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.