After last week’s success, Lydia and I decided the kids were ready to come together and begin acting out the Act. Well, that wasn’t quite what happened. When they are all together, they are very distracted and loud to the point that Lydia and I cannot achieve much. That being said, we successfully did our first run through and some of the boys that didn’t read at all in the first two weeks were reading large roles! I am confident in the Athenian’s acting, but I am a little nervous about Oberon and Puck. Our Oberon frequently says how he isn’t going to come to the show and barely cooperates (even though he did a great job last week). Our Puck hasn’t shown up in two weeks…
I think we are going to separate the kids between the Athenians and the Fairies again this week so we can go over lines more and begin blocking and actual acting. Hopefully in doing so we will be able to run through the script twice before going to play basketball. As far as my personal relationship is concerned, I can tell boys look up to me, even if they won’t admit it. They love playing sports with me after our read through and they respond to my “demands” significantly more so than the first few weeks. I am hoping to leverage this trust to get them to actually begin to act, rather than just read.
(Originally written September 26, 2015; Posted now)
Despite our excitement to immediately work with the students on Monday, we had to cancel due to the highly anticipated bike race through Richmond. Laura and I had been emailing back and forth in order to create and tweak plans for when we would arrive at John Marshall. Earlier on Monday, she emailed me and mentioned that school was sending all of the students home. We agreed that we would be meeting our students for the first time on Monday, September 28th!
In spite of this little mishap, we were able to accomplish a lot of work in class. Previously, Taylor, Molly, and I read and timed the act; We transformed the act onto a document and all edited together. We associate our act as the act that solves all of the major plot holes so we wanted to eliminate extraneous sections that did not help with this ideal. For example we discussed the idea of eliminating Bottom and the Mechanicals. We wanted to simply the act to make it funnier and easier on our student playing Bottom. After many revisions, agreed on including it into the cut script. This decision was made with several considerations. One was after talking to Dr. Bezio, eliminating this mechanical interaction could potentially eliminate the fluidity and continuity between the fourth and fifth acts. Another reason was the fact that we had no idea how many kids would appear. We wanted our script to be flexible so that any of the students could present.
We took the film and we are adding flourishes to make the women more prominent and powerful in the play. For example when Theseus and Hippolyta are hunting and find the young lovers, we want Theseus to use Hippolyta as an advocate. We envision the relationship as cheesy between Bottoms and Titania, with Marvin Gaye music, and as an opportunity for comedic improvisation.
(First written September 19th, 2015; Posted now)
This past week, Molly, Taylor, and I started our discussion about Act IV of Midsummers Night’s Dream. We systematically started to figure out the logistics of our scene including its duration, characters, and plot. While Molly and Taylor read and timed our act, I contacted the site contacts: Verenda and Laura. They seemed excited for our arrival. (It was a little relaxing to know that this was their first time with the Jepson Shakespeare project too!)
We knew little about our group but we wanted to familiarize and modernize Shakespeare. Granted we picked a pretty fun, comedic play that would allow for our students’s personalities to shine. We wanted to assign characters a little later so we could get to know our students. Being that we were working with high schoolers, I was excited and hesitant to work with them. I was just in high school a little over a year ago, I understood the angst and stress of high school. I had many questions before we started our endeavor at John Marshall High School.
1) Being only a few years older, would they listen to us? How should we interact with them – as a mentor or teacher?
2)Do these children know who Shakespeare is?
We do know that the students are reading Midsummers Night’s Dream in class so they will have an understanding of the play, the characters and their motivations, and etc. They may even be able to help us with staging because they may envision the blocking differently. When I emailed Laura, she estimated that approximately 15 students would show up. Are all of these students in her English classes? So is this a supplemental class or project to her class or is this an after school activity. I guess that we will find out when we meet Laura and the students!
This past week turned out to be a very successful visit to our school. In order to get the children excited about acting and what it entails we started our visit with a theater game. We made up situations that would have noticeable emotions they could act out. The other students were able to guess the action and emotion. The group as a whole had a fun time with it and everyone was into the game and didn’t want it to end. Only a few girls were shy about acting out but as the game went on they became more comfortable and joined in. It was a good chance to let everyone get up in front of the group to practice being on stage in a sense.
After playing the game we broke the students into three groups and each of us took a few students. In our groups we highlighted some of their lines and had them review them. Then they had the chance to read aloud in their small groups. This allowed us to gauge their reading abilities and help pronounce some of the tougher words so they could try and start remembering how to read them. Overall they did really well and seemed to enjoy being able to practice reading through the lines and start understanding their parts. This coming week should be just as fun and successful.
Due to their schedule changes and our fall break, we did not go to Higher Achievement the weeks of October 6th and 13th. While we did not visit with the kids, we made progress in making a prop list and planning how our next meeting with them would go and our second meeting went really well!! We went last Tuesday and the kids were so excited to see us. Devani, Melissa, and I were very impressed at how motivated they were to start working with the play. We had to go through the plot line again with them, but some remembered it and a few of the boys were eager to play out their characters. We started off the session with a theatre game, similar to the one in class with the different scenarios, but without incorporating the characters. For example, two scenarios were getting an A on a paper and breaking your arm. As expected, the boys were the first to volunteer to act in the game. However, as we went through more scenarios, the few shy girls in the group became more comfortable and volunteered to take a turn as well. This was one of my favorite parts of the night because it gave us hope that everyone would act in the final production with some encouragement!
After the theatre game, we broke into small groups, handed out their scripts, and had them highlight their lines. They each read through segments of their lines and we helped them understand what they were saying and correctly pronounce any of the difficult words. All three of us were thoroughly impressed by how well they were reading Shakespeare’s language in their first attempt. In my group, we talked a lot about the content and story line of the play because some of the kids needed clarification. I was struggling to help them understand the love triangle that was unfolding. Just as I was running out of ideas to help them understand, one of the boys turned to the other and said “Ok so say you have Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber, and Kanye” and proceeded to explain how one likes the other and created a love rectangle similar to that of Midsummer’s. It was hilarious and actually helped them understand it more. Once they got it, they were excited to keep reading their lines. After seeing how much progress we had in one day, I am really looking forward to working with them in the next few weeks and seeing how it goes!