Of Bike Races and Bottom

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.