This Wednesday Rachel, Lindsay, and I had our first meeting with the old folks from OSHER. They met us in Jepson and we were able to get started on our project with three of the five members we will be working with this semester. The other two members were unable to attend and will be in attendance next weekend. It was a great first meeting and we look forward to a fun project throughout the semester.

We started our meeting a little late because of some confusion with the room number and a few old folks waiting in a different section of Jepson. Once we found everybody, we played the game that we played in class by having them come up with emotions and scenes and then acting them out. At first they were hesitant, but by the end they seemed to really enjoy the game and the acting. After we each went through a few times, we stopped in order to go over Midsummer and explain our act to our fellow actors. We gave a brief summary of the other 4 acts then spent some time going over the main characters in our act and what our plan would be for the upcoming meetings. We will be dividing up lines and assigning roles during our next meeting. It should be exciting.

This past Thursday Lydia and I met with our group and advisor, Corinne. We began the rehearsal with general introductions so Lydia and I could get to know who these kids were and what their interests are. There were 7 kids present out of the total 10 and they all knew each other very well. Considering their age group (11-13), it was clear that they would challenge us with sass and disrespect but I am confident in my abilities to keep them on task. This isn’t to say they aren’t very excited to put on a play — they were already trying to cast themselves!

Another accomplishment from this past week was describing the very confusing plot summary of Midsummer Night’s Dream. Lydia and I harped on the four Athenians and their twisting relationships, as that is the main premise of our Act (II). The girls were very excited at the idea of a love story…the guys not so much. They were careful to maintain a macho attitude by holding a football and talking about their girlfriends from this past summer. That being said, I am sure they will be happy to tap into the personalities of the characters.

Finally, we played an improv game of charades which was very difficult as the boys only wanted to make football references.

Overall, I may be overly optimistic about the abilities of my group but I am looking forward to getting to know each of them better and reading through the Act our next time there.


This week I met with our site advisor Corinne, and Oliver and I conducted our first rehearsal. Corinne showed me around the site during our meeting and told me a little about the kids participating in our elective. We will have a total of 10 kids ages 11-13, however, only 7 could come to our first rehearsal. Corinne told me the Youth Life kids were fighting to get spots in the Thursday theatre elective, so the ones who were chosen are all very excited and happy to be there. She also warned me that they were a sassy group and most likely going to test my authority. She was absolutely right. The kids were fun, but Oliver and I clearly have a challenge ahead of us if we want to maintain control, keep practices on schedule and stay focused on the project. The Youth Life center we are working out of is really nice. We have access to both a small classroom as well as a large performance room with a stage. This week we kept it in the classroom. We began with introductions (asking everyone their name, age and a personal fun fact), did a walk through of the plotline of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (trying to make it as relatable and clear as possible), and then ended with the same acting game we played in class (we asked them to choose characters from TV, media, sports, etc. rather than the play). I think everyone had fun, but two of the kids were very shy and, unwilling to participate. It’s my goal to break them out of their shells by the end of the project. Another challenge Oliver and I will have to confront is reading levels. Corinne told me two kids in particular really struggle with reading. Right now Oliver and I just plan to make everyone feel as comfortable and open as possible about the reading, and we’ll do one on ones if necessary. The kids are very excited about the romance portion of the plot, and they asked if we could choreograph some kissing into the play. I did say maybe, but I’m not sure they are mature enough to handle it. Overall I’m a little nervous about the group staying on task, and I’m not sure we’ll be very prepared come show time. Next rehearsal we are hoping to read through the scripts and cast roles. I’m predicting total chaos.

When arriving at St.Joseph’s Villa, my group mates and I were somewhat shocked about the amount of land the organization had. We then met up with Haley who turned out to be even more upbeat and outgoing in person than over the phone. She was very excited to tell us about every aspect of the organization and then preceded to take us on a tour. Before the tour I imagined there would be a central area where the students would be congregated. In fact, there are four separate schools with different purposes. We toured the three schools that has the students we will more likely be working with. The first school was one for those with diagnosed illnesses. There were only a few kids here that seemed to want and try to branch out. Many of the teachers expressed how most of the students already act in some way or another, therefore they believed that the acting would not be an issue. This idea held constant throughout the three schools that we visited. The next school, the alternative school, saw a few more students who were skeptic about acting. Due to being expelled from other schools, these kids may have some behavioral issues. Yet the teachers all seemed to have a way of getting them to give their attention. I believe they will be able to branch out more than they previous thought they even could. The final school was a private school which consists of students who did not fit in as well at other schools around the city. There was a great number of interested students here. I believe that this group may be the most comfortable with the task that we may ask them to do. All in all, the trip was lengthier than expected. At times it seemed that Haley could be distracted very easily. We left a lot later than intended. I hope that in the future she will help the process stay on time. Overall, I think this will be a learning experience for all involved with the program.

After finally concluding the days and times for interacting with our sites, I was able to contact Haley Turner at St. Joseph’s Villa. While we were not able to get in touch for a few days, she finally called and we began to discuss what to expect for the semester. Haley seemed to be really excited about the opportunity that was being brought forward to the students. Nevertheless, there were many questions as to our experience as well as giving us a bit of background information to the types of students that could be expected to interact with us. While I was unaware of what the program had to offer, it seemed as though some of the kids had troubled pasts. Overall, it seemed that there was a sense of excitement throughout the program to try and do something new. We were able to settle on a time and are prepared to go and tour the facility for the first time on next Thursday.

Damn the bike race. Not only did the World Cycling Championships make it take an hour and fifteen minutes to get from the University of Richmond to the bus I am currently on (en route to DC), but it also prevented Allison, Taylor, and I from meeting our group of JSP students from John Marshall High School. So as we look towards next week, my questions linger: Did these kids choose to be there? Do they want to work with us? Will they respect us?

Additionally, I have begun to wonder if any of these questions will be answered in the first session with our students, anyway. Perhaps it is better to come focused on the material, rather than coming ready to judge the situation according to my various concerns.

And materials, we have! On Thursday, Taylor, Allison and I completed our script for the project. After initially deciding to cut Part 2 of Act IV, in hopes of keeping our script as simple as possible, during our revisions this week, we decided to keep the scene after all. We did this for multiple reasons: pragmatically, it gives us even more flexibility to add students to our scene, depending on how big our group is, or to double students who did recieved less scene time intially. More importantly, however, we re-added the scene in order to leave Act IV on a more exciting, let’s-all-band-together-and-face-the-Duke kind of note.

I think our final decision to re-add the second scene to our script was a good one, and required some vision on our part in imagining the kind of feeling/vibe we want our students to take away from their project. It’s a bit meta that the scene they are acting out depicts a bunch of untrained, non-actors preparing to present a classic play in an intimidating setting (JSP!).

While, as people who have read the play, we know everything gets wrapped up neatly in the end, our students might not have the same perspective on the play as a whole. Rather, their impression of Midsummer over the coming weeks will be very much limited to Act IV. While originally our script would end with Bottom’s confused, albeit amusing, long speech, we took Scene 2 off our cutting board in order to allow the students to have a moment of resolved tension at the end of their act. It also allows us to see Bottom in a different way- as a leader, even. Bottom’s rejoining of the Mechanics in Scene 2 is a happy and inspiring moment for the group; they are out of sorts over the loss of their actor, but to their excitement, Bottom strolls in, and gives us more to laugh at. However, beyond the humor, we hope that the students see how even Bottom spends a bit of his time in the play’s spotlight as a hero of sorts. Not only is the scene simple and fun, but it adds perspective to ideas/conceptions of leadership in different settings.


Just thought I’d write to say I’m up and runnin’ and figured it out!

But today we finished cutting Act 5 and have our script. Yesterday we met with our groups for the first time. We had a lady and 2 gentlemen. They were fabulous! We played an ice breaker game (the one we played in class but no with characters, with emotions and random occurrences in life)

That was super fun; they were totally into it and got into character! Then for the remaining time we basically just gave a broad overview of the whole play. Some of them new it well, some kind, and some not at all. So we gave them the Shakespeare scoop. But overall, successful first meeting and excited we’ll have the scripts for next meeting!

Take 2…  In stead of CHAT our group will now be working with OSHER, a program that was founded 2004 by the School of Professions and Continuing Studies at the University of Richmond.  The goal of this organization is to provide learning opportunities to retired individuals through classes, community outreach, small groups and much more.  We will have a group of roughly five individuals working with us this semester to put on act five of A Midsummers Night’s Dream.  This week we met in Jepson and following introductions played an ice breaker game we learned in class.  We made two piles of cards, one with emotions and one with situations, and took turns choosing a card from each pile and acting out the scenes as the emotion card proscribed.  It was a fun way to initially connect with our group and get the creative juices flowing.  We then went quickly over the plot as one of the members of the group has not read the play. Today in class, much to the chagrin one of our group members who came to our first meeting The Complete works of Shakespeare in hand, we finished cutting our scene and will have it printed for our next session.  We have a fun, animated and enthusiastic group which should make this process all the more enjoyable!

This week we found out that we will be working with St. Joseph’s middle school and high school students. Kieran, Benjamin, and I have been working to cut down the play to a manageable length in preparation for next week. We have determined that we will be working with our students every Thursday from 1:45-3 starting next week. We are looking forward to meeting our approximately 10 students so that we can hopefully get a better sense of their individual personalities to cast roles. We don’t plan to begin reading Midsummer next week, instead we are going to take a look at the space and meet our students.

We found out this week that we would not be working with CHAT anymore, but rather with OSHER. This means that instead of working with kids we will be working with older humans who will be able to drive themselves to our meetings. I am extremely excited to work with all of them because I am sure they will all have plenty of stories to tell and will be able to share their experiences through acting during our time together. It will definitely be a different experience than what I was initially expecting, but I am looking forward to it. Since we have a lower amount of people though,  I will probably have to act in the play. At first I didn’t know how I felt about it, but the more I think about it the more excited I am about it. I am looking forward to a great experience!