Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Being Cleopatra: Wrenn Schmidt

Photos by Jon Kandel

Wrenn Schmidt being Cleopatra in George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra with the Resonance Ensemble in New york, NY that ran from January 18 - February 7, 2009.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Today in History: Cleopatra's Suicide

According to some sources, Cleopatra committed suicide on this day in 30 BC [On this day: August 30]. Other sources say it was August 12th and still others claim that it was on the last day in August.

The situation was serious. The armies of Mark Antony and Cleopatra has just deserted to Octavian and Antony had committed suicide. Cleopatra was a prisoner in Alexandria. She had no hope of escaping Octavian.

Legend has it that she died after being bitten by an asp but it wasn't the modern asp, Vipera aspis, since that snake is only found in Europe. It's likely that the Romans used the word "asp" to describe all poisonous snakes. If it's true that Cleopatra used a snake to commit suicide then it was most likely the Egyptian cobra Naja haje that did the deed [Cleopatra’s Asp].

Corba venom contains a number of toxins and enzymes. For the biochemist, it's most famous for the presence of phospholipase A2, an enzyme that cleaves glycerophospholipids, the main components of cell membranes. This leads to disruption and death of cells, especially red blood cells and lymphocytes in the blood stream. A picture of cobra venom phospholipase A2 bound to a lipid molecule (left) can be found in most biochemistry textbooks.

Hyaluronidase is an enzyme found in many snake venoms. It degrades hyaluronic acid, a complex carbohydrate of the sort found in many glycoproteins. Hyaluronic acid is an important component of cartilage where it forms a central strand for attachment of proteoglycan molecules. The breakdown of cartilage lining the blood vessels leads to massive hemorhaging. The combination of phospholipase A2 and hyaluronidase could eventually lead to death but it probably wasn't the immediate cause of death for Cleopatra. As it turns out, there are other things in the cobra venom that are even more lethal.

These other components of cobra venom include various cobra venom factors that interfere with the complement pathway leading to an extreme over-stimulation similar to that seen in septic shock. The venom also includes a number of neurotoxins that gain access to the central nervous system when blood vessels break down. The combination of all these proteins can cause death within minutes of receiving a cobra bite. However, many people survive cobra bites suggesting that the Cleopatra story may not be true.

-SANDWALK by Laurence A. Moran

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Stacy Schiff Tour Dates

September 7th at 7:30 AM
Cincinnati Museum Center
Women's Leadership Breakfast
1301 Western Ave
Cincinnati, OH

September 7th at 7:00 PM
Cincinnati Museum Center
1301 Western Ave
Cincinnati, OH

September 8th at 12:00 PM
Union League Club of Chicago Luncheon
65 W. Jackson Blvd
Chicago, IL

September 8th at 7:00 PM
Winnetka Congregational Church
Sponsored by Book Stall Books
725 Pine St
Winnetka, IL

September 12th at 7:00 PM
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

September 13th at 8:00 PM
Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

September 15th at TIME TBD
Unity Temple on the Plaza
Sponsored by Rainy Day Books
708 W. 47th StKansas City, MO

September 16th at 12:30 PM
Left Bank Books
Winning Women Series Luncheon
Venue TBD
St. Louis, MO

September 19th at 7:00 PM
Smithsonian Associates
National Museum of Natural History
Baird Auditorium
1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC

September 20th at 6:00 PM
Boston Public Library
Rabb Lecture Hall700 Boylston St
Boston, MA

September 21st at 7:00 PM
Wellesley Free Library
Sponsored by Wellesley Bookstore
530 Washington St
Wellesley, MA

September 22nd at 7:00 PM
New Canaan Library
Library Luncheon at Woodway Country Club
540 Hoyst StDarien, CT

September 23rd at 7:00 PM
New York Public Library Live!
New York Public Library
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
5th Ave and 42nd St
South Court Auditorium
New York, NY

October 1st at TIME TBD
The New Yorker FestivalVenue TBD
New York, NYOctober 4th at 7:00 PM
Milwaukee Public LibraryCentennial Hall
Sponsored by Boswell Book Company
733 N. 8th St
Milwaukee, WI

October 5th at 7:00 PM
Minneapolis Public RadioFitzgerald Theatre
10 E Exchange StSt. Paul, MN

October 6th at 7:00 PM
Books and Books
Venue TBD
Miami, FL

October 13th at TIME TBD
Egyptian Embassy
Washington, DC

October 18th at 7:00 PM
Louisville Public Library
Venue TBD
Louisville, KY

October 22nd at TIME TBD
Texas Book Festival
Austin, TX

October 25th at 7:00 PM
Jewish Community Center Denver
Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center
350 S. Dahlia
Phillips Hall
Denver, CO

October 26th at 7:30 PM
Seattle Arts & Lectures Series
Benaroya Hall
Seattle, WA

October 27th at 7:00 PM
Portland Arts & Lectures Series
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Portland, OR

March 2, 2012 at 7:30 PM
With Tilar Mazzeo
Folger Institute Shakespeare Library
Elizabethan TheatreWashington, DC

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Being Cleopatra: Dorothy Green

Dorothy Green (1886-1961) being Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre four times, in 1912 (with Sir Frank Benson as Antony), 1921, 1924, and 1927.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Finding the Beauty of Cleopatra

Finding the beauty of Cleopatra
By Maggie Knowles
The Portland Daily Sun
Jul 13, 2011 12:00 am

I am looking at a marble bust of an ancient woman. Her profile looks like the “before” picture at a plastic surgeon’s office prior to a nose job, lip fillers and chin implant. Nothing strikingly attractive about her, yet this is Cleopatra, oft assumed to be the most beautiful woman the world has ever known.

Her beauty is a historical, if not accurate, theme. Shakespeare wrote of her in “Antony and Cleopatra,” “For her own person/it beggar’d all description: she did lie in her pavilion-cloth of gold, of tissue-O’er/picturing that Venus where we see/The fancy outwork of nature.”

Paintings of her likeness created in the 18th century depict her as a luscious blond with a curling mane and blue eyes (rather impossible given her Macedonian genes). Elizabeth Taylor played her and Angelina Jolie is slated to in an upcoming film as well. The Queen of Egypt represents beauty du jour.

There is nothing specifically documented about her physical allure in Roman writings and artistic depictions of her are rather masculine and homely. Plutarch, the Greek historian, wrote that Cleopatra’s beauty was not “the sort that would astound those that saw her.”

How did we, then, even come to assume she was this gorgeous creature floating the Nile on nothing but her golden looks?

I understand canning Jolie and throwing a wig on John Cleese would leave a weird taste in moviegoer’s popcorn coated mouths, but does Cleopatra need to be “beautiful” for us to believe she was not only a powerful ruler but also captivated the hearts of the powerful Julius Caesar and Mark Antony?

While poets who knew her did not mention her physical beauty (or lack thereof), they did give high accolades for her wit, intelligence and melodic voice. It was her character, her actual beauty, that captivated her kingdom. She didn’t need to rely on her physical appearance because she had so much more to offer.

Are you seeing the lesson here, ladies? Here is a woman who was a troll and had enough je ne sais quoi to seduce the world for over 2,000 years. She captivates us not because of her face, there are plenty of forgotten pretty faces, but because even in the first century she was a modern woman. She was powerful, brilliant, charming, charismatic, witty and by all accounts, not shy about her sexuality. Yet for all of her competence as a ruler, Cleopatra identified herself most with Isis, the goddess of life and magic — a goddess revered for her utter femininity.

No matter your generation or how much you spend on perfecting your façade, you need to reconnect with your inner Cleopatra. It is cliché, but looks do fade (or at least become buried under a maze of wrinkles and sun damage). It is cruel, but it is nature.

Who are you going to be when you are Age X? The person that says, “I used to look so good in a bikini before I had three kids…I used to…I used to…hey, where did everyone go?”

Or are you the Cleopatra of your circle, the one at the top of every party invite list, the one people fight to sit next to at dinner, the one people come to for advice because you are so wise — not because you have smooth thighs and pouty lips?

We all know stunning women that become as vapid and unappealing as stale Chinese food because all of their focus is on the external. On the contrary, haven’t you ever fallen in love with someone who wasn’t “your type” but once you got to know them became the person you couldn’t imagine a breath without?

Make your goal for the rest of the summer to boost up your Cleopatrian beauty. Put less focus on what you see in the mirror. Don’t cement over the inner radiance that comes from being delightful, clever and confident. I have been (trying!) to wean myself off of slathering on make-up before leaving the house, which makes me feel incredibly vulnerable and insecure; I have yet to take off my sunglasses when I don’t have mascara on. But it’s a step.

Instead of watching whatever crap is stored on your DVR, do something relevant. Buy a book featured on the NYT best-seller list, go see a lecture at a local school, study art at a gallery. Get in touch your feminine mystique: Take a belly dancing class, walk through a labyrinth, get a henna tattoo all over your tummy, the center of your life-wielding force.

When we sacrifice the powerful beauty we hold in our wit, charm and brains for surface beauty, we pull away from what it means to be a real woman. And to that, Cleopatra was indeed one of the most beautiful women the world has ever known. So are you.

(Maggie Knowles is a columnist for The Portland Daily Sun. Her column appears Wednesdays. See her blog at

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cleopatra Commercial

A Summer's Eve commercial for its feminine cleansing products featuring Cleopatra. The company says its new ad campaign is a lighthearted tribute to the vagina.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kids get in FREE at the Cleopatra exhibit in Cincinnati

AUGUST SPECIAL! Buy one adult admission to Cleopatra: The Exhibition at the Cincinnati Museum Center and get two free child admissions! Offer not available for online ticket purchases. To reserve your timed entry for your family, call today (513) 287-7001. Offer ends August 31, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Being Cleopatra: Sarah Skinner

Cleopatra taking charge


Cleopatra parade

Cleopatra dance

Cleopatra parade

Cleopatra dance

Cleopatra dance

Cleopatra dance

Cleopatra and Drummers

Cleopatra dance

Cleopatra seduces Mark Anthony

The kiss
Sarah Skinner being Cleopatra in the bellydance, Cleopatra Suite, which was also choreographed by Sarah Skinner and performed at the World Dance New York.
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