Week three provided new challenges for our group. Dylan was unable to attend, so AJ and I set out to Youth Life Northminster trying to remember all of the acting games she taught us and the students if we needed to use those games to start out our session or rejuvenate students. When we arrived to our site, only two of our five students were present, Janiyah and Adrian, who have so far been our most consistent attendees. A third student, Khalil, arrived late but had to work on a test in a separate room down the hall. Our other two students were only present for our first rehearsal.
We did not start our rehearsal until 5:15 as everyone was celebrating another Youth Life student’s birthday. During this birthday celebration, Adrian got in trouble for misbehaving and was put in an extended “time out” with one of the Youth Life staff. So, by the time AJ and I started rehearsal, we only had Janiyah. Working with only one student, AJ and I were able to focus on practicing her lines as Olivia and explaining the relationships that unfurl between Olivia, Duke Orsino, Viola/Cesario, and Sebastian as Act V progresses. We used modern language to explain Shakespeare’s word play and character interactions. Things were going decently well by the time Adrian returned from his exile. Being disciplined put Adrian in a sour mood. Usually our most active and enthusiastic actor, Adrian was disengaged and could be disruptive as we tried to have him jump into his role as Duke Orsino and practice lines with Janiyah. AJ and I attempted to lift his spirits without getting too off task, but as we gave Adrian more attention Janiyah became disinterested. Into this atmosphere of indirection walked Khalil, who has some trouble focusing under the best of circumstances.
AJ and I tried to engage Khalil quickly, giving him the role of Antonio. After last week when we learned that Khalil has some difficulty reading Shakespearean English, AJ, Dylan, and I decided to encourage him toward a few smaller roles with shorter line sequences. Antonio plays an important role in the beginning of Act V without saying too much so we thought it could be a good role for Khalil and he was happy to go along with it. However as we began to go over lines, Adrian’s bad mood and Janiyah’s subsequent disinterest made it hard for Khalil to focus. When we were going over the scene in which Antonio and Duke Orsino meet as old rivals, the scene quickly devolved into Khalil and Adrian shoving each other, using the animosity between characters as a catalyst for pubescent angst and physical assertiveness. Breaking up this altercation drained the energy from the room. By the time the boys were seated on opposite sides of the room, any focus had been totally lost and we found ourselves with only ten minutes remaining. None of the students had any desire to practice a scene or really listen to me and AJ at all by this point. We tried to play an improvisational acting game to lighten the mood, but unlike in past weeks the students were disinterested. Hoping to end on a productive note, we agreed that Khalil will also play Sir Tony Belch, though trying to rehearse his lines with the other students was fruitless. By the end of our hour, everyone was ready to go and we all talked about bringing our A-game for the next rehearsal.
In retrospect, the challenges of this rehearsal will multi-headed. For one, our limited participation has made casting difficult. We have many roles to fill but so far only three consistent bodies to fill them. I hope for better attendance next week, but am mentally preparing for running our Act with only three actors. In dealing with behavioral issues, I think it may be more effective to take an individualized approach. But this would require AJ, Dylan, and I to break from our main goal of directing the play and act more autonomously to address specific student needs and issues. Moreover taking a disciplinary role is uncomfortable, even when a staff person addresses discipline it can make me fell awkward to be present while a student is getting a stern talking to. Taking the initiative to deal with bad behavior is challenging while trying to maintain a positive rehearsal space. Hopefully next rehearsal runs smoother, but I am reflecting on how to address issues of behavior and lost focus if they do come up in the future.