Although the Shakespeare Project performance never got a chance to come to fruition, I believe that our portion of the play would have gone very well. Our Osher participants were very prepared for their performance and I think we would have seen some acting from our participants that would have come out differently because of the thrill of performing live. I was very excited to see our Osher participants finally perform their portion of the play because I knew how hard they all worked. Each participant would take their scripts, mark them up at every performance and practice their lines at home. We had such brilliant conversations during our rehearsals about the characters’ goals and their inner ambitions. I was very interested to see the other participants from the elementary schools’ portions of the play because i expected there to definitely be some difficulties with their productions simply due to their ages. Overall I am very pleased with our Osher participants’ productivity throughout the play.
Okay, so half of this blog is going to be focused on our final meeting at St. Joseph’s Villa (which was somewhat upsettingly similar to our first meeting) while the second half of the blog is going to focus on how I imagine the performance would have gone had it happened. When I say that our final meeting was unfortunately similar to our first, it simply has to do with the fact that we had no idea who would be showing up. At any given point, throughout the entire semester, we could have lost a Macbeth, a Lady MacDuff, or gained seven people, none of whom would return the next week. It got really difficult to manage casting as students often returned after a few weeks of absences hoping that they would return to the role they left. This usually wasn’t the case as we were constantly filling roles. The students seemed to get upset but I will say I think that throughout this semester the issue of casting actually taught the students an interesting lesson about responsibility and accountability. With the help of Timone giving the kids a hard time about being fickle toward something they had committed to, the kids really started learning about the importance of sticking to their word, or at least they understood that the consequences for not sticking to their word (losing their part) were legitimate.
As far as our last rehearsal went, well, it was a bit of a dud. I will say that overall it was a resounding success because for the first time we were able to sit down at the table and have people sit down, stand up, come, go and speak in the general vicinity of when they were supposed to. Also, we finished our part of the play without any major speed bumps, so I can’t complain. For these reasons, I was really proud of the kids and I think, despite some of their unwillingness to show it, they were proud of themselves. The reason I say it was a dud, though, is that there were some people there we hadn’t seen in weeks, and some that we had been seeing weren’t there. It kind of set us back a few weeks, but with the help of some of our student leaders such as Deandre and Kristina, everybody stayed on track.
One thing that I will say about the final rehearsal, and every other rehearsal for that matter, is that it was fun. And to be honest, in a scenario like this, I’m not sure if there’s anything of higher importance. First of all, it keeps the students coming back and it keeps them from being miserable in your presence, but they also pay closer attention to the material than even they realize. Week in and week out, we kept the energy level high despite the rotating cast of characters. Because of this, students didn’t really get discouraged and even in times of struggle, everybody was able to make jokes and we were able to keep a positive attitude about the performance. At a certain point, the kids aren’t going to be worried about the material. They just want to enjoy themselves. In my opinion, it was our job to make sure that happened as well. Of course we were there to teach the students, and I think they gleaned some important lessons from Shakespeare. But at the same time, we are just 21 year old kids who don’t have the right to demand too much out of anybody, and for that reason we found it was important to be friendly and energetic with the students. I guess I had the mindset that if I wasn’t going to teach them lessons about Macbeth, I could teach them a few things about overcoming anxieties and finishing something you started. If I had a mark in that sense, this was well worth it.
Now, I’d like to make a short note about how I think the performance would have gone. To be honest, I think it depends on your standards. If you want a visceral, persuasive performance of Macbeth you would have been in the wrong place. But if you wanted to see a group of young students overcome their fears and complete something they put a lot of time into, then I think this would have been a resounding success. Regardless of who was going to show up, I know that the kids would have given it their best shot, because those who were there never quit while they were there. A few students definitely would have stood out, as a few of the memorized a couple of their lines. But for the most part, the play would have consisted of rigid, scared kids looking at their lines and speaking too quietly. The important part is that after the play you would have been looking at a group of kids who were proud of themselves, and I would have been proud of them too.
There was a great wave of disappointment when I received the email saying that the show Friday had been cancelled. Bright and early I had printed fresh copies of scripts, gone through and highlighted each scholar’s lines. As Dr. Bezio said, “the curse of Macbeth strikes again”. All I could think about that afternoon was how upset our scholars must have been. Although many of them had shown disinterest in attending, there were a multitude of scholars that were looking forward to being on stage. They had practiced at home and really gave it their all during rehearsal.
I remember the first week of rehearsal, and the looks Jessie, Bridget and I exchanged. There were approximately 30 fifth grade students staring back at us and they were loud, wild and distracted. I was completely apprehensive of the weeks to come. Those weeks were definitely not easy. With each week that went by, we were able to control the scholars more and keep them engaged. There came a long stretch of time without rehearsal, and our anxiety of putting the show together came on strong. We had yet to cast roles and read through the script. Two weeks before the show, the scholars finally had scripts in their hands. I was completely impressed by their reading skills (especially of Shakespeare) and the determination they held. They supported and encouraged each other. Although they did not fully act their lines, they put emotion into what they were saying.
Although they did not perform, the scholars made Bridget, Jessie and I very proud. The last run through we had at rehearsal was great and I know that the performance would have been just as good, if not better. I’m thankful for the relationship we built with our scholars. Last semester for my justice class, I volunteered at Henderson-Higher Achievement. This semester, I was able to work with familiar faces which made the experience better than I could’ve imagined. I plan on continuing to volunteer at Henderson, if my schedule allows, to maintain these bonds. Come the spring, I hope my group can work with Higher Achievement to put on Macbeth. I would love to see them perform, especially after the challenges faced and all the hard work put in. This was definitely an experience to remember.
As should be apparent from the previous posts, our show was canceled. The first snow of the season always sends Virginia into a fit of panic. This snow was somewhat serious for what we usually receive, and I praise the school system for its caution in preserving the safety of the students. Even so, I was disappointed to hear that our performance had been canceled. I responded by ignoring it. I have not looked at this project for the last five days, only choosing now to reengage with it.
I have no idea what our performance would have been like. Unlike other groups, we were unable to review permission slips to see who would have attended. If anything, the last practice before the canceled performance left us in a situation where our most reliable actors would probably be missing. In all likelihood, our performance would have been a disappointment and a disaster, with me, Jimmy, Luke, Grant, Professor Bezio, and Timone on stage, filling in for those who were absent. Even so, a good number of students at St. Joseph’s put in a great deal of effort. Spurred on by Timone, we saw actual improvement over the course of the semester. Deandre, who was to play MacBeth, performed admirably well at the final practice. He would have likely been absent, but he engaged in the practice and in our project.
My biggest regret is that last practice before the canceled performance. Due to the amount we needed to improve and the limited time we had, we moved from one thing to another with little time for pleasantries. We were unable to stay an extra thirty minutes. When leaving, I did not take the time to tell the students how much I appreciated what they had done over the course of the semester. In my sheltered college lifestyle, I had not checked the weather or even recognized the chance for the play to be canceled.
Maybe, if all hope of a Spring performance falls through, I will have to visit the Villa again.
If you had asked me at the beginning of the semester whether I would have liked our Macbeth performance to be cancelled, secretly, I might have said yes. “It’s when ALL my other finals are due, I could use the extra time to study, and is the performance really going to be that great anyway?” I could see myself saying. But my reaction on Friday was completely the opposite.
After our last rehearsal on Monday, I had some time to reflect on the hard work we and our OSHER participants have put in throughout the semester and the relationships we have built with them. I was so excited to see our participants shine on stage, and I could tell how eager they were to act. So when I got word that the show might be cancelled, I was very disheartened. Yet even then I did not think it would become a reality – coming from Boston, where snow hardly ever cancels plans and I would drive to high school in 4 feet of snow on a learner’s permit, I always have high hopes!
I was in class when I got the final word that the show was cancelled, and my professor actually asked me if something was wrong! I know how excited our participants were about the show, and I was really excited to see everything come together, costumes and all. I was also excited to see the children perform – the other groups kept talking about how our act would be better than theirs, but I think it is a different type of joy to see kids who are just learning their first Shakespeare play perform. I remember my first time acting in Shakespeare play in sixth grade. It was messy, but there was something special about it.
We did not get to see the final show, but I do not think our effort was for nothing. I learned how to direct actors having very little acting skills myself, I built relationships, and I learned to understand some of the deeper themes in Macbeth.
Remember in elementary school when you would sleep with your PJs inside out, put a spoon in the freezer, and standby your house phone just waiting for school to call a delay? Well, waiting around on Friday I felt completely the opposite. Carolina, Jessie, and I were all on standby refreshing our emails and sending each other group messages regarding the play. The show must go on. We were so eager to receive an email, “Full send to St. Josephs.” Unfortunately, that was not the final verdict. My group was so upset we were not able to watch all the scholars and OSHER adults preform.
A production that built anticipation for an entire semester had high expectations in my mind. Not that the acting would be fantastic, but that I would be able to see each of my classmates come together and show off their hard work. In fact, it was nearly impossible to visualize the outcome, so my imagination of the outcome was pretty spectacular. As my group practiced, they became more comfortable with their lines and actually added inflection to their delivery. It would have been fun to see if they would have dramatized it anymore in the moment. My favorite line in my part was one of Banquo’s. He says, “Ay, my good lord.” The scholar acting out Banquo would add to it and say, “AYYY, mah guud Lord” and it was so cute. If after two days on the script our scholars were able to get more creative, I could only imagine what other group’s acting abilities developed into.
It would have been incredibly rewarding to see the final production. But, the fact that we were unable to execute does not take away from the experience as a whole. The last practice, we had wonderful run-throughs of our part. I was so proud and congratulated my specific group, and the other group that only had two scholars. Both those scholars were so happy with their delivery that they asked if they could give me a hug. Of course, I did the side hug we were taught in class, but it was still so cute that they wanted a hug.
I really wished we had brought them treats for the final practice, and was hoping to have brought them something after their show Friday. This routine practice was something I will miss, but it will hopefully encourage me to volunteer for an after school program next semester. I would love to try to do something in the spring with them, or maybe just drop by a practice if Stage and Screen is doing a play again with the same program.
Unfortunately, we were unable to have our play due to the weather. We were very disappointed, because we knew that a handful of the kids were really looking forward to performing. I have high hopes that if the play did go as planned, it would’ve gone very well. To our surprise, Brandie (our site coordinator) ended up getting a good amount of permission slips back. This was encouraging because it showed students were serious about coming to the play! When we told Brandie that the play would not be on, she immediately asked if we could schedule to do it another time. Considering how enthusiastic the children were, I can only imagine the play would’ve gone well.
I was particularly interested in seeing the OSHER participants play. I do research for Dr. Berry in the psych department who specializes in older adults, and have learned about adult development through that research. From reading the journal entries, it appears as if the OSHER participants were very into the play and had been preparing for weeks.
In terms of how I foresee our part would’ve gone, I anticipated about 15 students showing up. This would’ve been stressful in the beginning, as we would’ve had to completely reassign positions. We would next need to acquaint them with the props. We never had an opportunity to bring the props to practice, so they would probably initially behave poorly with them. Once they settled down, as they usually did, I can imagine they would be ready to go. Since we didn’t have many practices, the scholars didn’t show much emotion and action in how they performed, so I assume they would’ve been more or less reading off the page. However, I do think it would’ve been a very fun experience for them and us! I hope we could figure something out come spring semester to do with the groups!
This week was the last week before the performance. Although we never were able to have the actual performance (as will be discussed in the next post), we still feel as if it was a strong way to end our work with the scholars. When we got to Henderson, the children immediately got into the groups we were in last time. In fact, some even had their scripts and name tags from the week prior. We had a couple of kids missing and a few new ones, but were able to add them in accordingly. I quickly met with my group and, when I felt as if they were doing well, I went over to work with the one scene with two students in it. The section with two students was the only group that didn’t have a group leader (Bridget, Carolina, and I). However, when I went over to them they had been practicing on their own for quite some time. The Lady Macbeth of the two was very interested in the plot, and would stop when reading over the script to ask me what certain things meant. I explained to them what was going on and we discussed how they could add emotion into the scene, as it was the scene right after Macbeth killed Duncan, so emotion would be vital.
After meeting in small groups, we decided to do a run through of our whole section of the play. Since we split our part up, it was important we made transitions smooth. At first, it was difficult to get the students to be respectful and watch each other. As the play went on, they became more interested in watching. While my specific group behaved fairly well, other groups in the room were not as focused. For example, the kids in Bridget’s group were saying how hungry they were and how they didn’t want to be there. I think the contrast between some kids being incredibly into the play, while others wanting nothing to do with it is interesting.
While this was our last time with the kids, I was extremely hopeful for the play that we would’ve put on that Friday.
Our group was very sad to get the email informing us that production has been cancelled. After putting in 9 weeks with these students its unfortunate that we would be able to see the final production. While we were sad to see the show cancelled, we did have some serious concerns about being able to field a full or even partial cast. Between behavioral problems and other complications, our cast was constantly changing and usually shrinking. Despite this, we had some students who were seriously getting into their roles and enjoying their characters. Some of our last practices were our best as we were finally able to get some stage directions down and do complete run throughs of scenes.
Overall this has been a great experience. While I would have loved to have a consistent group throughout our whole time there, I think we were able to do a good job with what we were given. Given our constantly changing group of students, we made one of our priorities to make sure that the students knew what was going on in the play rather than just have them read words they dont understand off the paper. I think in this regard we were very successful. We had students really grasp the concepts we were explaining and they were able to communicate the message in their own words. Outside of our students, I think this was also a learning experience for the four of us. This project required much more patience than I would have initially thought and was filled with setbacks. That being said, I think we did a great job overcoming all this and really connected with the students over the 9 weeks. This was a great project overall and it is too bad the final show never got put on.
I woke up this Friday morning and went to my 10:30 class. As I was leaving the class room to head back home to shower, change, eat lunch, and then head to the performance, I received a text message from one of my friend that said it was suppose to snow. I first laughed and thought “no way we get more than a dusting”. As I continued to head back to the apartments I checked weather.com and saw that we were suppose to get 1-3 inches. For Richmond, that is a lot of snow. When I read this, I immediately thought about our production being cancelled, but I honestly did not think that was going to happen. Once I was home and had relaxed for a little bit, I checked my email and saw that Dr. Bezio had emailed us. Again, this email was a “up in the air” email, she said things might be cancelled. I was sad when this was a possible thought coming from my teacher, rather than the thought just coming from my head. From this point on, I literally checked my email every 5 minutes and was texting my fellow directors.
When we got the email that said the performance was cancelled I was immediately heart broken. First, I was sad for our scholars, especially for our Macbeth. Macbeth had worked so hard, was so invested, and was so creative when it came to acting. He was so excited every time we had rehearsal and I felt like we let him down. Next, I was honestly disapointed for myself, Natalie, and Grace. We had spent so much time with these kids and I really felt like I bonded with them. I am really hoping I am able to work with Higher Achievement next semester to keep these relationships alive.
Overall, this experience was unique and I learned a lot. I loved bonding with the children and creating relationships. I really learned how to be patient, how to tame a rowdy group and how appreciate the good fortune that I have.