September 2009

LIGHTEN UP

The "Snake's" Escapes and Shakespeare

For a short while after she graduated from Allegheny College, Associate Professor of English (and "K's" resident Shakespeare scholar) Amy Smith taught at a locked-facility group home for adolescent girls who, for various reasons, had been unable to cope in the state's foster care program. The job required familiarity with techniques of passive restraint and how to work with the police. And on that job Smith met "the Snake," sobriquet of the only girl in the facility who could (and often did) escape. "The windows were designed to open no further than eight inches," says Smith, "but that was enough for this girl. She was remarkable!" Her experience in the group home, and a stint as a middle school teaching assistant, convinced Smith she wanted to teach, albeit with older students. She entered grad school (University of Illinois) where she fell in love with Shakespeare and the "glory of wordplay." For many years her favorite play has been The Taming of the Shrew, but Twelfth Night may usurp that crown. "I'm currently working on Twelfth Night," says Smith, "and the more you work on something the more you love it. It's such a smart, funny, and sad play." Those who have the good fortune to take a Shakespeare class from Smith never forget her voice - a tonal first cousin to the likes of Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, and Katherine Hepburn. Surely such a voice has been on stage? Kate? Viola? Only once, Smith says. During her study abroad in England, Smith played Emily Proctor in The Crucible.

What's the best song ever recorded?
"I had lots of Prince to choose from. The best is 'Let's Go Crazy.'"

What's your favorite childhood fairy tale or story?
"The 'Little House on the Prairie' series by Laura Ingalls Wilder"

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
"Welcome"

What's your favorite word?
"Anemone"

What's your least favorite word?
"Proactive"

What turns you on?
"Laughter"

What turns you off?
"Arrogance"

What sound do you love?
"My children's voices"

What sound do you hate?
"Ambulance sirens. They make me worry."

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
"A professional mediator"

What profession would you not like to participate in?
"Truck driver. I hate to drive."

Name a GREAT MOMENT in your liberal arts learning.
"Every time my students show me something I've never seen before. And that happens often."

Who's the person (living or dead) with whom you'd most like to spend a lunch hour?
"This one's easy: Shakespeare. And the first thing I'd ask him is, 'How'd you do it?'"

What memory from childhood still surprises you?
"The inordinate amount of time I spent on behalf of the Trix bunny so that he could eat the cereal. I wrote letters to General Mills, filled out cereal box ballots; I even had a bumper sticker!"

What is your favorite curse word?
"If I tell you, my mother couldn't read this."

What is your favorite hobby?
"Crafts. All kinds. I recently made felt owl Christmas ornaments."

What is your favorite comedy movie?
"Jump Tomorrow. It's a funky independent movie that I literally watched twice consecutively."

What local, regional, national, or world event has affected you most?
"Tiananmen Square. That event occurred just as I was graduating from college; I couldn't believe those were college students with such courage and conviction."

If a cow laughed, would milk come out of her nose?
"No. And I have some credibility on this subject. In college I once stood in line at an Ag open house for the opportunity to insert my hand into a cow's stomach. I can say with some certainty that it wasn't connected to his nose."

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