Pleased to announce!

Now that the pandemic is subsiding and schools are reopening, I’m moving forward with the publication of my book. The working title now is Learning the Way Shakespeare Learned: Classroom Dramatics, Physical Rhetoric, and a Generation of Genius. I’m working with Susan Shankin, the publisher of Precocity Press, and the book will be illustrated by my brother. We hope to have it out by the fall.

In the meantime, I’d like to feature some of the truly amazing drama teachers I’ve worked with over the course of my career. I have a deep and abiding love for them all. They teach so much more than drama. Just as drama is an art form that incorporates all other art forms, teachers of drama incorporate everything that every student brings to the class.

To get us going, here is “Jenny, Drama Teacher” from Zadie Smith’s Intimations. The book is her profound and insightful reflection on the pandemic, definitely worth the read in its entirety, but what I want to share here is from her appendix: “Debts and Lessons.” There she credits 26 individuals with escorting her on her voyage into wisdom, with a brief and lovely homage to each one.

(I’ve loved reading Zadie Smith ever since my mom handed me a copy of White Teeth some twenty-five years ago and I read a book that exploded in my mind. I couldn’t fathom that an author so young could produce such an epic! Presumably her experience with Jenny was a spark for her genius.)

13. Jenny, Drama Teacher

A task is in front of you. It is not as glorious as you had imagined or hoped. (In this case, it is not the West End, it is not Broadway, it is a small black box stapled to an ugly comprehensive school.) But it is a task in front of you. Delight in it. The more absurd and tiny it is, the more care and dedication it deserves. Large, sensible projects require far less belief. People who dedicate themselves to unimportant things will sometimes be blind to the formal borders that are placed around the important world. They might see teenagers as people. They will make themselves absurd to the important world. Mistakes will be made. Appropriate measures will be pursued. The border between the important and the unimportant will be painfully reestablished. But the magic to be found in the black box will never be forgotten by any who entered it.



6 replies
  1. Robert D. Shepherd
    Robert D. Shepherd says:

    Well, this book on education in the late 16th and early 17 centuries will be THE education book of this century. Can’t wait to read it!!!!

    And, from one theatre (and English) teacher to another, thanks be to all the gods for the gift of Robin Lithgow.

  2. Robert D. Shepherd
    Robert D. Shepherd says:

    Robin, you will perhaps remember that we met on Diane Ravitch’s blog and had some back and forth about Erasmus.

    I’ve spent my lifetime as a professional editor for publishing houses. If you would like for me to proofread your final manuscript before you send it off to your editor, I would be happy to do so for the sheer joy of it. I, too, am retired, and I LOVE your project. Would be happy to assist with the midwifery of it, if you would like. We ALL need editors, as I am sure our old friend Willie S. would have agreed.

    • robinlithgow
      robinlithgow says:

      Oh my, what a wonderful, overwhelmingly wonderful message! I am so grateful for your offer! I am working (and working well!) with a content editor, to restructure my book with a stronger through line. I don’t think I will need much of a line-by-line editor (I was an English teacher for years, after all), but I do miss things. I would love to have readers look at the book, and if you would be willing to do that I’d be so honored. Thank you!

  3. Peter Grenell
    Peter Grenell says:

    Hi Robin,

    This is a resend; I don’t think the first got sent for some reason. Anyway, I look forward to your next book; sounds really interesting. I just finished reading How to Think Like Shakespeare by Scott Nustok, which you reviewed! Fascinating. I noted especially the aspects of Shakespeare-era education – rhetoric in particular, that included pre-dramatics-like prep. I think of the many students and grownups today who are frightened of public speaking— just taking tests gives no preparation for anything but “accessment”.

    Barrie and I were talking about our US mostly appalling educational system, and this whole world of thought and action, and seeing it from art and theater and music sides is right on. Especially when included is the basic need for children – and adults! – for play; and the system’s narrow focus on “assessment”, testing, and scores is really pathological.

    I recall my mother getting notes from my 3rd grade teacher that I just drew pictures all day and was really bored; so ma and pa transferred me to Hunter Elementary School, which was much more engaging. Now I’m approaching creeping senility, but our band still plays on.

    By the way, I wrote a short book last summer during “quarantine” to avoid cabin fever, that you may be interested in: “The Great Experiment: Freedom, Greed and Racism in America.” I self-published it through Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing). If you’re interested, I’ll send you a copy; otherwise, it’s available on Amazon. I mention it because among other sources for mine I refer to Kurt Andersen’s “Fantasyland”, which provides many clues to our cultural pathology that extends from the urge to get rich at everyone else’s expense to religious and racial fantasies to the preference for ignorance over education and critical thinking.

    Anyway, thanks for your blog. Till next time, keep well and avoid mask wars.


  4. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Hi Cuz,

    I’m very excited for you that this project is well on its way to becoming a reality. Would you please let me know if you were ever familiar with a gentleman named Stockton Briggle?


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