This week we continued to make great strides in our performance at Youth Life. We were lucky enough to have Chris Miller, a fellow University of Richmond student help us this week and play the role of Feste, as his elective at Youth life was short on kids this week. With Chris’s help, we were finally able to run through a whole scene with everyone being the characters that they were supposed to be. It was very exciting! In addition to running through scenes, we were also able to begin talking about stage presence, how each scene should be played.

We started this week with TJ, quizzing all of our students on their roles, and asking them to analyze why we were asking them to do the things that they did in each of the scenes. Then, we ran through a few scenes and had great success. Our biggest challenge in this part of the rehearsal was teaching the students to remain quiet while other students were performing. After around 20-30 minutes of this, the students were starting to get restless, and things were becoming relatively unproductive. As a result of this, we started to play an acting game with the students where one student would start a sentence, the next person would say another word, and this went so on and so forth until the sentence ended. If you inserted a word that did not make sense in the sentence we had to start over. I thought that this game was really successful because it really engaged one of our students, Khalil, who usually is very unenthusiastic about the theatre. Before playing this game, Khalil refused to read his lines in his role as Antonio as he wasn’t feeling well. However, it was evident that Khalil simply did not want to be a part of the performance, and thus that is why he did not want to read his lines. However, after our game, and a talk me and Khalil had comparing Antonio to LeBron James (I’m not quite sure how I pulled this off), who is Khalil’s favorite athlete, he seemed to be much more enthusiastic about his part in the performance.

Of everything that had happened this week at rehearsal, I felt as though this was the most productive event. I sincerely hope that Khalil comes back to rehearsal next week with the same attitude he had in the second half of our rehearsal this week. I also look forward to making more progress with our remaining cast members as well and finalizing the logistics of our scene.

This week we arrived to rehearsal early. We started by working on emoting. We handed out emotions (like happy, sad, surprised, confused, in love, or angry) and had people say different sentences in these emotions. We played two rounds of this. The first round, we used the line, “I went to the zoo today.” The second round, we used the line, “An apple fell from the tree today.”

Next, we decided to have them read through the script. Last week, this took the entire rehearsal so we had made edits to make the script more readable. This time, it only took around 25 minutes. We had Rufus play Sebastian after Dale (who we had originally planned on being Sebastian) had to leave because he wasn’t feeling well since he was still in recovery after his surgery. Charles played Sir Andrew, Sir Toby, and Maria. He told us he didn’t want to play a girl during the actual play, though. Kendra initially played Olivia but somehow disappeared during the rehearsal so I stepped in for that role. Morgan played Malvollio and Christina played Feste. Christina told us however that she really wanted to try out Olivia’s part, even after we adapted Feste’s songs to be Taylor Swift ones, which are her favorite.

Later, we tried emoting different lines from the play. Rufus played Toby, Dale played Sebastian, Morgan played Malvollio, Charles played Malvollio, and Christina played Olivia. We had them each read one line from that character in a scared voice and in a sarcastic voice.

This rehearsal went well. I think next week we should focus on getting Christina more invested in playing the clown, since we adapted this part for her and she initially loved it. Also, she wants a lot of screen time which Feste has, but Olivia does not. We also plan on reading through the script more and casting more permanently.

“None can be called deformed but the unkind.” – Antonio Act III, Scene IV, Line 334

As we steadily approach our December deadline, I can’t help but think that things are going pretty well for Act I, all things considered.

And while I just posted a blog recently bemoaning my error in saying “everything is fine” only for things to be dramatically, yet temporarily, not fine a mere three hours later, I feel safer with this positivity post given the issues we’ve already experienced and overcome.

We went into this latest rehearsal expecting to have an utterly unexpected number of people (and we did.)

To be fair, our core acting troupe has been mostly consistent. We seemed to have officially lost our Olivia though and the four students currently without parts are not interested in being on stage at all.

Worse case scenario, we figure that one of us three can take the part, although one of the four mentioned that she might be able to do it, once she talks to her mom first.

Although we were a little confused by that caveat, we assume it has something due to the cross-dressing, given the same student’s reflectance to take up the part before due to the same reason.

The fact that we now have four students who are actively not wanting to be on stage is a slightly new development; they all are exited and eager to help with props and staging though.

The real question is how to keep them busy/productive during our meeting times.

Seeing how splitting up into “line reading” and “stage production” groups went so well at this last meeting, I imagine we’ll do something similar this week.

We’ll have to introduce blocking soon, but I think one more session with just lines couldn’t hurt.

Of course, this takes us back with what I should do with my stage crew.

Although their costume and staging ideas were really fun and creative, it’s definitely hard to hold their attention with just that.

They can also be a little on the loud side, which while I’m glad they’re so enthusiastic, can be very distracting to the troupe running lines nearby.

I might end up collecting art supplies and have them start building some basic backdrop scenes – how we would get that on stage could be an issue however; I’m also not much of an artist and none of my four students have mentioned an inclination for drawing either.

While this rehearsal certainly gave me a lot of new angles to consider, it was also one of my personal favorites, although not because of any Shakespeare-related activities.

Since Halloween was so close, I decided to bring in some candy and other little odds and ends for the troupe.

Although I’d originally planned on just going around and handing things out, one of the students spontaneously asked if we were going to do it “trick or treating style” which was an absolutely brilliant idea.

We divided the goodies amongst the three of us, went to opposite sides of the room, and basically let the students have at it.

If you’ve never been mobbed by a group of middle schoolers all yelling “trick or treat” then you might not be able to grasp the full effect of the scene, but despite the craziness, it was really fun and rewarding, especially when you saw how exited the troupe was.

So yes, we still have some odds and ends to work out, but our students seem to be happy and having a good time.

Some of the actors actually asked to take their scripts home to work on their lines, and while I am immensely skeptical that they’ll remember to bring them back to our next rehearsal, the fact that they want to run lines at home tells me that they are really into what we’re doing.

So while I still have no idea how this final performance is going to look, I’m frankly just glad that we can facilitate something that our troupe seems to be genuinely enjoying.

I was unable to attend rehearsal this week due to a prior commitment for my journalism class. From what Caroline and Aleeza told me, they arrived to T.C. Boushall and our students had decided that it would be a day full of bullying. Because the kids failed to stop bickering until later in the evening, Caroline and Aleeza were forced to begin the session later than they have hoped. On a lighter note, however, the group was able to begin reading through the script and enjoyed playing a game called “Museum.” At our next rehearsal, we plan to continue reading through the script, allowing the students to become more comfortable with their lines.

Rehearsal this week went really well! I think we progressed really far into the script, which we hadn’t gotten a chance to in the past week. Also, a lot of the high school students really came out of their shells and seemed to embrace acting more. I thought it was interesting that a lot of the students who usually don’t talk, like Rufus, really excelled with reading the script, while the more talkative students, like Christina, struggled more to read. This week, we had Rufus (who played Sebastian), Christina (who played Feste), Crystal (who played Olivia), Charles (who played Malvollio), and Jacob (who played Sir Toby).


We started by introducing ourselves to Crystal and Charles and asking if anyone had a chance to look over the scripts from last week. Christina said that she looked over the script, did some research, and was really interested in the play. She knew it so well that she could interject during our translations of the act and offer her own explanations to the other students.


We assigned roles and then read through the whole act. Me, Maddie, and Jacob would step in as the smaller roles, like Maria, since there weren’t enough students. We would stop after each scene to explain what was happening with the script and ask if anyone had any questions.


There was a hysterical moment in which Christina, in order to distinguish the moments she was playing Feste from the moments in which she was playing Feste mimicking the priest, used a demonic voice. She also did a great job singing, but because it was a little time consuming (since there was no set beat or tone for her to follow), we decided to cut these songs in favor of replacing them with Taylor Swift ones.


Because it took us the entire rehearsal to get through the script, we decided to change some of the language, punctuation, and layout of the script to make it easier to read. We also replaced the songs with more modern Taylor Swift versions. Lastly, we coded Feste’s lines by underlining them or italicizing them so whoever was playing him would know if it was Feste being himself or Feste being the priest.


Also, in order to plan for next week, we strategized about how to help Christina improve reading her lines. We thought we could split into smaller groups and have some people focus on emoting while others focused on reading so she didn’t feel left out or like she was being targeted. She seems to get frustrated with herself when she feels like others think she’s not doing well.

On Thursday (10/27), we had a super productive rehearsal! We had to think on our feet a little bit because we had about four new kids join us, and a couple of kids from our past rehearsals did not attend this week.  However, after we started off rehearsal with a fun and active game of Zip, Zap, Zop, the new group felt comfortable and ready to work together.  Matt and I split the group in half to practice reading lines from various scenes.  Due to the unpredictability of which students will attend each week, we realize that no roles will be completely set in stone, and we will have to be ready to improvise a little bit each time.  The kids that I worked with were very eager to read parts, and they had no problem reading the Shakespeare, aside from the occasional difficult word.  As we read through a scene together, we would pause at certain parts to explain what exactly was happening in the scene, so it didn’t feel like they were reading complete gibberish.  Next week, we can hopefully incorporate some stage blocking as we continue to practice reading lines!


We had a fantastic rehearsal this week!

When we arrived, we saw some old faces and new faces. Christina, Rufus, and Jacob were back, and we had two new students: Crystal and Charles. Once everyone arrived, we explained the project briefly to Crystal and then got started. We asked if anyone had looked over the script. Christina enthusiastically informed us that she had not only looked over the script, but had watched videos, done research, and taken notes. I’ll admit, at first I sensed that wasn’t all true, but later when we were trying to explain parts of the play to provide context for our act, Christina occasionally would interrupt with some information she knew about the play (almost all of which was correct). While Christina showed it the most, I also found out that Rufus had looked over the script, and that Charles has worked with the other St. Joseph’s group before. So we had some experienced members with us on Monday.

We decided to jump right into script-reading. We had intended to do official casting today, but because we didn’t have enough people, and some people were new, we just assigned parts that we think we will eventually give people, but still didn’t officially cast them. It was good to hear them read the parts we were thinking of giving them.

The cast was: Christina: Feste, Rufus: Sebastian, Crystal: Olivia, Jacob: Toby, Charles: Malvolio (extra characters were done by Natalie and I)

Everyone read very well! Rufus handled his long lines excellently, and his diction is still impeccable. He even put some emphasis behind words and had emotions in his voice when he could understand what he was saying! Jacob, Charles, and Crystal all held their own, and I was impressed by how well they could cold-read the lines without having seen them before — I think we will be safe if we have to randomly assign parts on the day of the show — seems like everyone can handle it (casting is still preferable though).

Finally, Christina did a fantastic job with bringing energy and being open to new ideas for Feste (she sang random notes for the singing parts and did an….interesting, demonic voice as a Sir Topas voice). However, Christina is a slow reader, and even though she read Feste last week, she was still struggling with a lot of the lines. She would get mad at herself if she had to keep stopping, and some of the other students would occasionally laugh when she would stop herself, which Christina would misinterpret as them making fun of her. We just had to keep encouraging Christina to keep going — and she got through it! We want to take some time to work with her separately on her lines in an upcoming rehearsal.

The biggest problem from this rehearsal is that it took us the entire rehearsal to get through our act. Now, there were pauses to discuss context, and we didn’t start right on time, but it definitely took at least a half hour to get through the script itself. I think the time will go down as people start getting more comfortable with their lines, though! Hopefully!

On our work day Wednesday, Natalie, Maddie and I made some new edits to our script. We took some of the prose and made it into sentences that were not broken off by line breaks. We edited words like “I’faith” and “wouldst” to make them easier to read. And we added a couple of phonetic pronunciations of tough words that will hopefully help people who struggle to read them.

Looking forward to next rehearsal!

This week was one of more productive rehearsals. All five of our students were present and we had additional help from another Youth Life volunteer and UR student, Chris Miller. We ran into a few hiccups with the students losing focus while practicing lines, so we tried to breaking up rehearsal with a theater game. We played a game where each player could only say one word at a time and we moved in a circle trying to form a sentence from each person’s one word contributions. This game started off slowly, but eventually we hit our stride and formed a few cogent sentences. However after awhile the allure of this game wore off and the students grew restless.

When we returned to the scripts the students had another good run up until the end of our rehearsal. On the whole our students are more comfortable in their roles. There are still some issues between a few students, but these conflicts are not as bad as in weeks prior. Dylan, AJ, and I are hoping that acting on stage in front of people will dissolve these issues as the students will be too nervous to agitate each other.

This week was our most successful week thus far. Though we were missing two of our students, Khalil and Adrian, this proved beneficial, as they are the two who have gotten into it with other students in previous weeks. With this smaller group, we were able to read through almost the entire play. We also finally began discussing stage directions and things like blocking. We started showing the students when they were and were not going to be on stage, and Marcus even offered to take on another part. The kids liked the ideas of wearing hats to distinguish characters and Tamiya (Viola) liked the idea of wearing the same hat when she was Cesario as Marcus (Sebastian) would be wearing, to show the audience they were supposed to look similar to one another. This productive practice gives me high hopes for our rehearsals moving forward.

The past two weeks at Henderson have been hectic and fun. We finally started the reading process of the script. Although new people have been trickling in almost every time, we have easily rolled with all the punches that have been thrown at us. Viola and Olivia have changed each week since the people we casted in those positions have not been here the past two weeks. I was really happy to see the disinterested kids crack smiles as we started with some fun theater games. The more time I spend with certain kids the more excited I am to go back every week. Hearing them all attempt and succeed to read the complicated language of Shakespeare was very satisfying. It is so cool to watch them progress and even laugh at the ‘funny words’ Shakespeare uses. Last week we had a few new members who even recognized the plot because they had seen She’s The Man. It was awesome to see their faces light up with recognition. We got through the entire script once in two weeks which was a huge accomplishment for my group. Then we had each student give us ideas for the prop list and let us know what they want to see in the play. It was nice because some of the students who do not love acting got excited about the props and costumes. Some of the students are struggling with reading and some of them are super accelerated. Each time I have to explain the love triangle over and over again, which I actually enjoy because once it is fully drawn the kids all gasp at how complex this situation is. Though some people were not excited to come this past week, by the end of the hour everyone left promising to be back next week!

Sarah Jacobson