Soundtracking our Literature

Photo on 12-3-15 at 2.09 PMMy AP Lit classes read Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street this last week, and some of them had a hard time connecting with the text. They couldn’t feel Cisneros’s rhythms or didn’t like the narrative style or couldn’t identify with Esperanza emotionally.

I was a bit surprised because Mango Street is one of my favorite books for the fact that I think it speaks more easily to us than some of the more well-aged literature that we read (Frankenstein was our last text). But I knew we could get closer to Mango, we just needed the right activity. I then remembered an assignment in grad school when we had to pair a song with a section of text for the young adult novel we were reading. I remember my group’s song – Jimi Hendrix’s “Kiss the Sky”; and I remember the protagonist, a young girl, was swinging – she found freedom in the swinging, and the song spoke that. I can’t remember the title of the text, but that moment of it will never leave me.

So I asked my students if we could delay discussion a bit today to head in a more creative direction; they agreed. I then walked them through my thought process of finding a soundtrack song for the chapter “Bums in the Attic”. “The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham had the relaxed feel I wanted, but was too sad. “My Name is Jonas” by Weezer had the power and joy I think Esperanza feels when she dreams of having her own house, but is a little too heavy. So I read with ”Sedona” by Houndmouth as my soundtrack; it has the joy but with a laid back feel – and I timed it so that I ended the chapter right as the chorus begins. Nice.

The students worked in groups of two to five and had about nine minutes to choose their selection from the text, find a fitting song, then practice their performance. When they performed, they did so in chronological order of the text so we could feel the emotions in the order Esperanza felt them.

The students’ choices:

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole for the chapter “Darius and the Clouds”

“Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. for the chapter “Smart Cookie”

“Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira for the chapter “Hips” (they rapped it)

“The Funeral” by Band of Horses for the chapter “Born Bad”

“Lose Your Soul” by Dead Man’s Bones for the chapter “Red Clowns”

“First” by Cold War Kids for the chapter “Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes”

One violinist happened to have her instrument with her, so her group used the 1st movement of Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole for the chapter “Chanclas”.

Photo on 12-3-15 at 1.58 PM

And after we were done, they said, “We should do this more often.” Yes, we should. We could feel the text in new ways once we heard how it sounded and felt to the others in the room. Our next class discussion on tone will have even greater depth as we develop this new lens of hearing literature with a soundtrack.

Happy Teaching,

Tom Hering

Poet Jamaal May Performing in Columbus, This Friday

Jamaal May will perform a reading of his work on Friday, January 16 at 7pm in the OSU Barnes and Noble (1598 N. High Street) in the Gateway Complex.

Jamaal May is a poet, editor, and educator from Detroit, where he taught poetry in public schools and worked as a freelance audio engineer and touring performer. He is the author of Hum (2013), winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award, and two poetry chapbooks (The God Engine and The Whetting of Teeth). A graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA program for writers, Jamaal teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program.




How Mierle Laderman Ukeles turned maintenance into art

Check this out!

Trash Talk: The Department of Sanitation’s Artist in Residence Is a Real Survivor

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Mierle Laderman Ukeles is a performance artist whoms most well-known projects Touch Sanitation (1970–1980), involved shaking hands with more than 8,500 workers in the New York City Department of Sanitation while saying “Thank you for keeping New York City alive.”



Teaching with Blues for Smoke

To promote cultural exposure and understanding as well as creativity and expression, PAGES teacher partner, Sherry Forster, has presented various ideas and resources integrating music as a means of education, specifically the blues.

As Congress declared 2003 “The Year of the Blues,” seven directors, including Executive Producer Martin Scorsese, have created a seven part film series to explore the evolution of blues from spiritual folk tunes to its contributions of our nation’™s history and culture as a universal medium.  An outreach campaign was developed to introduce the blues influence into the classroom, making available an extensive amount of educational material. For more information, visit .

Stoneham, Reginald A.A. "Jazzin' The Blues." Photo. Digital Collections Music.1920-1929. 2 July 2013. .

Stoneham, Reginald A.A. “Jazzin’ The Blues.” Photo. Digital Collections Music.1920-1929. 02 July 2013. <>.

In addition, on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website, under the “œEducation” and “œResource” tabs, one can find various lesson plan options to bring music into the classroom. The lesson plans span from utilizing music as a primary source material to distance learning options. Visit .

A participant of their Teacher Summer Institutes, Sherry recommends the site highly, comparing the diverse body of work exhibited through the House of Blues second to that of the Wexner Center for the Arts.  Programs through the Blues SchoolHouse teach anything from how to play harmonica to quilting, with classroom guides and workshop opportunities. Visit:  or the for-profit site :

A song heard at a local Columbus event, such as “School Teacher Blues” by Saffire The Uppity Blues Women, could serve as material and even, a local resource to familiarize students with the unique sound and contribution of the blues genre:


“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.”  B.B. King, American blues musician.

"B.B. King." Photo. Blues and Music News. 2013. 02 July 2013. .

“B.B. King.” Photo. Blues and Music News. 27 April 2013. 02 July 2013. <>.


Meet the 2013-14 artists-in-residence…

We are pleased to introduce our artists-in-residence for PAGES 2013-14.

Jaime Bennati Paper artist and collector, Jaime Bennati examines a humans’ relationship with material consumption. By collecting and gathering materials that are often overlooked, she makes the viewer question our relationship to things we keep and discard daily. She creates meticulous, obsessive relief structures and installations that reference forms in nature. A large part of her work is based on processes and has begun to work on community-based projects since becoming a teaching artist in 2009. Read more…

Pamela Decker Pamela Decker is a theatre educator, practitioner, and scholar.  Her academic interests include the interplay of cognitive studies with theatre, spectatorship, and comic performance.  Recently, she successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, “Theatrical Spectatorship in the United States and Soviet Union, 1921-1936: A Cognitive Approach to Comedy, Identity, and Nation.”  While a graduate student, she taught a variety of courses in the Department of Theatre, such as Censorship and Performance, Self Images: America On Stage, and Introduction to Script Analysis.  She also participated in a number of theatre productions as a director, assistant director, dramaturg, or performer. Read more…

Inarhyme Records Mark Lomaxrecording artist Mark Lomax is a drummer/composer/bandleader/educator who has led his own groups and has been featured as a member of the Marlon Jordan Quintet, Delfeayo Marsalis Sextet, Ellis Marsalis Quintet and Azar Lawrence Quintet. Lomax has also toured with many local and regional bands playing a wide variety of styles, from folk, blues and rock to funk, gospel, R&B and hip-hop. As a composer, he has written jazz, gospel and classical works, and his orchestral arrangements of gospel songs have been played by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Czech National Symphony. Read more….

PAGES curator-in-residence

Stephanie RondStephanie was born in Columbus, Ohio. She attended Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School and went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University in 1997. The Columbus Dispatch deemed her work as comprising one of the best art shows of 2012, and the Columbus Alive tapped her as a Person to Watch 2012. You may have most recently read about Stephanie’s artwork in Bitch magazine, a national feminist publication. Stephanie is co-founder of Creative Arts of Women (CAW), founder of Women Street Artists and owns several galleries and musuems. When she grows up, she’d like to be a crossword puzzle guru and a domestic cat herder.

PAGES creator, writer, and educator

Wexner Center for the ArtsDionne Custer Edwards is a writer and arts educator serving K-12 students through arts partnership with artists, teachers, and the community at The Wexner Center for the Arts, where she created PAGES, an arts, literacy and writing-based program for high school students. Read more…

Upcoming Performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

If I, Malvolio sparked a resurgence of your interest in Shakespeare, check out the Royal Shakespeare Company’s upcoming performance of Julius Caesar at the beautiful Southern Theatre. The play will be performed from Wednesday, May 1, 2013 – Sunday, May 5, 2013.

Paterson Joseph as Brutus and Jeffery Kissoon as Julius Caesar in the RSC's Julius Caesar.

photo credit: Nigel Norrington

The production of this play is part of a greater collaboration between the RSC and The Ohio State University to bring more RSC performances to the United States. CAPA provides the following description:

Set in contemporary Africa with a cast of highly acclaimed, black British actors, this groundbreaking production of Shakespeare’s great political thriller tells the story of the conspiracy against Caesar, his assassination, and the defeat of his conspirators. The production, directed by the RSC’s new artistic director Gregory Doran, depicts the struggle for democracy as well as the story of two men united by an explosive act of political violence.

Watch the trailer.

Follow the CAPA link to look up ticket information. Be sure to check on additional student discounts with a student ID.

Read more about the performance at NPR: A ‘Caesar’ With An African Accent


featured image via

I, Malvolio Classroom Visits…

Hi everyone,

I am having a great time visiting your classrooms, and I thought I’d do a quick post to share some favorite moments from the classes I’ve visited so far.

In Aaron’s class, we had a blast bringing lines and short scenes to life. It was a really creative bunch, and I particularly enjoyed their characterization of Olivia: she was sitting on a chair with her legs on another student pretending to be a footstool, filing her nails and talking about how she was so humbled by her love for Cesario–the contrast in her lines and her physicality was great, and I thought a really good illustration of character. Tableaus of “the whirligig of time” and “love” were also particularly memorable, and I loved the group that translated “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, we shall have no more cakes and ale?” As, “Do you think just because you’re you I’m not gonna do me?” It was brilliant.

In Tom’s class, we staged the scene in which Toby, Andrew, Feste, and Maria wake up Malvolio and then plot to write the love letter. We had people singing, dancing, falling down, and finding physical ways to show that more than one actor was playing the same character (like sharing movement/gesture or having one person play the arms and the other person the rest of the character). One of my favorite things was a brilliant piece of text analysis. A student who was playing Toby asked if “Approach, Sir Andrew, approach” meant that she should come on stage first. It sounds really simple, but this is the kind of clue to staging that even a lot of veteran actors would miss.

In Gary’s class, I worked with a small but wonderful group on using gesture and vocalization to make a scene with very few lines of actual dialogue. They did an excellent job using personification to find imaginative ways of working additional actors into a scene: both Malvolio’s mirror and his bed gave him their opinions very freely. When they got to write their own dialogue, we added the gems “ye joyous Pottery Barn” and “Whatever, I’m rocking these yellow stockings” to our scenes.

In Sherry’s class, we used personification to explore how Olivia’s house and garden might feel about the people who inhabit their world–we ended up with some excellent sad grass and found some great staging moment in the scene when Malvolio receives “Olivia’s” letter. My particular favorites were the bird noises, sneezes (and Monty Python quotes) the statues, trees, and bushes used to cover up the sounds of Toby and Andrew talking.

At MOSAIC, I got the wonderful opportunity to see some of the students’ versions of Shakespeare plays and sonnets–all around brilliance! In addition, we worked on two scenes from Twelfth Night, both of which involved garden snakes, lawn gnomes, and other shenanigans.

Brandi’s class used their story-boarding skills to create a series of tableaus to tell the story of a scene from Twelfth Night. The use of extra students as furniture, a rug, and a huge cake and tankard of ale, were fantastic and whimsical.

Jessica’s classes staged a Maury Povich special called “Malvolio’s Revenge.” The handwriting expert who verified Maria’s handwriting was a particularly dramatic moment! The Maury audiences were so engaged, it was great preparation for Tim Crouch’s interaction with the audience in I, Malvolio.

All around, it’s been a great few weeks, and the post visits have been a really special time for me because you have amazing, compassionate, articulate students who engaged with this piece of artwork on a very deep level. Thank you so much for a great year and I can’t wait to see the Pages publication and exhibit!


“Shakespeare Uncovered” on PBS offers other resource for 12th Night

Shakespeare Uncovered: The Comedies was a great reason to be inside on a snowy Friday night. Joely Richardson is the host with a look at Twelfth Night and As You Like It. Richardson interviews her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, and takes us through a look at various incarnations of both plays.  It’s a great resource that also examines the role of Malvolio in the greater context of his play and all of Shakespeare’s works. Luckily for us, the whole episode is available online. I also thought Ethan Hawke’s look at Macbeth was a fascinating as well. Plus, there are teacher resources available as well.