This week AJ, Dylan, and I arrived at Youth Life REMIX to find that only two of our students, Adrian and Janiyah, were present. Luckily Adrian’s theatrical spirit and Janiyah’s new-found enthusiasm for theater were enough to make today’s session productive. We started out by doing a cold reading of the part of Act V where Viola reveals her true identity. We then used a scene from She’s the Man to bring the tricky Shakespearean language to life and illustrate Act V’s plot. After viewing the film clip, we started to go over lines for our student’s chosen characters. Adrian will play Duke Orsino and Janiyah will play Olivia. Additional roles may be assigned as we progress through the script next week.

Midway through our rehearsal another student, Khaleel, arrived. Khaleel tried to jump into our rehearsal, adopting the role of Sebastian. However, he struggled with reading the lines cold. AJ, Dylan, and I are brainstorming how to address this reading issue with Khaleel. We hope that going over his lines with him several times will help him be more comfortable and be able to read them with confidence. We may also give him a few smaller parts so that he does not feel the pressure of long consecutive lines. We ended our rehearsal on a high note with a quick improvisational game that the students all enjoy. We are hoping that next week all five of our students will be present so that we can solidify character roles.

“If music be the food of love, play on” – Duke Orsino Act I Scene I Line 1

After years of being an audience-member-only of the theater world, I’m thrilled to have the chance to see what the director’s side of things looks like. I’d be lying though if I said I wasn’t a little nervous as well.

What if none of the players show up?

What if they hate us?

What if we can’t get them to stay quiet long enough for us to actually do what we need to do?

Although I won’t be able to know or control any of those worries or more until we actually start, I feel like we’re at least going into the experience as prepared as could be expected.

We’ve been in contact with our site supervisors, my group partners are lovely and hardworking people, and I even have a Word document labeled “Henderson Battle Plan.”

If everything goes according to plan, we’ll b able to get to know our troupe relatively well by the end of our one hour session, will have briefly summarized the play, and gods’ willing, have a general idea of who wants what part.

We’re borrowing the “animal charade” game from the “revolutionary theater” reading and have even designed our own “hop” game to get to know the students at the start and a “noise game” to get the students to be a part of our explanation of the plot.

For the “hopping” we’ll have the students and two of us stand in a line while another, some distance away, calls out statements like “hop forward if you’re wearing blue” or “hop forward if you have a sibling.” The object of the game will be to see who reaches the speaker first, although we as facilitators are hoping it will help get rid of any excess energy in our players as well.

The “noise game” will be during our explanation of the plot – we’ll give a brief statement of plot, such as, “there’s a ship crash” and the students will take turns making a noise that could be associated with the action.

We’re hoping this will allow the students to be more engaged in the summary, rather than us just talking at them.

So in short, we should be just fine if everything goes according to plan.

I just wish I could believe that that’s actually going to happen.

Our work today for Act 4 went well. We started with a bit of a bump–our reserved Zipcar hadn’t been returned on time–but a quick call to customer service got us placed in a different car. We were only 5 minutes late to St. Joe’s.

Upon arrival, we went into the chapel, where we quickly pieced together that Timone hadn’t yet arrived and turned on the lights. I attempted calling him twice, but his cell phone was out of battery, so we walked over to Dooley School, where we expected to find him. Another staff member radioed him for us, and brought us over to Cottage 2, the Center for Alternative Education, and set us up in the conference room. It was another ten minutes or so until a group managed to assemble and seat themselves.

Three of the five original students, James, Jayvon, and Aisha, returned, as well as two other new students, Mike and Curtis. We began by introducing ourselves to the new members, and then attempted for a second time to clarify the plot of the play. In order to engage different learning styles, we played the trailer for She’s the Man for the students. Some had seen the movie, but it appeared helpful for everyone’s understanding. We compared the characters in the play to those depicted in the trailer, and answered some of their questions about the plot as well as about the performance more generally.

We then conducted some activities to help students develop their expressive techniques. Natalie wrote up a series of emotions on index cards, then had everyone draw a card (examples include anger, confusion, joy, boredom, and fear). Then, we had each student say the same sentence (I have to go to the zoo today), under that particular emotion. For some of the stereotypical emotions (anger, sadness, happiness), the students were more expressive and clear; however, for the more nuanced emotions, like love or awkwardness, the students seemed less confident. At times in this process, it was difficult to keep the students’ attention for more than a minute at a time. We think this may be because Timone had an extra workload today, and so he could not act as a supervisory presence the entire time.

The next activity that we did with the students was simply an expansion of the first, but applied to reading the script. We had the students separate into pairs, and assign one person as the Clown and one person as Sebastian. Then, each drew an emotion, and read their portion of the first page of Act IV. Some of the students paused during the middle of their readings to express frustration or incredulity about the language used in the play. However, to our delight, ALL the students who participated in the activity read the text very fluidly, with only minor issues interpreting punctuation and pacing. The rehearsal ended shortly thereafter, with a reminder to the students to review the script and potentially watch She’s the Man, as the next two meetings have been pushed back due to conflicting schedules and Fall Break.

Today, 9/26/16, my group, Act IV, had our second rehearsal. Me and Maddie went to get the Zip Car at 12:30, but we realized that the person who had it before us didn’t return it. We were worried at first that this would pose an issue with getting to St. Joseph’s Villa on time. We called customer service, however, and they let us switch our car reservation so we could use a different car. We picked up Jacob from his rehearsal and were on our way! I didn’t even spill my lunch on the ground this time. Once we got there, we headed to the Chapel, which is where we had previously decided our rehearsals would be held. We realized that there was an issue when we arrived at the Chapel and the lights were out and Timone and the rest of the students weren’t there yet. We walked over to Cottage 2 and found Timone. He told us that we would be using a conference room for today since they had an issue turning on the lights in the Chapel. This room worked really well for this rehearsal because we were planning on working on emoting and reading Shakespeare, so the set up (chairs around a table) helped a lot with that.

For this rehearsal, we planned on seeing which of our original five cast members returned, learning the plot of Twelfth Night, familiarizing ourselves with Shakespearean language, and practicing reading and emoting lines. We planned an activity where we had notecards with emotions written on them (like joy, sadness, love, shock, disgust) and had the students go around in a circle saying a sentence (like “I went to the zoo today”) in that emotion. Once we were done with that, we wanted to move on to them reading various lines from the play in those emotions as well. This activity initially went well, but we found that some of them didn’t know how to get some of the more nuanced emotions (like love) across. Also they seemed to be more worried about embarrassing themselves.

We also showed them the trailer for She’s the Man. I think this helped them understand the basic plot and who the characters were. It also gave them a reference point for when we referred to situations or characters. For example, when we talked about Duke, it was easier for them to picture Channing Tatum and know who we were referring to. When we sat down, I tried to jump into the trailer and explaining the plot, but Jacob reminded me that we had two new students with us today, and that they might not even know what the Jepson Shakespeare Project was, what they were doing there, or that they were even participating in a play. We decided to slow it down a bit, and re-introduce ourselves to the 3 out of 5 original students that came back (1 was sick and the other was absent from school that day, so both of the 2 that weren’t there today might come back for the next rehearsal) and the 2 new ones. We then described the project and the play.

It was harder to get the students to focus today. I think a big part of that was that Timone wasn’t in the room with us for the beginning part of the rehearsal, so the person that usually acted as an authority figure wasn’t there. Since they’re so close in age to us, it was hard to act as a leader in that situation. It was also difficult because we had moved from games and introductions to the actual play, and this seemed to lower their motivation to participate or pay attention. I think incorporating an improv game at the end of each rehearsal as a means of rewarding them for focusing would help this issue.

Because we won’t be having rehearsal for the next two weeks, due to a group conflict and fall break, we left a couple copies of the script with Timone and told the students that a good way to prepare for the next rehearsal on October 17th would be to look them over and watch She’s the Man. Our group decided that during the next rehearsal we would try to assign parts. To prepare, we asked the students who wanted more or less speaking parts. We also decided to break the script and the actual lines down into english that they would understand. When we practiced emoting, it seemed to be easier to do once we “translated” the Shakespeare to modern english. We decided to write little summaries like this next to every chunk of lines to have at our disposal for the next couple rehearsals.

This week we did not meet with our group: Higher Achievement – Boushall Achievement Center. These middle school students attend the T.C. Boushall Middle School located on 3400 Hopkins Road. We will be meeting on Thursdays from 6:15-7:15 pm starting Thursday, September 29th. Alan Delbridge, one of our site contacts, told the Act II group that our group will be on the smaller side. I think having a smaller group will be not only more beneficial to us, but also to the students as well. The rehearsals will feel more personal.

When we first meet on September 29th, we plan to start the session with a few theatre games to show the students that they can have fun in this casual setting. In order to introduce Act II of Twelfth Night, we will go over the cast list with the students and, depending on how our session goes, will assign parts. We will not begin rehearsing until the following week so the students are not too overwhelmed.

My group, Act 4, had our first rehearsal on Monday (9/19/16). The process of preparing for the rehearsal was a little stressful because of the torrential rain storm. We were a little pressed for time getting there, since I had come from a class and had to grab lunch before we left and since Jacob was coming straight from a rehearsal. Because it was raining so hard, my paper bag that I was holding my lunch in ended up breaking, and my salad spilled all over the walkway outside of the Commons. That was really sad. Maddie did a great job getting the Zip Car set up, so we didn’t have any problems with that and were able to leave immediately. We had already visited St. Joseph’s Villa on the Thursday before rehearsals, so my group knew the layout of the campus. We had already taken a tour of the school and planned to meet Timone in the Chapel so we would have a lot of room to work with the students and so we would have a stage to practice on during later rehearsals.


Once we got to the Chapel, we met James, Jayvon, Katera, Aisha, and Dale, who has autism. All the kids seemed really excited to participate in the program and some of them (Dale and James) also expressed an interest in music (which our group thought would work really well with all of Feste’s songs in Twelfth Night)! Timone told us that we could even expect a couple more kids (assuming the original five continued to come) to show up next time because of how much fun they were having during rehearsal. I’m really excited to work with this group of students because they all seemed really interested in participating, cooperated and worked together really well. They all have really big personalities and weren’t afraid to show them during rehearsal.


We didn’t want to delve too much into the actual play for this rehearsal, so we tried to stick to a basic plot and character introduction. As we began to explain the plot, however, we could see the students lose interest because of how convoluted it was. A couple of them even remarked on how confusing it was that the main character, Viola, wasn’t even in the act we were putting on. Our group realized that it would be too complicated to have them learn the plot in one meeting, so we decided to move on to some theater and improv games and focus more on the play next time when we had more materials accessible to help them learn it. We decided to show them the trailer for She’s the Man at our next rehearsal, tomorrow, because it did a great job at introducing the characters and the love triangles.


The theater games we decided to play were Zip Zap Zop, One-Word Story, and Bus Stop. All of the students loved Zip Zap Zop because it was really easy to learn and gave them a chance to loosen up and not take it as seriously. Everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves, which was really great to see. The One-Word Story game was a good transition because it called for more focus and attention. We finished with Bus Stop, which was a game where two people had to pretend to approach a bus stop while acting as a certain character or stereotype and try to get the other one to leave. These games were really effective at breaking the ice between the students and us because we participated too and it created a safe and comfortable space for all of us.


We then started talking about characters and which roles people would want. We started by asking who wanted parts with more or less speaking lines. This was interesting because some of the quieter students initially said they wanted bigger roles. Also, Aisha initially wanted Malvolio, but when we described that role as Olivia’s servant, she immediately decided she wanted something else. This was an interesting display of the empowerment that theater brings people. This was really enlightening for us, so we decided to come up with better character descriptions for next week.


For our next rehearsal, we decided to get the students familiarized with Shakespearean language by having them read lines from the play while emoting different feelings. We’re also showing the trailer for She’s the Man. Assigning characters and deciding what we want to do about Feste’s songs are also on the agenda. A couple people expressed an interest in doing “Hood Shakespeare” as a means of making the act more interesting to them, so we were thinking of switching out some of Feste’s songs with raps or doing a rap battle instead of a sword fight.

Colby, Caroline and I will be meeting with Higher Achievement- Boushall for the first time Thursday the 29th. In anticipation for our meeting, this past week we have been focusing on cutting down our script. Our goal is to have the act between 10- 15 minutes.

In addition to getting our script finished we have started to brainstorm how we would like to approach our first meeting. In general we have decided we would like to introduce Shakespeare, see what the student know about him and give a brief history. We will also give the general plot of Twelfth Night and in particular discuss Act 2. We would also like to get a feel for what kind of parts the students are looking for. This will include whether they prefer more or less lines and if gender matters to them (our Act has many more male roles than female). We also plan on playing theater games with the kids. Our hope is to get them more comfortable with us and each others and to show them how fun acting can be. We will be discussing with a few of the groups that have already met their kids to see what games they played and how successful they were.

On Tuesday (9/20), our group visited St. Joseph’s Villa for the first time, and we met with our coordinator, Timone.  He gave us a tour of the campus, and provided some very useful insight on the different groups of kids we might be working with from Brook Road Academy, the Dooley School, and the Dooley Center for Alternative Education.  We briefly spoke with the head of the Brook Road Academy and met three students from the Dooley Center for Alternative Education during our visit.

On Thursday (9/22), our group arrived to St. Joseph’s Villa anticipating our first rehearsal with the kids.  Unfortunately, there was a last minute conflict with another class occurring at the same time as our intended rehearsal.  Therefore, we had to postpone our first meeting.  We still have to organize a time and meeting place that does not conflict with the kids’ classes, so that we can have a stronger and more consistent turn out for the rest of our rehearsals.

For our first rehearsal (whenever that may be), we plan on introducing ourselves and Shakespeare to the kids.  We want to play a few different improv warm up games to get to know each other, to make sure everyone feels comfortable, and to have fun.  We will also describe the basis of the plot of Twelfth Night, and introduce the various characters in Act III to see if any of the kids immediately gravitate towards certain parts.

This week we did not get to meet with our group yet. Instead we worked on finishing the script. We are trying to have it finished by Monday so that we can ask Professor Bezio in class to print it so that we me have it on Wednesday in preparation for Thursday’s first meeting. Although we don’t plan to run lines during our first meeting, we plan to mainly work on getting-to-know-you exercises as well as improv exercises to get the kids excited about acting. Aleeza also had the idea for them to read different lines in different emotions/situations as a means to loosen them up and get them familiar with the script. I suggested we play the game hitchhiker which was a theater game one of my acting camps used to play. The game involves 4 chairs, three people are sitting in a car. The three people all have one quality and they have a destination. For example, nuns on their way to a wrestling match. The 4th person, the hitchhiker, get’s picked up during their improve. The hitchhiker has a quality that the other people adopt as the car ride progress. For example the hitchhiker has a fear of the walls closing in on him/her and so the nuns start to adopt this fear and forget their previous excitement of traveling to the wrestling match. It was a very fun game and really helped my theater friends and I develop our improv abilities. That being said, I used to do a lot of plays and musicals in high school and I am excited to help put on a production in a leadership position. I have choreographed dances before but I have not directed action/dialogue before, so I am looking forward to learning more about that aspect. Also, on a side note, there are a lot of bad things going on in our world as seen in the media and social platforms, so I hope this play can be used as a coping mechanism/distraction for those involved. As seen in Shakespeare Behind Bars, perhaps this play can help the children address things in their own lives, maybe not to the same degree, but hopefully it will cause them to think about their own lives in some way, shape or form.

Act V had our first meeting with our actors on Thursday. Since we did not really know who our students were going to be, we decided to dedicate our first session to playing games and introducing Twelfth Night. Our group currently has two girls and three boys. The boys seemed more interested in stage fighting with each other and dancing. The dancing could be something fun to incorporate into our act, especially since they’re pretty good at it. One boy, Adrian, expressed a strong interest in being Duke Orsino.

We started off with Zip Zap Zop and after a few tries, were able to get the kids involved. This seems like a good game to start sessions off with to get them focused and ready to read Shakespeare. The other game we played was to gauge how well they took direction and what sort of acting ability the students had. We gave them scenes to act out that developed as they went on- the kids themselves sometimes took them in crazy directions! I think this was a good game to see the personalities of the kids we’re working with. There is no shortage of energy; not to sound cliché, but at times the kids were bouncing off the walls. Being with their friends at Youth Life is clearly very important to these kids and they want to participate, but they don’t always listen. I’m hoping that’s something that will come once TJ, AJ, and I have built up trust with them.

Our plan next week is to possibly show the students clips from She’s the Man to help them get a clearer picture of the plot. We’re going to start talking more about the characters and who is interested in playing whom, and then to start learning how to read the script. The kids were excited at the prospect of setting Act V in Miami, which will certainly bring a fun twist. Hopefully the students’ enthusiasm stays just as strong throughout this entire experience!