This week was great! I am honestly so impressed with the kids we have. They are all respectful, enthusiastic, and have an open mind when it comes to Shakespeare. The attitude of the kids makes going to their school on a cold dark Thursday evening so much easier. I know they will be positive and fun to be around, so missing out on campus activities is not as miserable as I thought it was going to be. I have started to look forward to being around the kids, it is a good break from campus and being around the norms I am use to.

This week we started off with two truths and a lie. It was a great game to get to know the students. They were very creative with their truths and lies. I found out what the kids liked to do for fun, I found out about their family life, and I found out what students in the room were related. After everyone had a turn, we dove right back into reading Macbeth. We finished reading through the play, and for the most part, I think the students really understand what is going on. We then started asking students if they wanted lines or not and if they had a particular character they wanted to be. We had a good range of interests for all the parts. Some people wanted a lot of lines, others wanted to be witches, and some even wanted to be Macbeth. We told the kids we would take their considerations in mind and hopefully type up a casting list this week. We also told them that next week we would start to practice acting out the play. It finally feels like the play is coming together! It is exciting.

Every week I am more and more impressed by these students. They are so smart, good hearted, and kind. It honestly makes my Thursday nights, even if I have to miss fun parties or activities that are going on around campus.

Tonight was successful, we got through more of the script, but I am a bit concerned that we need to cut more of our script. We broke up into the same small groups, which was nice because I’m finally getting to know the kids and how well they read. I did have one girl in my group who was super enthusiastic, but unfortunately she was struggling to read. She really wants a big part, but I think she will be happy with one of the witches part.

After finishing the first read-through I had my group of students tell me what parts they would prefer. Two of my children really wanted big parts and they were already acting the lines during the read through. I think they will make a great Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. In addition to that, they both also want to be witches. It is clear that the witch parts are the most popular, so I think that we are going to have many witches. I had my students give me their best witch impression again and they really love that. Both girls and boys really love those parts.

Finally, I think for the next week we will tentatively make our cast list. We are not going to do that with the kids. We are going to come to the next session with the list so that it is calm and that kids will not be fighting over parts. All in all, they were really well-behaved, which makes it very easy to teach them. The only tough times we have are when the kids first get into the room they are very restless, but it is getting much better since then, now that they know us and they know they have fun.

At the rehearsal before last, Mr. Justin Long was not in attendance. We did not know why he was not in attendance, but his presence was missed. This week, Justin Long was still not in attendance. We learned that Justin has not shown up to class at St. Joseph’s in two weeks. Justin will no longer be able to participate in the Jepson Shakespeare Project. He was helpful and communicative and he will be missed.

Even so, the role of MacBeth has a new heir. New to the group, Ms. Talia has decided that she is interested in the role of MacBeth! This is ultimately good news, as no other students have expressed interest in the part. However, I have concerns regarding Talia’s ability to speak. When she does speak, she has difficulties with pronunciation. It is often difficult to tell what she is trying to say. Despite this, I feel confident that she has chosen such a great role with the knowledge that it is a role with many lines. If she wants to read them, it should be easier for her to learn to speak them boldly and legibly.

This marks what I believe is our policy on assigning roles: to each what they want (plus a little more on the side). Each student has a role which they feel calls out to them, for example, Ms. Christine decided this week that she would be happy to play the part of Lady MacBeth. In addition to this role, each student must play a number of side parts in order to have a complete set. We have informed the students of this, saying that all of them (beyond Talia as MacBeth) will play some role in the witch scene and will often have to step in as a messenger.

This seems to be the final number of students for our time at St. Joseph’s. It will be a struggle to build the script around that number, but it should be possible. One of the script-cutting notes we discovered on Thursday was that there are entire sections of scenes, like parts of the banquet scene, that mean little to our students. We are able to cut these scenes more easily. We also realized that we need to do a lot more cutting: the reading speed of our actors is very slow and will likely prevent us from having the number of lines we would desire.

Work at the Villa is not without trouble, but is mostly forging onward to success.

Monday night was filled with games, videos, and knock knock jokes. Within that mix, me, Jessie, and Carolina were able to learn more about our individual teaching styles, and our style collectively.

We arrived to all 25 of our scholars in chairs waiting for us to begin. We started with name games. To my surprise, a lot of the students did not know each other’s names. After a few rounds of “Clap, Clap, Slap,” we asked the students if anyone could say everyones name. There were a few takers. Once they started to get sidetracked and talk, we had them take their seats off stage and we began reintroducing them to Macbeth. They remembered the story for the most part, but we showed them new, longer videos to refresh their memories. We also explained the part of Porter, where he tells three knock knock jokes. The students got a kick out of how Porter was drunk. We then told them we got to incorporate our own knock knock jokes. After asking for a few examples, one student told an inappropriate joke that resulted in him being sent home. I felt so bad because we encouraged participation and humor, we just were not expecting inappropriate humor.

While showing them this video, and having a discussion about it after, I realized it would be beneficial to know what exactly the breakdown is for the other groups sections. This way, when we explain our part in more detail, we can also explain what parts other groups will be doing. Additionally, this made me realize we need to add in more characters and make multiple Macbeths, Lady Macbeths etc. so we can split up lines. During this discussion we also were able to get a gauge for how many students wanted non speaking roles.

After we exhausted them with Macbeth, we regained in their attention with more games! We played Mafia. This was fun in theory – and always used to be my favorite game. However, the students were all peaking so it defeated the purpose. After two rounds we stopped and switched to Bullfrog.

In general, we had a much better session with these students in terms of maintaining their attention and controlling their behavior. Some improvements we made were rewarding good behavior by choosing them to be the next bullfrog. We stopped doing an activity or game as soon as it became too rambunctious. Additionally, we would get weird requests from students like can we sit in a chair in stead of the floor, and we would say if you are good this round and help us quiet the others, you can have a chair the next round.

However, going forward, I do think we can improve and have a few ideas. First, I think we need to break up the class into three groups, and Jessie, Carolina, and myself can talk with a smaller group when we go through lines. Also, I think the three of us need to see what the breakup of other groups parts are so we can explain that aspect to the students. A lot of them are intrigued with certain parts of the story that we do not have in our act, so it would be nice for them to understand that more clearly. The final idea I have is if we could show the students our act of the play in the Macbeth 2010 movie. I think that will help them see the full picture they are acting out. As we keep working with these students, we will continue to make adjustments with our ideas to better the result of our production.

Week two at Henderson left us again feeling fairly similar to last time. This week, we received a positive response from the children, but were a bit overwhelmed by how many children we had and having to control them. We begin the session by trying to play a name game in which the children made hand movements and said each others names. This game did not go as planned, as the children took too long to try to decide who they wanted to “choose” as the next person to name. We then tried another game involving an imaginary object. In this game, the children would pretend to be using an object, and then pass that object to another student who would transform the object to their own (for example I would be motioning myself putting on a hat, and I would pass it to Bridget and she would transform it into a sandwich). The point of this game was to get creative and get the children using their bodies to represent objects. While this activity went better, the children still were not quiet and it was difficult to get around the room. After the games, we showed a different Macbeth video from the last time, and we were surprised at how much the children remembered. We spent some time explaining to the children what our Act consisted of and which characters they will choose from. At one point, we explained to them that both boys and girls could be Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, to which they were surprised but open to it. My favorite part of the session was when we asked the children for knock-knock jokes (this is what we will be doing for the Porter scene) and one child made a knock knock joke having to do with Macbeth! This just demonstrated how well they were listening and understanding what we were explaining. I am looking forward to see how this group progresses. However, I am also worried that the students will be very caught off guard when they realize how difficult it is to understand Shakespeare. I hope that we will be able to explain to him this language as best we can, and they can get involved and enjoy themselves.

This week was in my opinion the most productive session we’ve had yet. We added a new member to our group and found out that one of our old ones will no longer be with us. With the constant change of actors and no knowing who will show up every week, we have had a tough time assigning roles. In light of this we tried to get the ball rolling this week by going around and each reading one line at a time. This got everyone a little more comfortable with the script and gave everyone an idea of what characters they wanted to play. Kirnst who has a very good idea of the large themes of power and corruption in the play decided that he would like to be a warlock (instead of a which) and seems very happy with this choice. Although he often gets off topic he is very aware of his role and seems happy to be apart of the production. Christine who was a part of this program last year seems to enjoy the play a lot and was able to use the table reading to decide that she wants to be Lady Macbeth. She said she liked that she was a trouble maker and seemed like one of the smartest people in the play. Derek is probably the best reader of the script and has decided that he would like to be Banquo although due to our small group, he will likely have to play multiple roles. The new girl (whose name I am forgetting) decided she wanted to play Macbeth which is great considering Justin is no longer going to be participating. This was somewhat surprising considering I thought she struggled the most with the reading of the script. All in all though this was a very productive week and I look forward to going back and making more progress next week.

Going into week two of Higher Achievement I was excited to see the kids again and get back to working on the play. I was optimistic at how this week would go because of how successful last week was. I walked into the building and the kids were so excited to see me. For the most part they all remembered my name and they were excited to start working on the play. There were a couple new faces, but they jumped right on board!

We started by doing a quick name reviewing session and then played a game of bullfrog to get the kids practicing their acting skills! The kids loved the game and they all came up with very unique ways to act out dying. After a couple rounds of this, we then sat in a circle and asked the kids what they remembered about the play Macbeth. To my surprise they were able to recount the whole play and even remembered the name of the characters! This impressed me so much. We then broke into small groups of 5 and started to read the scripts. There were about 6 kids that stood out to Natalie, Grace and I. They were very good at reading the script and were not afraid to pronounce the words. The rest of the kids were good at reading at well, but were a little more hesitant when it came to pronunciation. We did not get to read all the way through the script so we will probably start with that next time.

Week two was a success. It made me confident that we will be able to cast a great Macbeth and other characters. I am starting to form bonds with the kids and looking forward to next weeks session.

This past week we added a new Osher member to our group! We successfully recasted the roles for Macbeth, (hopefully) with little controversy. Every Osher participant was willing to be flexible in order to give our new participant a commensurate amount of lines and roles. We read through Macbeth again with our  new casting and everyone did an amazing job. The Osher participants were all moving around the room while reading their lines and were very involved. They were already ready to start blocking the scenes! After a full read through of Macbeth, we decided that during our next rehearsal we will bring props in so we can start staging the scenes so we can get a better sense of timing. I am so excited for our next rehearsal because the Osher participants seem truly excited to start blocking!

During our third meeting with OSHER, we started to get creative with our part of Macbeth. Since we had a new member added to our group, we rearranged parts for (hopefully) the last time and everyone got settled into their roles. We then did another read-through. Since most people were used to their roles and lines by this point, some blocking and greater emotion was added to the reading of the script. I was once again impressed by our actors’ abilities!

We went over some maintenance points with the participants, reminding them that next week is our Fall Break so we would not be meeting. We told them to review their parts and think about the emotions, actions and deeper meaning associated with their lines in the meantime, so we can start blocking during our next meeting. I think our skilled group provides us with a unique ability to bring some meaning and advanced acting to the JSP stage, and I am excited to see what the OSHER group comes up with.

Next, we discussed a props list. Alexa created a google doc for the class prop list, so we added a few items under our section — a severed head, fake blood, drums and trumpets, and a red cape. I am sure that our list will grow as we continue developing the play.

It will be two weeks until our next meeting, so it is time for us to start bringing our section of Macbeth to life!

This week we were more prepared with what to expect when we walked into Boushall. This time we had a couple more kids, but I don’t think we lost any, which was encouraging that they didn’t switch out of our elective. We quickly did names again before jumping in.

We started with a game called Bullfrog where the kids get to die dramatically when the bullfrog sticks their tongue out at them. They really loved this game, but it was hard to keep them quiet once they had “died.” We’ll probably have to play that one again in the future because I had kids asking me about it for the rest of the time.

We then had them tell us about what they remembered learning about Macbeth. I was surprised with how much they remembered and all the little details they told us from the video we watched last week. Then we split off into groups to start reading through the play.

At first we would read through a scene and then I would explain it to them afterwards, but that seemed to lose their attention quickly. I switched to explaining each line after it was read, and they responded much better to that. They asked some really good questions about the play like why the sons of Duncan didn’t automatically become king, and they seem really interested in the whole thing. I’m excited to see how they do when we assign parts and get them to start acting out the lines.