Mrs. Ramsey replied to my email this week, and let us know what had happened: she was out of school for the time being because her husband was in the hospital. In her email, she also told us that she was going to put Verenda Cobbs in charge of managing the project while she was out, and that she was going to urge her students to show when she could. She really empathized with us about the students not showing, I empathized with her being in the hospital! That’s awful.

We don’t know when she will return to John Marshall considering the circumstances, and as a group, we felt it would be inappropriate to push or press her about scheduling because she is handing a family situation. That being said, we could not go to John Marshall this week (11/16) because we got no word/info from Verenda Cobbs, who, according to Mrs. Ramsey’s last email, would be notifying us when to come back to John Marshall for rehearsal.

It is definitely frustrating dealing with these communication issues, but we have agreed that we have to be patient. Our project is not the only thing going on in these teachers’ or students’ lives- we know that. We really want to be a priority, though. Our production won’t survive, or have the effect it could have, without being at list among the list of things these people care about. We are hoping to hear from Verenda or Mrs. Ramsey ASAP- she has all our contact info, my personal cell number, my email, and we just have to trust her or Verenda to update us. Surely by next week, things will be up and running. If not, we are going to continue doing everything in our power to make things happen, and continue to be honest and upfront about what’s going on with Dr. Bezio.


Update: Laura Ramsey was ready for rehearsal on 11/16, but never sent us word (she had my cell and email…) She did contact Dean Soderland and they are having a meeting this week, hopefully to discuss what the heck is going on. Fingers crossed!

On Monday 11/9, hopes for a rehearsal were dashed.

We sent out an email to the students asking them to let us know if they couldn’t come, and in reply, one of our most reliable students, Amelia, dropped out. She emailed Allison and said she just didn’t have the time. She was supposed to be our Hippolyta, and was someone we were really counting on and were excited about. She seemed excited too! She was pretty diligent, always asking us about University of Richmond, questions about college, etc. Maybe that’s what’s bogging her down? She’s worried about the college search/paying for college?

Anyway, we called John Marshall High School on our way there, in order to make sure at least someone had made it to Mrs. Ramsey’s classroom that afternoon.

Well, thank goodness we called, because it turned out not even Mrs. Ramsey herself had made it to Mrs. Ramsey’s classroom that afternoon.

When the front desk secretary told us Mrs. Ramsey was not in her classroom, we inquired if she was there at all. She let us know that she was not present at school at all that day, and no volunteers should plan on coming. So again, we turned around. Pretty downtrodded. I fired off an email to Mrs. Ramsey letting her know what happened and asking if we could count on being there next week…I guess we will see how that goes.

Monday, 11/2, was a sad turn of events. We sent out our first email to all of the students who signed up for the project on Monday, hoping they would be checking their emails while at school and this would be a casual reminder to get them to stay after. We did not want to email too early, like Friday, because we didn’t want them to forget. However, maybe sending it on Monday was too late? We didn’t get any replies…

On the way to John Marshall, I called Laura Ramsey’s office to check in and make sure her students were in her classroom, and planning on staying (so we wouldn’t be turned away again…) She told us that no students had stayed, and we might as well turn around. Ouch.

So we see a pattern forming that is really worrying us. When we call Mrs. Ramsey, we almost invariably get bad news. But we have to call her, because otherwise, she does not communicate with us in any way that plans for rehearsal have been called off. Honestly, The Jepson Shakespeare Project does not seem like it is a priority for the students, and that really makes us sad.

We have big ideas: we want to empower Hippolyta’s character, play up India’s natural style to play quirky and ethereal Hippolyta, and reinforce Dante’s natural charisma and hilarity (he’s a great story teller!! He was killing us a few weeks ago with a story about a lady on his bus.) to make Bottom really shine with dimension.

But none of this can come to fruition if the students don’t show. We are going to send a more timely email next week, and check in with Mrs. Ramsey on our way again, hoping for the best!

***Note: Ditto with the last post. This post was written and meant to be published the week of 10/26, but it as saved as a draft mistakenly.***

Alright. Things, once again, did not go as planned. When only three students showed during our last visit, I asked Laura Ramsey for her cell number so that we could communicate with her most closely and quickly to prevent attendence from slowing. Well, we called Laura on my phone on Monday, to make sure things were good to go, and it seemed to be the wrong number. Well, it was definitely the wrong number, because a dude answered who had no idea who I was. So we also emailed Laura so to remind her we were on our way, since it had been a few weeks. No reply. She’s a busy public school teacher, so that’s understandable.

However, from the moment we got in (with the help of a random janitor in the parking lot, since all the doors were locked and there we didn’t know how to contact Laura) it felt like we weren’t supposed to be there. We came up to Laura’s room at our regular time, and only one girl was there. Laura said, “Oh, I should have told you guys not to come. You should just go back.” We stayed to talk with her though, and discuss what we could do differently to make sure this didn’t happen again and we got our production on track.

During this meeting, Laura told us that from now on, getting the teenagers to rehearsal was our responsibility. Okay. So I got the emails for each student from her in order to communicate with them ourselves. We also brainstormed other ways to attract the students back to our project. Food? Fun games? More explanation? Should we try to come earlier? We bounced ideas off India, the only girl who attended, and got her feedback. She said the students really had no reason for not being there as far as she knew; they just didn’t feel like it.

So as a team, the three of us are really strategizing about how to take on this responsibility and get our students to rehearsal. We are going to send out an email next Sunday to remind the students of rehearsal, let them know about our fun ideas, and encourage them to reply/let us know if they cannot attend for any reason.

***It’s important to preface these posts by saying that I made a pretty awkward blog-novice mistake. I saved three of my blog posts as drafts, thinking that meant they were posted, since I could see thiem in the “All Posts” list. Oops. So I am going back in and pressing the PUBLISH button on them now, followed by my new updates from November.***

Though last week did not have the outcome we hoped for in terms of theatrical progress, it was a great bonding session, and a crucial lesson in the value of relationships when it comes to attempting to lead a group. One of the dissappointing scheduling outcomes, however, was that we found out we would not see our group for another two weeks. Our fall break is, well, now. So we will not see the kids until the 10/19.

So in the meantime, Taylor, Allison, and I have been discussing prop lists in order to get the ball rolling on our production. For one thing, we had a pretty big character switch in the last few weeks. Originally, our Bottom was going to be a very stylish girl from the group. Despite fairies and queens and fairy queens being presented as options, she volunteered to be the ugly donkey dude. Awesome! However, she has not been showing up and we were introduced to another one of Mrs. Ramsey’s students- Dante. Dante is the only boy in our production, and he is a fantastic kid. Theatrical, artistic, interested in the project, and he is our new Bottom. While our orginial female Bottom was going to go the unicorn route with costuming, Dante is feeling a more classic interpretation of the role- Donkey Head. We’re cool with that! So as far as the prop list goes, and important decision has been checked off.

We have also been discussing costuming in a more general sense, meaning, what the heck will everyone who’s not bobbing around in a giant donkey head be wearing? We are really thinking the best option would be to let the kids wear there own clothing for costumes. We want to go this route for two reasons: 1. Simplicity- not only is it cost effective, but our group hasn’t been the most dependable so far in terms of actually meeting with us. It would suck to get the ball rolling on some fancy (togas?) costumes, only to realize our main priority needs to be just getting human bodies to rehearsal.

2. Style- Our students have an extremely individualistic fashion sense. There’s blue hair, orange knee socks, and cool makeup involved in their regular school styling; they already express their characters through what they wear. So why not let them play it up to suit what they want? Besides a few sets of wings, we think this would be a fun way to hand over more control to our students.

Looking forward to next week when we will see our kids again and hopefully make more progress on the script!