This was our last rehearsal and we were starting to lose members of our already limited group of kids. One was out sick, one’s parents could not drive them to the play, and the others seemed to be kind of hesitant about attending plus there was miscommunication about how the kids were actually going to get to the performance since somany of the students live far away from St. Joseph’s Villa. It was just a big mess.
Day: December 14, 2015
This day we decided to bring some props to the rehearsal and the kids seemed to really enjoy it and we ended up having our most productive rehearsal since we started working with the site. It was good to see.
We pretty much did the same routine as last time with having the kids act as if they are on or off stage and practice knowing when to come on or off stage while reading their lines as well. We lost one of our students that decided that she did not want to participate anymore.
Today when we went to our sight we just continued reading over the script but added some stage positions and we had the kids sit down when they were not on stage since we were limited to a small room with a long table in the middle of it. The kids are slowly getting better but sometimes its still hard to maintain control of the group and keep them focused.
What a night!
After a long, tiring Friday it felt wonderful to know that we had put on a solid group production and that all of the struggles and adversity our group experienced during this semester didn’t hold us back from producing a successful Act 4.
While waiting for the students to arrive, Molly, Allison and I assisted Dr. Bezio and the rest of our classmates with setting up props and taking care of other last minute details. We also decided who in our group would play the fairies Cobweb, Peaseblossom, and Mustardseed, and asked Dr. Bezio to give us the appropriate stage make up respective to our assigned fairy role.
When the John Marshall students showed up, we were told that one of the students could not make the production, so we needed to find another Egeus. Thankfully, Oliver offered his acting services and took on that role for us. For those students who wanted it, Dr. Bezio put on stage make up and it became clear that they were super excited to get the show started!
The only other major hiccup we had occurred when one of the students had to leave before we went on stage because she was scheduled to work. I believe she thought that we would finish earlier than we expected to finish, so her father had to come pick her up mid-show. Although we were a bit frustrated, we were more concerned that she was so upset about having to leave and wanted to make sure she was okay. We made the necessary character adjustments, and effectively diffused the situation: Ms. Ramsay got to participate in the play!
While waiting for the show to begin, we got to spend some time sitting with the students and Ms. Ramsay. It was nice to have the time to talk about something other than the production, and really get to know more about these students who we worked with a large part of the semester.
The show turned out to be a large success. It was entertaining to watch the other acts and see how everything came together for them on stage, knowing some of the trials and triumphs we heard about other groups during class. Everyone gave their best effort and it was so great to see different age groups come together to put on one show. I felt so proud of our group, especially after we struggled so much to have committed students. It was extremely rewarding to see how well all of our hard work payed off this semester, and you could tell the students loved every minute of it –That was the best part of the whole experience.
Reflecting on my experiences with the Act IV team at John Marshall High School, there are a few more comments I would like to add about the dynamic of the students themselves, and the importance our difficulties with them raised.
Our central issue with the students was the lack of obligation they felt to show up. Our project was not prioritized by them, or at least not at until the 11th hour. However, the fact that we were not a priority was not simply because the students were lazy or unwilling, but rather, because they had a set of priorities that my personal background would not have guessed at.
Our students, aged 15-17, had to work. At one rehearsal, we had a girl complaining about how she missed work for rehearsal. At the time, we did not think much of this comment. We had a fair share of complaints from they high school students about what they could be doing or where they wanted to be, i.e. “My friends are at KFC right now…I’m hungry, can I just go?!”
However, the importance of this particular comment crystallized when one of our students on Friday had to leave Perkinson Hall to go to work before the performance began. Her father, yelling at her on her cell phone, insisted on coming to pick her up at University of Richmond. When Mrs. Ramsey told me what was going on, I was immediately concerned. “I feel so bad that we made her miss work!” I said. Mrs Ramsey said, “Well it’s just a typical teenager thinking she could be two places at once. The difference is, they have to work. Missing work really is not an option for them. They need it.”
This issue is explored further in our final paper, but I wanted to recognized the importance of the distinction in particular. A lot of times, as a group, we had trouble understanding why students just wouldn’t come. They are in high school, what could be so important that they would miss this? Well. Work for these kids is more important. That’s the truth. And that was an unexpected reality that we had to face head on with JSP.
Wow. Friday happened. And it was spectacular in so many ways.
I finished my 1:30 class in North Court and scurried over to Perkinson. Once there, the girls and I divvied up our scripts and our fairy roles. Allison was Cobweb, Taylor was Peaceblossom, and I was Mustardseed. Our face paint was top notch. We loaded our sound clips, Marvin Gaye, John Legend, and Trumpet Music, and enlisted Benjamin as our sound guy. We were ready to go. Literally, my only line in the play at that point was “Ready!”
As we set up and waiting for the students, I tried to regulate my emotions and not get too excited for the them to arrived, because we just could not be sure it was all going to work out as planned. I had gotten the news last week, after Monday’s rehearsal, that when asked about permission slips being ready (we organized and requested permission slips in October) Mrs. Ramsey just said, “Ask them about it.” gesturing towards the students. Yikes. What the heck does that mean? I’m all for treating high schoolers like adults, but the displacement of responsibility here didn’t seem super productive. It sounds downright ominous, to be honest. So I wanted to prepare for the fact that we could be dealing with a few absences today.
I went to my car to grab a hair curler, and I saw a huge Groome transportation truck pull up to the Web. Sure enough, it was our people! Mrs. Ramsey and five students made it to Perkinson Recital Hall. That is a success for sure, in my book. I was excited to see a couple new faces, and especially excited to see Dante. Dante and his girlfriend India are the power couple of our play. India is a powerhouse of personality and volunteered on Day 1 to be Bottom. We got her and our other ladies bearded up to play the mechanicals and the lovers. They really enjoyed it! And one girl let me glitter spray her, which was awesome.
One choice that I made and really enjoyed was sitting with the students during the production. We laughed together through Osher’s committed rehearsal, and talked about the student’s roles and what they wanted to accomplish.
It was really interesting to prepare with them and watch them begin to take their performance more and more seriously as the hours rolled by. We made sure they highlighted their roles, as things got tossed up a bit when Hippolyta/Titania girl did not make the performance. So we enlisted the help of an unlikely character- Mrs. Ramsey! In front of the students, I half jokingly asked if she would feel up to filling in. Dante loved this: “Mrs. Ramsey! You go Mrs. Ramsey!!” She agreed! She studied her lines while we prepped the students with costumes–because we had so many moving parts in our Act, and everyone played many roles, we needed to make sure we had our props straight. Because Dante was Oberon, it became a big joke that Mrs. Ramsey and Dante were lovers in the play. It great to have her on stage. Her performance and commitment motivated the students, and we really appreciated that.
About thirty minutes before show time, I went to retrieve a student’s two aunts from Modlin (totally understandable, Perkinson is hard to find). When I got back, Mr. Ramsey whispered to me some worrisome news. “We are losing another actor.” She told me. Uh oh. Sure enough, I turned around to see one of our girls crying into her cell phone. I asked Mrs. Ramsey if everything was okay, and it turned out that the girl was double committed. She had work, and did not realize she couldn’t make it there in time after the performance. Her dad was really mad and planned on coming to get her. I strategized with Taylor to find a simple location for him to pick her up so he wouldn’t be even more aggravated by how confusing campus is, aka so many Jepson’s, Weinstein’s, and Robins’s. Now, we needed a new Peter Quince.
How to solve the last minute snafu? I was sitting behind Dante and India, Act 1 was already performing, and I asked Dante if he wanted to be Peter Quince in Part 2. I knew he could carry the scene (Quince has the most lines in scene 2, and as of now, Dante only played Snug) and he would be great opposite India as Bottom. But would he want to step up and take on another extra roll? “Okay. Yeah I’m down!” Dante agreed, per India’s urging. So it was settled. And I would fill Snug’s shoes, while Taylor would play the left over Mechanical, and Allison would stage and help with costume changes. Oliver stepping up too! He agreed to play Egeus.
We figured it out, and I think things went very smoothly. I was nervous for the costume change after Act 3, since it was the only act that really needed to pull off a group costume change, and we needed to give them space to change back from their togas. However, the students remembered the costumes for each other multiple parts and we got everything picked up and organized. Dante’s cold read was fantastic, Mrs. Ramsey was a star, and the music was a hit. Marvin Gaye for the win!
I am happy with the performance, not just because we were proud of how things turned out, but because it seemed as though the students were. That is a huge pay off. After these many months, I could not ask for more.
“Your flight has been delayed until 9 p.m.”
Ughhhhhhhh. The words every airport occupant dreads, especially early morning on a Monday. And especially when one finds themselves in Cleveland.
But because of my involvement with JSP, this unwelcome announcement sparked more than frustration in me; I was worried. Not only because we had a big paper due at 5 p.m., but because at 3 p.m., our first truly l successful (and my successful, I mean full attendance. YES!!!) rehearsal was supposed to take place at John Marshall. And I was PUMPED. This excitement came from the fact that for the last seven weeks, Taylor, Allison, and I had been pushing hard for this rehearsal to become a reality. As chronicled in my other post, we had attendance and communication problems leading up to December. Disappointment had become the norm, as calls went unanswered, emails went unanswered, and the logistics of our performance became nerve-wracking. I was losing faith that our students would show up at all, especially across town for a performance, and we had instated a back up plan: Osher Lifelong Learning. Yay for old people!!
We were expecting the worst, but that particular Monday, we got the best news in a long time.
Our usual Sunday email was sent out, and the students replied! We had three RSVPs, and that is three times what we were used to. From our experiences at John Marshall, while no students or one student meant bleak prospects (obviously), a few students meant reasonable hope for more, as social capital (never underestimate high school social capital) always ended up attracting a few more. Now, a good portion of my nerves about the performance were built around the logistical concerns of staging our particular act: almost every single character from the entire play made an appearance in our act, and we were looking at having one or two students. Could we manage? Absolutely. Because of the support of our fellow students, professor, and Dr. Soderland, not to mention our own abilities, we would be able to fill every roll no matter what. What concerned me was that the students who did make the effort of appearing and performing would feel less comfortable and less at home staging a performance with us than they would with their classmates, and that the goal of the project might be in jeopardy if our group continued to bail. These worries were most likely unfounded, but worries they remained. I am a worrier.
Anyway, Monday was a big day. It was the day we could really put our blocking and staging concepts to the test, and that we could get characterization sorted out so that the students would feel prepared.
So when I heard those words, “You flight has been delayed…”, they took on a new meaning for me. They meant, “Now you’re the one not showing up.” And that made me really sad. It was the last chance to connect with the kids before the performance, to see our ideas and hopes come to some fruition. For weeks, our kids “couldn’t make it,” Now, they finally could and now I was the one who couldn’t make it.
Did I have control over the situation? Of course not. It was discouraging, but I choose to do what I could: communicate with my team. I texted the talked other girls to plan and strategize the rehearsal, and they were going to call me and fill me in.
In hindsight, there was something fruitful about my absence that day. You see, most of my stress over the project came from the fact that I felt we were not getting a chance to serve the kids as well as we could have. What I neglected to remember was that our kids were one half of the JSP–we were the other half. What we gained from the experience, from leading a group, from challenging ourselves to make the best of a tough situation, from working with classmates who had different lives and schedules was just as much the point of the project as the kids were. And the day my flight was delayed, and I realized how much I cared about being there, and cared about my groupmates, well, that was as valuable as anything I could have gotten out of the rehearsal.
Looking ahead to the final performance next week, I realize that I need to stop worrying and keep my cool. Things are going to go wrong, and some kids just aren’t going to show. But that is beyond our control as a team. What is within our control is the way we coordinate and interact, and we are doing the best we can on that front. Most importantly, I care about this project and I know the other girls do too. Come what may, we will get it done.
As we somewhat expected the turnout was not as strong as we had envisioned. In fact, only one student showed up, half of what we anticipated the day before. Nevertheless we rolled with the punches and made due. Maddie did an excellent job with her part. In fact, she surprised me at her comfortability being on stage. I imagined she would be intimidated due to not knowing most of the people who were on stage. Instead, she was engaging and confident. She knew what she wanted to say and how she wanted to act. When she arrived I made sure she was clear about what was going to happen, so that she would not be too worried. In honesty, I was more nervous for her than she was. The act finished smoothly and swiftly. I think the students would have been able to use their emotions a little bit better, since they had an idea of what the scene entailed. I spent the majority of the pre-show time scrambling to find people and making sure that they had some sort of direction. More time may had rendered more success on this front. Nevertheless, the performance was pretty good. I think that in the long run, I can say I will not be a director. The job is pretty stressful and you can never plan for the unexpected. All in all I think this semester was never what I intended it to be. It was, however, very rewarding to see Maddie confident on stage. I can only imagine how it would have been to see all the students thriving.