse, like when she discovers Juliet’s dead body.  Occasionally we are surprised by an actor who seems so absolutely perfect for a role like Braedyn Youngberg who we had never met before, and who we cast as William in As You Like It this summer.  The actor we cast as Orlando, Teddy Spencer, is also playing the role of Tybalt in ROMEO AND JULIET.  We didn’t even have him read for Tybalt, as we have limited time at our auditions and we are casting three plays in rep, and we just trusted that he's a good actor, so it was a wonderful surprise to hear how great he is as Tyblalt, a haughty troublemaker, and the opposite of Orlando, a love-besotted sweetheart.

Q: What are the responsibilities of a casting director?

A: A casting director’s job is to line up actors for auditions, organize callbacks, and negotiate contracts.  To line up actors, we hold open auditions each year, and we also attend regional auditions, from which we invite some actors to come read for us.  We also invite a significant number of actors each year to skip our general auditions and come directly to our callbacks, where actors read scenes from the plays we are casting, rather than perform monologues. Occasionally, with actors we know well and have worked with extensively, we will make casting offers without a formal audition.  Organizing callbacks means preparing “sides,” scenes and speeches for actors to read, getting those sides to the actors so they can work on them in advance, and coming up with a schedule that allows the director to see actors together when necessary.  For example, when casting ROMEO AND JULIET, it’s a good idea to read the actors together to see whether they seem like a good match in terms of energy, age, and other chemistry.  Negotiating contracts with actors is the job either of the casting director or producer; at our theatre, I am both.

Q: How does your own acting experience inform your casting choices? 

A: Having been an actor, you gain a deeper respect for what an actor goes through and how fragile the process can be.  

Other productions this summer include Romeo and Juliet and Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband.

About Lesley Currier:  Recipient of Princeton University’s Frances LeMoyne Page Award for Theatre, her acting career includes the Ukiah Players, Ashland's Oregon Shakespeare Festival and elsewhere. She initiated the New American Comedy Festival and founded the Marin Shakespeare Company with Robert Currier in 1989. An actor, director and playwright, her original adaptation of "A Thousand and One Arabian Nights", which she directed, was nominated for "Best Overall Production of 2002" by the Bay Area Critics Circle and she was nominated as "Best Director 2009" for "Twelfth Night, or All You Need Is Love" which she adapted with Robert Currier.

She is also the founder of Shakespeare at San Quentin, which gives inmates opportunities to study and perform Shakespeare and is past President of the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America.

As You Like It runs Friday-Sundays, July 5-August 10.

Cost “Pay As You Like It” - Admission donations of any amount will be accepted at the door for this production.

Tickets: click here.

Where: Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, 890 Belle Avenue, Dominican University of California, San Rafael, Calif. 94901.