After two weeks of being absent from Higher Achievement, we returned Tuesday and were welcomed with open arms. The kids seemed very excited to see us again, which was an awesome way to start off rehearsal. We were missing a few students, but we knew that would be a common occurrence when working with Higher Achievement. We started off the evening by playing a theater game that was similar to the one we played in class that one time! Melissa, Kit, and I came up with different scenarios in which the children would act out in front of their classrooms. Some examples of these scenarios were getting a new puppy, being told to do homework by your mom, or learning that it was a snow day. The boys were much more willing to participate than the girls and they got very very into it. The girls started participating as we got more into the game and they seemed to enjoy it as well. This game was really fun for them and they got a chance to practice their acting skills by being dramatic and emotional, which they usually aren’t allowed to behave like during school or mentoring sessions. I was actually very surprised at a lot of the children’s reactions to some of the scenarios. For example, some of the first things that the children would guess would be someone being robbed, mugged, murdered, or shot. None of our scenarios entitled these situations, so I found it interesting that these were the first things that came to their minds.

After the theater game, we split the children into three groups where each group was managed by Kit, Melissa, or myself. We had them highlight each of their characters’ lines and as well as rehearse some of their lines. In my group, we went in a circle where each student would practice saying some of their lines. The students were also really excited when looking through the script and finding their specific lines. When we were rehearsing the lines, I was extremely impressed with how well they were able to read them. In particular, one of the leading men in my group did an amazing job at acting as well as handling different pronunciations. When I asked if they understood what they just read, they would always say no. I would try my best to explain to them what their character is saying and how it relates to the rest of the play. I enjoyed this part a lot because it showed me how the children are actually learning the old English and starting to understand more about what the play entails.

Monday, October 19th was an exciting day for Act 4 of the Jepson Shakespeare Project!

We showed up to John Marshall with enough numbers to have a successful first rehearsal. Upon our arrival, we did a quick name refresher in case they forgot ours (and we most definitely forgot some of their names). We jumped right into some acting games to warm up and get comfortable with one another. First, we played zip zap zop which actually got pretty competitive. Then, we played the Honey, will you marry me? game, which Allison had to explain to everyone. To play, you ask the person next to you “honey, will you marry me?” in a way that will make that person laugh and they are trying not to laugh or else they are out of the game. It was pretty funny since there was only one guy and six girls. Surprisingly, they all got really into the game and tried so hard to make each other laugh, us included. What I love about this group is that they are not afraid to get out of their comfort zone and are really good at participating!

After a good warm up, we had everyone get out their scripts and proceeded to do a read through of the first half of scene 1, act 4. We read from Titania’s “Come, sit thee down…” line up until the part where Theseus, Hippolyta, and Egeus enter the scene. While reading through that section, we stopped a few times to explain what was going on, and offer possible staging ideas. I wrote down their ideas in the margins of my script. We asked the students which roles they potentially wanted to play, which turned into actually casting the roles to those students. Because of our low numbers, and having all of the characters in act 4, some students had to double up. Molly, Allison and I will most likely be playing the fairies (YAY).

After we assigned roles, our group went into the hallway and ran through the first three pages of our script twice. We tried out some of the staging ideas we brainstormed earlier in the class room.

It’s awesome how enthusiastic these students are to be a part of the Jepson Shakespeare Project! When we left the rehearsal, Allison and I couldn’t get over how well they participated in the acting games and reading through the script. We look forward to meeting with them this coming Monday.

Also, the students finally decided they want to have a donkey head instead of a unicorn head for Bottom. We’re making moves…

Unfortunately, we were unable to meet with the John Marshall students last Monday since we were on fall break until Wednesday. We notified Laura that we would be returning the following Monday, Oct 19th for our next rehearsal.

In the mean time, we are trying to finalize our prop list for the first part of act 4. Last time we met with the students, we told them that it is really up to them how they want to stage the movements based on the text. During our last work day, Molly, Allison and I brainstormed some stage directions for each character to give the students an idea of what may work for certain scenes. On Thursday, I went through our script and wrote down any notes or ideas that came to mind.

The last few visits to John Marshall were unsuccessful in terms of being able to start working with the students on the script and begin casting, so we are hoping that this coming Monday there will be enough students to get started!

Last Wednesday meeting we only had 2 show but that was okay. We made due! Dennis played about 4 different audience members while Rachel was happily and proudly the Moon. One of our members is so enthusiastic about our play and she’s just adorable. She brought in a wall costume sheet where she cut a head hole and drew sharpie on it so it really does look like a wall. She also brought me a scarf that we need to later make look bloody when the lion attacks my scarf. She also brought Rachel a dog leash with an invisible dog which I think she’s really happy about. But I do think she wants to put a real dog in it or just a stuffed animal. I vote for the real dog, specificially Rosie!! But we shall see if we get lucky. Overall it went very well. We practiced the play within the play and only with 4 actors so it was fun to improv some!

Hello blog world,

Well no matter what I seem to do I never fail to take 10 minutes to realize that I’m not logged in and search for hours how to post a new entry and NOT a comment but anyways more importantly our group is going so great. I think we are actually really lucky we ended up getting the older folk. At first I won’t lie I was kinda bummed because I was really looking forward to working with the kids but now I don’t even realize how good we have it. We don’t have to teach them to read, babysit them, or travel anywhere; they come to us! Also, they are teaching us things about Shakespeare so we definitely do not need to explain anything of that nature to them either. All in all we love our group and it’s really a great time!

This week was nearly perfection! We finally had a breakthrough with the kids because they came ready and excited to read through their roles. They also seemed very happy to see us, which was crucial for the relationship I have been trying to build with them. A lot of the success during read-throughs was as a result of us splitting the group in two, Athenians and Fairies. I worked with the fairies and was happy to see them succeed with reading and ask questions where they were needed. I was even able to describe what was going on in certain scenes without any disruption. We completed the read-through in under 30 minutes!

Lydia and I continued our reward leadership style from last week and let them all play outside for the next 30 minutes. I played football and frisbee with the boys and they loved running around with me. I keep coming back to the development of this relationship because I think that is the most significant part of this work. As significant as the actual play is, these kids want to be with someone who cares about them and has fun with them. This week was extremely encouraging for our long term success. I’m looking forward to the next meeting.


Oh my goodness this week was smoother. After last week I came to Youth Life dejected and apprehensive, but thankfully that was all quelled…for now. I think a large part of this was assigning roles to each of the kids. They seemed excited to be able to call a character their own and really start to embody their role. I am confident they will fall in love with their characters as time goes by. The process by which Lydia and I assigned roles was based on reading levels, but also working hard to keep the siblings out of the Athenian roles. All of the girls accepted their roles without any challenge, but it was rather hard to assign fairy roles to the boys. I had to speak with one boy, in particular, to encourage him that Oberon and Puck were strong men and not, as he called it, “Tinkerbells.” I even went so far as to show him a google image of Oberon from the movie we saw for class.

I think another one of our successes this week was bribing the kids with free time if they finish the reading early enough. In addition to running through the script quickly for the purpose of getting to free time quickly, the kids even quieted each other. After getting through the script, we took them into the playroom and I played basketball with the guys. This week was important for developing a relationship with the boys so they will trust me when I tell them to read the script in a certain, maybe embarrassing, manner.

This week was very rough for Lydia and I. It was the first time we attempted to have the kids read through the script and we figured it would take an hour or less to do so…we were wrong. The kids were in complete chaos with the addition of a couple more students. They were unable and unwilling to read the Shakespearean English, they showed us no respect, and there was even a fight that nearly broke out between two individuals. We did our best to show support when they struggled and gave up, but it was clear the boys, in particular, had no desire to read. On the other hand, the girls were able to read the language better than the boys.

As rough as this week was, there were a few positives. While I was outside the classroom cooling down a fight, I heard one of the girls yelling the Fairy song with a great deal of drama and excitement. I can certainly see the potential to be successful, especially with the girls, but it will depend on their focus. As a result, Lydia and I have decided to cut the script significantly. Hopefully in doing so the kids will maintain their focus long enough to get through the reading in a capable manner.

Lydia and I have decided to meet up and start brainstorming various styles of leadership that may be more successful in these circumstances. I hope next week we will have more control over the kids.

Last week we had our best attendance and were able to start reading our lines as our characters. On the second read through, we started figuring out how we were going to position the play within the play. The old folks were extremely helpful and all had their own ideas. They are all really excited about actually having roles in the play. The toughest part so far has been that we have small numbers so everyone has to play more than one character. We had to readjust the script a few times to make it easier for people to switch between their roles. A few have even begun to research their roles and had a few things to say about how they think their lines should be read. We also started talking about costume ideas and a few of them wanted to bring in their own items and told us they would bring them in for the next week. We will continue to work on the staging the next week and hope that our attendance is just as good.

On this day we were meeting with our group for the first time. It took a while to get started since the school is very spread out. The way that the school is set up is that there are many smaller “schools” on the campus known as St. Joseph’s Villa. The different “schools” include kids that are socially awkward in public school, kids that were unable to behave in any other schooling environment, kids with specials needs, etc. We had to stop at each stop at each school to pick up the kids that were interested in doing the play. Once we were able to get them all we had to bounce around a little until our contact was able to find a room we could use to conduct our introduction to the Shakespeare Project. The kids were very energetic. Three of the kids were excited to do the play while the rest did not really seem like they wanted to do the production so i was confused as to why they were there. They mainly talk to each other and were on their phones which distracted us from telling the group about the play and distracted the other students. We were able to cover the characters of our scene and the gist of what was happening in our scene as well as a summary of the play overall. As we left the site we were thinking of how to get a better handle on the behavior of the group as well as trying figure out how to go about starting the actually acting part of the Project with the group we had as far as casting.