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2020 September 3

Shakespeare cookies (whole wheat)

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I last baked Shakespeare cookies 11 months ago (for the Santa Cruz Shakespeare trip to the Ashland Shakespeare Festival), using version 7 of the cookie cutters I designed:

Version 7 of the Shakespeare cookie cutter uses a simple outline for the cutter and a separate stamp for adding the facial features.

I’m going to make some more today using a similar recipe (using whole-wheat pastry flour rather than white pastry flour is the only change, other than shrinking the size of the batch):

½ cup butter
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
¼ cup powdered sugar

Sift the flour and sugar together.  Soften butter slightly in microwave, beat into flour-sugar mixture with a fork, and shape the dough into a smooth ball by hand. I refrigerated the dough for a few hours to reharden the butter, but this turned out to be a mistake—I had to warm the dough with my hands to make it soft enough to roll out.

On a silicone baking sheet, roll out dough to 6mm thick (using cookie sticks to set the thickness).  Cut the cookie outlines and remove dough between cookies.  Stamp the facial features. Put silicone sheet on an aluminum baking sheet. Bake at 300°F for about 60 minutes.

I made 9 cookies with this recipe (plus a little bit left over to make a small rectangular cookie).

Here are the best 3 of the 9 whole-wheat shortbread cookies. They taste a bit like the digestive biscuits we used to be sent from England.

2020 September 2

Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s Richard III

Santa Cruz Shakespeare is ending their season with a free Zoom reading of Richard III (after 9 weeks of doing Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3) Wed 2020 September 9, 6:30–9p.m.  They spent a lot getting a Zoom license for 1000 viewers, and they’ve been running around 500 viewers for the Henry VI plays, so they’d like to double that for the more popular Richard III.This is also the only one of the plays that they are doing as a single installment—the others were broken up into three evenings, with scholarly discussion after each third of each play.

To get the Zoom link for the play, register for the free webinar at

https://ucsc.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_p_11ndXkRsq7G_zsFnjN4Q

I’ve been watching the Henry VI readings, and they have been doing a good job of using the limited capabilities of Zoom to present these rarely performed plays.

Last weekend I saw a rather different use of Zoom (and OBS and Youtube) by SFShakes to do a full live performance of King Lear.  That was technically much more ambitious, with each actor having their own camera and green screen and one person with a lot of monitor space busy compositing them live onto the appropriate backgrounds. Much of their rehearsal time went into blocking and marking positions and sightlines, as the actors could not see each other when performing.  There is a good “behind-the-scenes blog post at behind-the-scenes blog post at https://sfshakes.wordpress.com/2020/0/Unfortunately, the performances were all in one weekend, so there was no way to get out word of mouth advertising for the performance after seeing it. King Lear continues (I don’t know for how long) as live performances on https://www.youtube.com/user/SFShakes Sat at 7pm, Sun at 4pm, Mon at 4pm.

Santa Cruz Shakespeare went for a broader sweep (4 tightly coupled history plays), but more modest production (seated actors doing a reading directly on Zoom).  Their rehearsal time seems to have been spent more on understanding the lines and verbal delivery, with minimal props and costuming.

Later this week I’ll be seeing UCSB’s Naked Shakes performance of Immortal Longings (a combination of Julius Ceasar with Antony and Cleopatra). Free tickets from https://www.theaterdance.ucsb.edu/news/event/826.

2019 December 13

Santa Cruz Shakespeare 2020 season

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Santa Cruz Shakespeare announced their 2020 season to the “Producer’s Circle”—people who donate $1000 or more—last night. They have chosen the 3 main plays and their directors, but have not yet chosen the Fringe play for the interns, nor the staged readings.

Their non-Shakespeare play will be “A Flea in Her Ear” by  Georges Feydeau adapted by David Ives.  SCS has had good success with David Ives’s plays lately including “The Liar” and “Venus in Fur”.  Having a sex farce as the main non-Shakespeare play should be a box-office success.  I don’t remember who will be director for this play—someone who will be new to SCS, if I remember correctly.

The Shakespeare plays have a shipwreck theme: “Twelfth Night” and “The Tempest”.

“Twelfth Night” will be directed by Paul Mullins, who has directed for SCS several times before.  The instances that stand out for me were “Hamlet” in 2016 (the best production of “Hamlet” that I’ve seen), “The 39 Steps” in 2017, and “Pride and Prejudice” 2019.  I look forward to his interpretation of “Twelfth Night” and I hope he includes a lot of the music that is referred to in the text.  (One of the best performances I’ve seen of “Twelfth Night” was by Berkeley Rep about 40 years ago, with Oak, Ash, and Thorn singing all the songs.)

“The Tempest” will be directed by Mike Ryan, who will be directing for the first time.  I hope he does a good job—I’m always a little nervous when an Artistic Director assigns himself a major task (a plum role, selecting his own play, or selecting himself as director).  I have a lot of respect for Mike and I think that it is likely he’ll do a good job, but I worry a little about the wisdom of choosing himself as director.

The event last night shared some information about the successful 2019 season (record attendance, very successful matinee program for students in the county, lots of first-time attendees—particularly at the pay-what-you-want previews) and kicked off a new capital campaign to raise money for a multi-purpose building at the theater (offices, stage shop, and dressing rooms) and for permanent restrooms to replace the rented trailers.

There should be a more public announcement of the 2020 season and the new capital campaign sometime in January.

2019 October 18

Book progress update

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:33
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At the beginning of the summer, I set myself the goal to clear the 161 to-do notes from the draft of my book by the first of December, which meant doing about 1 a day.  I kept up for quite a while, but I am now a little behind schedule, with 48 to-do notes left, which would have me finishing on December 5, if I maintained one a day. The book is now 637 pages, with 315 images in 256 figures (many have subfigures).  I think I may be done adding figures, but the remaining to-do notes include adding a few pages of text (which may or may not increase the page count for the overall book, depending of how much white space there is at the end of the relevant chapters).

I was keeping pretty well to schedule over the summer, but I fell behind during the Santa Cruz Shakespeare trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. The trip was worth the time—I saw six plays: two very good (La Comedia of Errors and All’s Well That Ends Well), one well-acted but with a bit of a thin script (Mother Road), one well-acted but with awkward sets and strange direction that did not really work (Macbeth), one interesting but deliberately uncomfortable play (Between Two Knees), and one awful production (As You Like It) that failed in almost every way.  The original script for As You Like It is good, but the director managed to mangle it by rearranging speeches, assigning them to the wrong characters, cutting excessively, and generally making a hash of it. Gender roles were randomly reassigned, the wrestling match was played for laughs (like a video game), Touchstone was played very stiffly, and Jaques was changed from a melancholy character into a giddy one.  The costuming was also poor—I felt very sorry for the actors having to put up with such a poor interpretation of the play.

I’m on leave this quarter, so I don’t have to teach, go to meetings, or hold office hours, but I’m taking a physics course (PHYS 102, which is an introduction to quantum mechanics).  The homework for the physics class has been taking quite a bit of time, and I have been prioritizing it over the book writing. I brought my laptop with me on the Ashland trip, but I didn’t do any writing for the book—I finished the first homework for the physics class instead, as it was due the day after we came back.  Today I finished homework 3 for the physics class (due Monday), so I should work on the book this weekend.  Maybe I can get back on schedule? (Or maybe I’ll try mowing more of the back lawn—I’ve cleared about a quarter of it.  Creative Procrastination!)

I’ve also been wasting a lot of time reading news, humor, and a few subreddits on the internet—the physics class is only taking about 15 hours a week, so I can’t really blame the class for my being behind schedule on the book.

2019 August 31

Shakespeare cookies v7

Today (2019 August 31), my son and I baked shortbread cookies using version 7 of the Shakespeare cookie cutter, which is a two-part design with a separate cutter and stamp:

Version 7 of the Shakespeare cookie cutter uses a simple outline for the cutter and a separate stamp for adding the facial features. Version 6 of the stamp failed, because I made the alignment markers too thin and they did not survive even gentle handling.

In addition to the new cutter and stamp, we also tried out the “cookie sticks” that I made for rolling the dough to a consistent 6mm thickness:

I made two different sticks: a straight one and one with a 90° corner. The OpenSCAD file also allows other angles, so I could have made 120° corners for a hexagon.  I made the sticks about as big as I could print on the Monoprice Delta Mini.

The hooks at the two end of the stick lock the sticks together.

I made enough of the sticks to make a rectangular frame almost as big as my cookie sheets. I ran out of the ugly green PLA filament after only 3 sticks, so I did the rest in the Hatchbox gold PLA filament.

I made the same shortbread dough as last time: 1 cup butter, 2 cups pastry flour, and ½ cup powdered sugar. I cleared a counter to make some workspace:

I had a cookie sheet,a rolling pin (a piece of birch dowel that I sanded and coated with mineral oil decades ago), a silicone baking mat, the cookie sticks, the cookie cutter and stamp, and a shallow bowl for flour.

The entire batch fills about 2/3 of the frame when rolled out:

For the first batch, we tried rolling the dough directly on the silicone baking mat, and removing the excess dough without moving the cookies.

The cookie sticks worked well for getting a uniform, consistent thickness to the dough, and 6mm is about the right thickness for these cookies. Having a complete frame around the dough meant that I did not have to worry about the cookie sticks shifting position, nor what the orientation of the rolling pin was.

The stamping is easily done on the cookies, but removing the excess dough from between the cookies was harder than we expected. It probably didn’t help that it was a warm afternoon and the dough got sticky quickly, even though we refrigerated it before rolling.

For the second rolling, we rolled the dough onto waxed paper, then transferred the cut-out cookies to a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat, doing the stamping only after the cookies were on the baking sheet.

We ended up with 19 cookies from the batch, and they came out pretty good:

This picture is a bit misleading as these were probably the best two of the nineteen.

The biggest problem was with dough getting stuck in the nose when stamping—it might be easier to do Tycho Brahe cookie cutters!

The second biggest problem was getting accurate alignment of the stamp with the cutter. For several of the cutters we were a millimeter off, resulting in an extraneous line at one of the alignment markers.

Despite these minor problems, the v7 cutters were much easier to use than previous versions, and I don’t have any immediate ideas for improvements (other than changing from a 3D-printed cutter to a injection-molded cutter, which would require a lot of changes and cost a few thousand dollars—something I’m not prepared for.

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