Last Sunday afternoon, we sent out an email to our John Marshall students with a survey to see who would be attending rehearsal the following day. Only one student replied, and she told us that she couldn’t make it to the next rehearsal due to other commitments, but was interested in attending later rehearsals.

Since we only received one reply to the email, before we left Richmond on Monday I called John Marshall High School to speak to Mrs. Ramsay and ask her how many kids stayed after school. When the secretary transferred me to her class room phone, no one answered and I was redirected back to the main office. Molly called again to try one more time before we left. She was told that Mrs. Ramsay didn’t come in that day. Annoyed and frustrated, we stayed on campus.

Apparently Molly got into contact with Mrs. Ramsay the following day, and was told that she was going through some family issues and didn’t know when she would be back. Everything seems very up in the air at this point and we aren’t sure where to go from here. I really hope everything is okay with Mrs. Ramsay!

In class on Tuesday, we brought this up with Dr. Bezio. There is a possibility that we may have to give our act to the Osher group, and start joining rehearsals on Wednesday evening. So far, we are still waiting to hear back from Ms. Ramsay and/or Verenda Cobbs to see how we can fix our dilemma.


I have some catching up to do for the past few weeks, so I will cram it into this post.

8 October: Today we had a very productive meeting with our students. It is clear that sitting around for an hour and reading the script is not the best use of our time as most of the kids lose interest very quickly. To keep them interested we played a game that Kieran introduced everyone to. It worked as a nice ice breaker, and team building exercise. Getting the kids acquainted has been pretty important because they are all from different schools within the Villa. We definitely need to focus a bit more on Mid Summer next week, but I think that today went well.


22 October: Unfortunately I was unable to go to the Villa today due to an interview. I will comment on what I heard from my group members, and what we need to do in the coming weeks. Benjamin had to go to the Villa alone today due to my interview and Kieran’s battle with a concussion. To Benjamin’s dismay it was the most eventful meeting yet, and not a great time to be alone. During the week there had been several altercations between students in the Villa, and Haley warned us that there had been issues among some of our students. Midway through Benjamin’s trip a fight broke out directly outside of the window, and it quickly grasped the attention of all of our students. It was clear that the meeting would be a wash and all of the students lost interest. Haley threatened that if anyone left to get involved in the altercation they would not be welcome back. Unfortunately, this did not seem to phase the students and several left, leaving Benjamin with 5 students. Going forward we need to stress to Haley the importance of a permanent group of kids who will be dedicated and stick with the program. The only problem is that we don’t even know if Haley will be permanent and stick with the program.


29 October: Again, I was unable to attend today due to an interview, though I do have good news to report. The group began reading through lines, and supposedly did a wonderful job. While the majority of the students are not great readers they all completed their lines with a bit of effort. I think one of the primary problems at this point is that the students don’t have the best idea of what the play is actually about. Next week we need to bring in some sort of summary so the kids have some context- I’m sure it will make reading the lines a lot more interesting. Also, on a positive note, Haley mentioned that transportation will be taken care of. On a negative, unsurprising note, she has not made any progress on permission slips. It is important that we stay on top of her to get these out to parents.


5 November: It was nice to finally be back with my group members and our students today. We finished reading through the script, which was somewhat difficult to get through. As Benjamin warned me, some of the students are very poor readers and do need help getting through their lines. It definitely does not help that we have the longest act. There were some new faces today, and some lost ones. We added a few new students that seem sufficiently intrigued in what we are doing, and I think that the group is starting to solidify. With that said, we were missing a couple of students which is a bit concerning- hopefully they will be back next week. As per usual, Haley was not the most helpful today. If anything she instigated problems and could not keep control of the group. Fortunately (or unfortunately.. we’ll see), Haley is not longer with the Villa. Things should get interesting.


12 November: While Haley is technically no longer an employee at St. Joseph’s, she does plan to work with the group until the project is over. I found this somewhat commendable after hearing that she had suddenly left. With that said, she was of very little help and seemed to have even less control of the students now that she is no longer an actual employee. We finally tried to act out the scene today. I’m not really sure if anyone expected anything different, but it went poorly. The kids were completely out of control and we were unable to get through much. I think that we need to sit down as a group before next week’s meeting and figure out how we are going to get this done. Something definitely needs to change.

As I again forgot to journal last week’s encounter, I will do my best to summarize both weeks in this post.

Last week all three mentors were there for the first time in a while. The group was still not solidified, since a couple of people whom were expected to be there either were not at school or again decided they did not want to participate. Nevertheless, we got through the script. Yet when the students heard that other public school students would be at the performance, they were actually quite a bit apprehensive. You could tell they were not comfortable being around kids that do not go to their school I hope that their confidence does not wane. The diction is still hard for almost all of the students. Most of them truly struggle just paying attention and following their lines. As we continue to get closer, I hope that the enthusiasm that they so often show will be just as strong as when they are in front of complete strangers. Haley however was not as helpful. During our read through she distracted the students. I just hope she will be able to assist with keeping the students focus. Of course the news then broke that she was no longer with St. Josephs.

When hearing Haley was not going to be assisting anymore, I was extremely worried about who would the contact. Yet she still texted to confirm that we would be coming. Apparently, it is her intention to be there until the project is over. To some degree this is important to hear. On the other end, this is problematic because she is no longer a staff member. This caused a few issues at the end of rehearsal on Thursday. We tried to act out the first scene and a half, but the kids really just could not stay controlled. Haley does not seem to have the authority anymore and the two faculty with us were rather disinterested. Haley did say that they would have transportation and she would contact me with the person who would be the new contact. As the weeks go by, it is becoming clearer that this will be an interesting event to put on. The acting aside, the students may have a tough time with this if focus cannot be assumed by them and their faculty advisor.


After our surprising night off last week, we had a pretty successful night at Higher Achievement this week! We started off the night by breaking up into our new three groups, based chronologically on the events in Act I. I was in charge of the first three pages of Act I, which consisted of the characters Theseus, Hippolyta, Egeus, Hermia, Demetrius, and Lysander. The first time we sat in a circle around a table and practiced the lines sitting down. For some reason the classroom has chairs with wheels on them so the children had a pretty difficult time focusing and kept wheeling around everywhere. While it was pretty difficult to keep them calm and still, they were pretty successful at reading their lines. I then had my group practice their lines once again standing up, as if they were actually performing. I gave them advice such as not holding the script in front of their face and to make sure they are loud enough for the audience to hear. Once the kids stood up and performed their lines they got significantly more into it. For example, one of the kids was walking back and forth in the front of the classroom, acting as if it was the stage. He was also using hand and body gestures which I found incredibly amusing.

We ended the rehearsal by playing a tongue twister game which the children really enjoyed. I just looked up tongue twisters on my phone and would have the kids go in a line and repeat the ones I said. It eventually escalated into all the kids competing to see who can see it correctly the fastest. We had a bunch of rounds and then a championship round between the two best. The winner got to take home one of the JSP posters we brought. The kids had a lot of fun with this game and they were also really impressed with the posters, so we’ll be sure to bring more next week! We also gave a few posters to the organizers so they could hang them around the school. The kids are getting more and more excited each week to come to our school and keep asking if their parents can come. They have gotten really into the play which is really cool to see and I’m excited to go back next week for one of our final rehearsals before showtime!

Today was a little different than the rest of the sessions. The star actress herself aka Sheryl was not there. So considering she’s about 75% of our act we had to make due without her parts. We actually all just played at least 2 roles and it worked out great. John who has only attended once let us know he may not be there for the performance, but we told him it won’t be a problem as we have many actors willing to take on another role! We worked on a little bit of staging where the audience will be and where people will die and when they get up and go off stage. All that type of stuff! It worked out well even though Thisbee would be dead then be Puck right after haha

Also, we worked on where the moon should stand as well with the wall. When actors should approach the wall and which side they should stand on. But don’t worry Sheryl will be back in action next week and we can continue our further development.

Last week was a really great rehearsal. We went over our lines twice and practiced staging. We had the idea that before Puck’s big speech at the end to bring all the actors from Act 5 out on stage and make them all fairies flying in the background. We also had the idea to bring all the kids out from all the other acts and anyone else who participated in the production. This means that Sheryl will have to wait a few minutes to get everyone on stage. We also had a lot of fun with the costumes. Sheryl has a lot of props and costumes. We have a few crowns, a mantel which were planning on coloring with red sharpie during the actual play. We have lion ears but are trying to invest in a better pair. They look a little mouse like and not a big scary lion. Also, we have a great wall costume and a plastic knife. It looks pretty real though! So were doing pretty well in that aspect!

Our most enthusiastic, and focused cast member was sick today, leading to a different atmosphere at rehearsal.  The three of us that were there a few minutes early had a discussion about different majors at UR and I got to learn a little about their lives which was fun.  The cast member who was dealing with a family emergency last week was back this week, however, he informed us that his participation may be limited due to his son being in critical care in the advanced stages of a terminal illness.  Hopefully he will be with us on the day of the performance, but we have a backup plan if need be.  We went through the play with the people present, and then talked about logistics.  I told them that the idea of having the kids come on stage before Puck’s final speech would have to be flexible, seeing as we don’t know how squirmy and out of control the other groups will be.  To that they jokingly said they were grateful I had confidence in their ability to behave themselves…   We also talked about the possibility of filling in for Act 4 if need be, which they were all happy to do.  To that effect I told them I would bring at least one copy of that groups script so we could go over it next week.  We decided that even if we don’t end up needing to fill roles it would still be a great opportunity to understand more of the play and get to know our characters.  We look forward to next weeks rehearsal which will be our second to last time together before the performance.

We had break until Wednesday, so we were unable to meet with the students at John Marshall. We reminded Laura that we would not be seeing the students then. While on break, we each thought about how the act would be performed. I thought a lot about the props that we would need and how to incorporate a lot of humour into the practice. Wehave constantly reminded the students that this project is really dependent on what they would like to add. We have been trying to pay close attention to the details in the text for how the movements could be portrayed. We thought about how stage directions could enhance the comedy in the play. Molly, Taylor, and I thought about each character and their motivations. We brainstormed how these characters could represent their stories through inflection and stage directions. We have given a lot of thought about how we want the act to look but we also have had a lot of flexibility in order to incorporate the student’s interests. We want the project to be extremely successful and we want students to start moving around! In general, we have not assigned roles yet (because we are unsure of how many students will attend). We want to begin blocking, we hope that we will have enough students.

October 12th Post

On Monday, Molly, Taylor, and I went to  John Marshall High School for the second time. The first time, we had a good number of students wwho seemed to be interested in the project. However, this time when we arrived, there were only three students. One student, Dante, was new but excited to be a part of theJepson Shakespeare Project. We asked the returning students to see if they were interested in any specific part to which they responded that they were open to playing any part.

We were curious as to why the student rates had dropped off from last week. Laura mentioned to us that many students were involved in other activities afterschool that prevented them for leaving early or participating in both activities. She also mentioned that the gap from the rehearsal time and the dismissal time had many students leave early. The wait time in between both were between 30-40 minutes. Since Molly and Taylor both have classes until 2:45, it is difficult for us to leave any earlier.

During our rehearsal, we read through th script and described the plot the students again. They mentioned that they had finally started the book in class (Laura told us they took a while to start) so the students had a general understanding of the play. We then diverged and learned that many of our students were seniors. They asked us about the college application process, Richmond, class, extra curriculars, and more. We reminded Laura that we would not be at John Marshall the next week due to Fall break and that we would be back on Monday, October 19th.

During the class work day on Thursday, we read through the act and focused scene by scene. We wrote possible blocking and staging notes for the script and created a running prop list. Realizing that estimating the number of students at rehearsal was difficult, we wanted to combine parts. Titania and Hyppolita were a natural doubling. We also wanted to combine the mechanical characters in case we did not have enough students. At this moment, it seems like we may have approximately five students.

I have been a little behind on my blog posts but I have been keeping notes of our meetings and remember many things about our meetings.

Week 5 was less fortunate in terms of numbers. We had two participants from OSHER show up and we were left with 5 people to try and act out Act 5. Despite our extremely low numbers, we persevered and read through the play twice. One of our actors took on about 5 characters and brought in three different bags of props for all of the characters. She is by far the stud of the group at the moment. While acting out two of the characters that she was filling in for someone else, she changed some of their lines and decided how they should act on stage.

Besides Sherryl taking control of the play, we got some productive staging done during our meeting of only 5 members. We don’t know exactly which stage we will be working on for the final play so we aren’t quite sure how we will be able to manage the spacing of the play within a play. However, we now know how we would like to position once we know which stage we are on. The actors for the play within a play will be on center stage and the “audience” will be set up on the side of the stage so that they can watch the play and still turn to talk towards the actual audience. This was really important for us to accomplish and it is awesome that we got so far with only 5 people.