Through our time with the Higher Achievement students we were able to learn a lot about leadership, theater, and children. Our once a week visits may not have seemed like much but in that one hour we spent with them and our preparation before hand was really educational.
Learning about leadership came in our ability to engage the students but also keep them orderly. Since they were all about ten years old, they had very different ideas of what made something fun, exciting, or even just what theater was. We had to learn to appeal to their perceptions of fun and how they acted out theater but in a way that allowed us to accomplish our goal of having them present act 1 in front of everyone. We also had to figure out the leadership between the three of us as well to ensure we were efficient and on the same page. In order to do that we each took over roles of different things in respect to kids, the materials needed, and how we planned each visit. As we went on through the semester we were better able to do this overall.
We were able to learn a considerable amount about theater. First off, is how much preparation is needed even for small productions. The scripts required work that you don’t always think about and trying to put the different parts of the act together and how to best do that was all knew to us. This required us to step out of our comfort zone but also work on a level the students would understand. Then the props and costumes require careful consideration because we wanted the audience to see a difference between the students. There were many more factors in this theater production than one realizes.
Lastly, we learned a lot about handling children and how to understand them. Our students were very young which made them more susceptible to acting out, needing things to be repeated, and having lots of energy. This required us to come up with ways to use that energy in a way that helped prepare them for the stage. We were able to come up with educational theater activities that they enjoyed. We learned to repeat needed things but also we would be firm about certain things that we shouldn’t have had to repeat and they would understand we were not playing around.
Overall this was an educational experience on many levels. Not only did the students learn but we did as well. We feel that the students did have a good time preparing for their act and had fun all while learning about Shakespeare and theater.
We were finally able to bring it all together and the Higher Achievement students were able to show their hard work. Although they did not have much time to prepare at the theater location due to some timing issues they still held it together and gave a great performance.
Once the students arrived we quickly started preparation. We were happily surprised that the girls were able to remember to bring their dresses which helped them look the part. They all had some sort of makeup done which helped them get into character more and feel excited about going up on stage. They all received their props and scrips, which they managed to keep track of. We also had some students missing who had big parts so we made last minute changes. Although we had to make these changes the students handled it very well and no one could tell that they hadn’t read those lines before.
Their overall performance went well. They read clearly and knew when to switch characters. There was only a little difficultly having the students come off and on the stage for certain parts of the act but they still did well with that aspect. The students didn’t seem nervous and handled the stage lights very well. After the play they did reasonably sitting in the audience but it was expected that they would struggle to sit still and watch the other acts go since they are young. They seemed to enjoy the play and being able to act out their part. It was a good experience for them to see older students acting as well so that they could see what they could do in the future. They even commented that they would miss us the next week since we would no longer be coming which indicates they enjoyed our time with them.
We felt overall that it was a successful presentation of act 1 and that it was beneficial to our students to be a part of the Jepson Project.
I really enjoyed the experience we had with Higher Achievement and the final performance. It was so nice to see the kids get involved and excited about a project, a nice break from their usual studies and homework sessions. Although there were definitely bumps in the road with trying to focus the kids, I did feel like we not only gave them an exciting experience, but they learned something out of the process. We managed to teach them who Shakespeare was and both explain/show them what the play Midsummer Night’s Dream was about. I’ll never forget the moment when the crazy and complicated love triangle clicked for one of our students. Or when we helped improve their vocabulary by explaining certain words in Shakespeare’s texts.
While there are clearly many improvements that could have been done to our actual performance, I think the value of the experience lies in the process. We managed to build a relationship with these kids that I didn’t even realize we were building. During the practices, I felt like the kids didn’t always want us to be there and were sad when we made them switch from theater games to actually practicing their lines. But then, when we had finished the final production, I was talking to the girls in our group and they said they were going to miss us and kept asking their Higher Achievement person what they would do on Tuesdays from now on. They even asked to take a selfie with me at the end! Overall, I thought the experience was beneficial for both us and the students and given the few practices we had, they did well in their performance.
The big day of the performance finally arrived. We came early to organize props and highlight the finalized scripts for our actors. The night started off with a setback as the Higher Achievement bus pulled in a little after 5, over an hour late due to a miscommunication. When the kids did arrive, they were a little hyper but we gave them lunchables as a snack and they slowly started to focus on the show. Since we didn’t have time to do a practice run on an official stage, we sent them right to Professor Bezio for makeup and got them their props. I took our group of girls to the bathroom to change into the outfits they brought. They had each brought one of their favorite, nice dresses and were so excited to wear them on stage. One girl even brought a floor length mini ball gown because she was playing Hippolyta. The biggest test of the night was organizing them all outside the hallway, handing out scripts, trying to get them to calm down, and giving helpful tips to remember for when acting out the play. We had two people missing from our original group and needed two other members to step up with their role. One of our boys had been nervous to have more than one line but he stepped up when people were missing and took on the role of two different characters. I was so proud of their enthusiasm for taking on multiple roles.
Some of the kids were definitely a little nervous, but all of them stuck with it and made it onstage! For the age level they are at, I thought our group did a good job. There could have been more acting involved and smoother transitions between scenes, but they definitely did their best considering their nerves. There wasn’t much enthusiasm to their tones and they stuttered more on stage than they ever had in the classroom, but overall I was pleased with their performance. It was more about the overall experience than how they actually acted. Although they could have gotten stage fright, I think many of them were happy with their performance and were so excited to hear Dr. Soderlund tell them how great they did.