I’m delighted that many friends and colleagues will be joining us on April 27th. We’re going to be in good company! This is a reprint of last week’s invitation, in case you missed it or couldn’t find the link:


If you can join us, we’ll be among old friends and good memories.

Once again:

The Los Angeles County School For the Arts is honoring me and my brother, John Lithgow, with the Arts Advocate Award this year. The event will be held at the Avalon Hollywood on April 27. John’s brand new film, “Art Happens Here” will be featured. In it he joins arts students in dance, theatre, visual and media Arts, and both vocal and instrumental music, actually taking the role of a student in each discipline. Always the entertainer, he highlights the awkwardness and joy of learning something new!

John himself will be in New York City for the launch of the film, but he’ll be beamed in via video.

I will be feted for my work as one of the chief architects of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Elementary Arts Program, now in it’s 25th year, and for my book: “Lessons From Shakespeare’s Classroom: Empowering Learning Through Drama and Rhetoric.” I am proud to share this honor with so many fantastic colleagues who joined me on the journey.


Kate Zoeger is loving my book! Here’s what she has to say:

“Reads beautifully…Love your thinking…

And love how your work has inspired and transformed the lives of thousands upon thousands, from 5-year-olds on up!

Mine included! Thank you, incomparable Robin Lithgow.”


Kate—actress, puppeteer, educator, inspiration—was one of the dozens of fabulous theatre teachers I hired into the Elementary Theatre Program in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She had a frenetic and razor-focused energy that drew kids in and kept them active for their entire lessons. She was able to spark the creative spirit in every one of her students. 

She is now retired and living in Michigan, near her daughters and grandchildren.


You can use this link to buy my book at a 20% discount:

Lessons from Shakespeare’s Classroom: Empowering Learning Through Drama and Rhetoric 



It’s a little late for Mothers’ Day but never too late to highlight opinionated women! I’ve noted before how many brilliant women appear in Erasmus’ Colloquies and argued that Shakespeare must have appreciated them: he being the creator of so many sharp-witted and powerful female characters, from Beatrice to Lady Macbeth! For my next few entries I’d like to highlight a few of the strong-willed women Erasmus brought to life. He never once created a dull one. (This and several others are in my book.)

Written forty years before Shakespeare was born, “Puerpera” (or “The New Mother” or “The Lying-in Woman”), introduces us to Fabulla, a sixteen year who has just had a baby, and Eutrapelus, a portrait painter. Here is the beginning of the colloquy:


Pruerpera  translated from the Latin original


Eutrapelus, an artist

Fabulla, a new mother, sixteen years old

(This colloquy opens with obscure references to current events of the 16th century, which we’ll leave out here)

Eutrapelus:  Honest Fabulla, I’m glad to see you. I wish you well

Fabulla: I wish you well heartily, Eutrapelus. But what’s the matter more than ordinary, that you that come so seldom to see me, are come now? None of our family has seen you this three years.

Eutrapelus:  I’ve come to congratulate you on a happy delivery

Fabulla:  Congratulate me on a safe delivery if you like, Eutrapelus. Wait to congratulate me on a happy one when you see him grown into an honest man.

Eutrapelus:  Dutifully and truly spoken, my Fabulla.

Fabulla:  I’m nobody’s Fabulla except Petronius’

Eutrapelus:  Yes, you obey only Petronius, but you don’t live only for him, I dare say. But I congratulate you further for having produced boy.

Fabulla:  But why do you think it’s better to have a boy than a girl?

Eutrapelus:  Nay, Petronius’ Fabulla (for now I’m afraid to say my Fabulla), you tell me why you’re glad to have boys rather than girls.

Fabulla:  How other women may feel I don’t know; for my part, I’m pleased now to have a boy because it was God’s will. Had he willed me to have a girl, I would have been pleased too!

Eutrapelus:  Do you imagine God has so much leisure that he attends a woman in labor?

Fabulla:  What could he better do, Eutrapelus, than preserve by propagation that which he has created?

Eutrapelus:  What could He better do, my good woman? On the contrary, if he weren’t God I don’t think he could get through so much business. King Christian of Denmark, a devout partisan of the gospel, is in exile. Francis, Kin of France, is a prisoner of the Spaniards. What he thinks of this I don’t know, but surely he’s a man of worthy of a better fate. The Emperor Charles is preparing to extend the boundaries of his realm. Ferdinand has his hands full in Germany. Bankruptcy threatens every court. The peasants raise dangerous riots and are not swayed from their purpose, despite so many massacres. The commoners are bent on anarchy. The Church is shaken to its very foundations by menacing factions. On every side the seamless coat of Jesus is torn to shreds. The vineyard of the Lord is now laid waste not by a single boar but at one and the same time by the authority of the priests and their tithes. The dignity of theologians, the splendor of monks, is imperiled. Confession totters, Vows reel. Pontifical ordinances crumble away. The Eucharist is called in question, Antichrist is awaited. The whole earth is pregnant with I know not what calamity. The Turks conquer and threaten all the while and there’s nothing they won’t ravage if their undertaking succeeds. And you ask what could He better do? No, I think it’s time for him to look out for his kingdom!

Fabulla:  What men think is most urgent may seem insignificant God. But let’s exclude God from this cast, if you will. Tell me. What are your reasons for believing it is more blessed to have a lad than a lass?

Eutrapelus:  It’s a duty to consider this the best because God, who is beyond question best, gave it. Now if God gave you a crystal cup, wouldn’t you thank Him heartily?

Fabulla:  I would.

Eutrapelus:  What if He gave you one of glass? You wouldn’t thank Him as much, would you?  – But I think I’m a bother rather than a comfort arguing these questions with you.

Fabulla:  Not at all! Fabulla’s in no danger from fables. I’ve been in bed a month now and I’m strong enough to fight.

Eutrapelus:  Then why don’t you fly out of your next?

Fabulla:  The king forbade.

Eutrapelus:  King who?

Fabulla:  A tyrant, rather.

Eutrapelus:  Who, I ask?

Fabulla:  In a word, custom.

Eutrapelus:  Ah, how many unjust commands that king makes!  — Let’s go on discussing crystal and glass then.

Fabulla:  I suppose you think man is naturally better and stronger than woman.

Eutrapelus:  So I believe.

Fabulla:  On the authority of men, to be sure. Men aren’t therefore longer lived than women? Not immune to disease?

Eutrapelus:  Not at all. But they generally excel in strength.

Fabulla:  But they themselves are excelled by camels.

Eutrapelus:  Well… but man was created first.

Fabulla:  Adam was created before Christ. Is he better? And artists usually surpass themselves in their later works.

Eutrapelus:  But God made woman subject to man.

Fabulla:  A ruler’s not better merely because he’s a ruler. And it’s the wife, not the female, who is subject. Again, the subjection of the wife is such that, though each has power over the other, nevertheless the woman is to obey the man not as a superior but a more aggressive person. Tell me, Eutrapelus, which is weaker: the one who submits to the other or the one to whom submission is made.

Eutrapelus:  I’ll yield to you in this…..


And who wouldn’t yield? This colloquy continues with Eutrapelus lecturing Fabulla on the wisest way to raise a healthy baby and getting an earful in response. In the end, Eutrapelus is able to convince the argumentative Fabulla to nurse her own baby and not leave that to a wet nurse, which defied the custom of the time. Erasmus often questions “custom.” This is one example of Erasmus’ wisdom that seems so contemporary today.

(I left intact the long list of upheavals in early 16th century Europe that Eutrapelus puts in juxtaposition to Fabulla’s domestic situation because it’s such a vivid glimpse of that time.)



Desiderius Erasmus was a really funny guy. History seems to have forgotten just how funny he was! Sadly, his brilliant, hugely influential and engaging light was all but obliterated by his conflict with the firebrand that was Luther. As I explain in my book, “Lessons from Shakespeare’s Classroom,” he was not a fighter, he was by his own admission a bit of a coward; and at the end of his life, as the bloody Reformation embroiled Europe, he retreated from the politic world  and devoted himself to writing colloquies to teach schoolboys conversational Latin.

I’ve shared some of his hilarious colloquies in previous posts, but Proci et Puellae is one that those of you familiar with Shakespeare’s comedies will recognize immediately as a source. Think of all his sparring couples: Beatrice and Benedict (Much Ado About Nothing), Viola and Olivia (Twelfth Night), Rosalind and Orlando (As You Like It), Silvius and Phebe (Also As You Like It), and, of course, Kate and Petruchio (The Taming of the Shrew). (You’ll also see his wit in full display in In Praise of Folly, which he wrote as a homage to his dear friend Thomas More). Thanks to my friend Janet Borrus, we have this video of a totally unrehearsed Proci et Puellae, or A Lover and His Lass, performed by Susan Angelo and Dov Rudnick.

(This recording was done with a cell phone and I’m an amateur and can’t seem to get it to fit, so Susan, unfortunately, gets cut off for part of her luminous portrayal. Sorry about that! If I can find someone to fix it I’ll post it again.)

Remember that Will Shakespeare only ever encountered this colloquy in LATIN!! He would have performed it as a schoolboy learning conversation Latin, the lingua franca for aspiring travelers to Europe, probably at the age of 10 or 11, and they were not published in translate in his lifetime. That’s the reason they have been largely ignored by so many scholars documenting his sources.

Currently you can purchase my book at a 20% discount, with this and  four other of the colloquies in Latin and English at:

I recently had the honor of presenting my book, “Lessons from Shakespeare’s Classroom,” to the Antioch College Alumni Association. My ties to Antioch are long and deep, as my parents met and married there and my father, Arthur Lithgow, returned when I was a child, to join the faculty. Happily, three of his colleagues in the drama and dance departments had daughters my age, so we became a small band of theatre brats. Paula Treichler, who conducts this interview, was one. Her dad. Paul, and Barrie Dallas’ dad, Meredith (Dal), along with my dad, made up the theatre department, and Jessica Langton’s mom, Louise, taught dance and choreography.

My father produced the entire canon of Shakespeare there in the 1950s and then went on to establish Shakespeare Festivals in Toledo, Akron, and Cleveland. The one in Cleveland continues to this day, as the “Great Lakes Theater.” And, of course, my father’s dramatic flair lives on in my brother John. We left Yellow Springs, home of the college, when I was thirteen, but my connection to my old friends remained strong and I was delighted to share my book with many old and new friends from the Alumni Association.

(Apologia: I’m technologically challenged and can’t figure out how to open this to the beginning, but you can scroll back to the start.)

John Ogden

A friend and a greatly admired and retired theatre teacher in the Loa Angeles Unified School District wrote this wonderful, in depth review. I couldn’t be more pleased!

On “Lessons from Shakespeare’s Classroom: Empowering Learning Through Drama and Rhetoric”

As the new Humanism spread through the European mainland in the fifteenth century, the British Isles remained something of a northern outpost, largely impervious to the strong currents of erudition on the continent. But as Robin Lithgow demonstrates in her remarkable book, “Lessons From Shakespeare’s Classroom,” England would compensate massively in learning and culture during the latter part of the sixteenth century. Robin has Shakespeare in her genes, having watched during her youth each of his plays produced by her father Arthur Lithgow at his theatre, “Shakespeare under the Stars,” on the campus of Antioch College. Her interest in writing about Shakespeare’s education as a child was to establish the degree to which the Latin Grammar Schools throughout England based all learning on the arts in general and especially on the performing arts.

In her capacity as a teacher and head of The Arts Education Branch of The Los Angeles Unified School District, Robin Lithgow was a devout believer in “engagement before information,” a phrase used by her colleague Eric Booth. In Shakespeare’s childhood, the colloquies of Dutch writer and philosopher Desiderius Erasmus were frequently used in the Latin Grammar Schools to encourage engagement and confidence in boys. Their conversational Latin gave rise to humor and enjoyment among the boys who performed them and their audiences of peers and were presented in conjunction with the formal Latin of classical dramatists such as Terence and Plautus. While the strict reliance on Latin may have been a holdover from the medieval reluctance to adopt English as the nation’s universal language, it was nonetheless a valuable link to the European Renaissance, which had been slow to cross The Channel.

In the later chapters in Lessons From Shakespeare’s Classroom, Robin Lithgow advocates an infinitely more comprehensive emphasis on arts education in our contemporary schools. She bases her conclusion on the need for students to find delight in the classroom. She laments the fact that engagement is not frequently considered in the curriculum planning of most contemporary schools, including those in our city. Erasmus died in 1536 but his impact on English Humanism was felt throughout the sixteenth century. However, as Ms. Lithgow informs us, no one was more influential in the early education of boys than Richard Mulcaster, Headmaster of The Merchant Taylors’ School in London. ‘Misogyny’ is a term in current use, though given the fact that girls and women were universally undervalued, it can’t apply to the late fifteen hundreds. Mulcaster though, championed the learning potential of girls and contributed to their advancement in higher education; and in a stratified society, he supported availing opportunities for the children of the poor.

But as Mulcaster was ahead of his time, he had to settle for training the boys from families of comfortable means to act out humorous two-character scenes for their classes and ultimately large adult audiences. Perhaps his most enduring contribution, as Robin points out, was to advance the English language as the basis for education in classrooms throughout the country, thereby questioning the notion that the mastery of Latin was indispensable.

I have considered myself an aficionado of the history of England during the Elizabethan era, but had never known of the boys’ acting companies—performing for the royal court, for London audiences in general, and in the countryside—until reading “Lessons From Shakespeare’s Classroom.” I discovered that ultimately, as the sixteenth century drew to a close the adult companies supplanted the children, performing the works of Shakespeare and his stellar contemporaries: Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, John Webster, Thomas Dekker, and others.

The value of this book is not restricted to the view we are given of the early education of history’s greatest playwright. It is reading of inestimable value to contemporary educators. Robin Lithgow’s devotion to education matches her love of William Shakespeare. She wishes, as I do, that those who determine curriculum in the twenty-first century would grasp the fact that for young people to learn they must have play—both in-class recreation and actual plays: that performing comedic colloquies is fun and enhances self-confidence, and that making art happen gives a young student a sense that he or she has explored a previously unknown realm. This experience ignites learning of all stripes. Robin Lithgow’s “Lessons From Shakespeare’s Classroom” is compelling reading for history buffs, lovers of The Bard, teachers, and those who work at the Beaudry building in downtown Los Angeles.


John Ogden is a classical actor and a retired theatre teacher in the Los Angeles schools. I am so appreciative of his enthusiasm for my book and his thoughtful and erudite reading!


Here are a few images sent to me by readers enjoying my book, “Lessons From Shakespeare’s classroom: Empowering Learning Through Drama and Rhetoric.”

I’m so delighted to see them! The first is from Scott Newstok, whose book, “How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons From a Renaissance Education,” was an inspiration for mine and the subject of a post from a few years ago. I consider it a companion book and another totally absorbing and informative read. The book’s setting, in a box of legos, is a humorous nod to my last chapter, the one on the research: “The Lego Snap of Learning.”

The second picture is from Megan Mathews, one of the most brilliant students I’ve ever had. I’m still so impressed by her and am grateful that she has remained a friend all these years

The third is from Barrie Grenell, one of my oldest friends from childhood and a seasoned editor who pointed out two errors in mine (grrr!), but nevertheless enjoyed it immensely.

I didn’t ask for the pictures. I guess they just know me and knew I would love getting them.

I love my readers!

“Lessons From Shakespeare’s Classroom” is available from Routledge Publishers.








It’s here! My book, “Lessons From Shakespeare’s Classroom: Empowering Learning Through Drama and Rhetoric” was released a week early, and I already have a great comment to share from an early reader. Ginger Culver, an artist from Seattle and a friend of my daughter, read it right away and had this to say:

“After Ukraine’s President Zelensky addressed Congress the other night, the news media people were all marveling at how he —’just an actor’—turns out to be such an amazing president. I think your mom’s book explains why. It’s what people never understand about artists: that we do not just study our craft, we study the world—through our craft!”

I couldn’t have said it better and am so delighted that this was her take-away.

Be sure in the new year to celebrate the artists in your lives and in yourselves!


If you’re eager to read the book yourself you can order it here: