This week we really started to work with our kids on reading through the script. We started with a few games before sitting them down to read through the script. Now that we have a small room all to ourselves, it is easy to hear the kids speak. In the session before, we casted and explained the parts to the kids while giving them out to them. This week a good amount of the kids from the week before returned, which was somewhat of a relief. When reading through the script, it was amazing to see that a lot of the kids could read through it pretty well, as if they had red Shakespeare before. We have one kid who is playing Duke Orsino who has some trouble reading through the script and forming the correct words but he doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. The kids seem extremely excited about the play. Especially one girl who was not happy to be there at all who, by the end, was asking to read more lines and potentially have a bigger part in the play. We are excited to see how many kids come back this week and we are excited to start focusing on props and costumes!

This week went way better. We started off the session with two rounds of zip zap zop. Then we were able to get them to actually sit down and actually look at the scripts. It was amazing! We talked about the different characters and the setting. The kids decided they wanted it to be set in modern day England. However, they wanted to do various accents so it will be a UN conference style where everyone will be from around the world. In terms of characters, all of the kids initially wanted to be the clown/the fool. In the end two of them said they wanted to be Viola and Duke Orsino, so there is hope and we will not have an all clown cast potentially. We didn’t get to look over the script much, I worry that we spend too much time teaching/learning new games to play, however they do enjoy them. Unfortunately next week I will not be at practice because I have to go to Charleston for my cousin’s wedding. However I do know that we plan to go over character descriptions and help them choose parts.

“If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.” – Fabian (Act III, Scene IV, Lines 116-117)

I’m not going to lie, at this point in the rehearsal process I was expecting the Thing to have happened already.

What is the Thing you ask?

Well, the Thing is that roadblock/curve-ball that no matter how hard you try you just can’t manage to anticipate before you’re already standing in the chaos it’s left in its wake.

Dramatic? Oh for sure, but this is the theater after all, so one could argue I’m just tailoring my natural anxiety to be more thematically relevant.

That being said, our third rehearsal went by pretty much without any hitches.

We got everyone into the room and through our ice breakers without any dramatic displays of disinterest, and Sarah even managed to convince our costume mistress student to have a part as well.

While we were technically missing our Olivia, we had one student volunteer to read the lines for her, and worse case scenario, it would be easy to sub the “understudy” in as the real thing should our regular Olivia be a consistent no-show.

The biggest pre-rehearsal anxiety on my part at least was how were our students going to react to the actual script?

This was the first time they were able to look at it for an extended amount of time after-all, and I freely admit I was expecting a reaction ranging from shock to a full on troupe mutiny.

It turns out I had nothing to worry about though. While our Duke Orsino did rightfully point out how “weird” the language was, they all stuck with it, and frankly did an amazing job.

Our Orsino has the most trouble, but mostly just with unfamiliar words, and our Viola is really something.

We’re actually a little short cast-wise, even when everyone is present, so all three of us Jepson students will take a part.

As someone who’s always seen themselves as more of a director than an actress, I fully expect to be upstaged by our remarkable students, but I actually think it’s better for our troupe to see us not only directly involved with the acting, but also stumble our own way over the occasional Shakespearean turn-of-phrase.

Probably the funniest part of the read through was us realizing that middle-schoolers are still very much aware of the modern context of the word “ho.”

Although in the context of the play it wasn’t anything even remotely sexual, it still caused a pause, gasp, and giggle out of the bulk of our troupe.

If anything, it was a good reminder that even when editing through a script it’s easy to miss things you personally wouldn’t expect other people to catch or understand, and to our troupe’s credit they all voted to just cut the line completely from the show.

I think the overall lesson of this rehearsal, at least for myself, was that it’s easy to go into a new space and assume things, the troupe won’t be able to read well, they won’t catch these bits of the dialog, etc.

While in a perfect world it would be possible to walk into a new situation without assumptions, I think an equally important (and possibly more realistic) process would be to at the very least be willing to toss or alter those assumptions the moment they are challenged.

As far as tonight’s rehearsal goes, we’re going to finish up our read through and start talking prop ideas.

I’ve really enjoyed planning and running rehearsals alongside reading the “Hamilton” book since it’s comforting and pretty cool to see the similarities in rehearsals and problems that can be shared by any type of production, whether it’s destined for Broadway or for a local community stage.

Does this mean I’m going to start doing my hair in a Lin Manuel Miranda styled ponytail?

Not at all. But at the very least it’ll give me a reason to keep Hamilton songs playing on repeat in my head, even when we’re focusing on Shakespeare.

This week had highs and lows for our group. We had all five students, which was crucial since we have many more parts than actors. I was proud that the group was able to finally read through most of the script, which was a big accomplishment for everyone. The group was excited to start to add acting to their lines, and many wanted to incorporate more movements into the scene. The students got into their parts and learning more about the characters they are playing in our act. Though they are nervous at the prospect of performing it on stage, they seem to be warming up to the idea.
The major low for our group this week came after Khalil struggled with the initial delivery of his lines. Janiyah made a comment that he was not reading fast enough for her liking. The two immediately began to argue over who was smarter and the other students were immediately egging them on. Khalil and Janiyah were both getting upset and TJ, AJ, and I knew we needed to do something. Having dealt with conflict like this before as a camp counselor, I asked Janiyah if she wanted to go outside and talk for a few minutes. We sat down in the hallway and I asked her how she was feeling. She said she was frustrated that he was unable to read his part as well as the other students. I told her that everyone learns at different speeds, and that some people are really good at some things, and not as great at other things, but that’s what makes everyone unique. Though it sounds a bit cheesy, it motivated her enough to go back inside. I was feeling good about resolving the situation until the two started bickering again. TJ left with Khalil to hear his side of the story and to prevent further distraction. AJ and I sat down for a few minutes to talk with the other students about what it means to be respectful and to be a good audience. We also made it clear that rehearsals were not a time to make anyone feel bad about themselves and that this behavior should not continue. Once they got the message, we were able to get back to the scripts and finish up the act, which was a high note to end the rehearsal on.

On Thursday (10/13), we had our second meeting at St. Joe’s.  This time, we met with the kids in the chapel instead of a classroom.  All four students from our previous rehearsal attended, and a new student from the Dooley Center for Alternative Education joined us.  We discussed the plot of the play more specifically, and we attempted to explain the complicated love triangle that occurs in Twelfth Night (this required a diagram, because even I got confused attempting to explain it).  We started to gauge which students had interest in playing which parts.  Due to the amount of characters in our act (a total of 10), we will have to have some of the kids double up on characters, and Matt, Eliza, and I will have to step in to read some parts as well.  Luckily, most of them were excited and even requested big parts.  Once we felt we were loosing their attention, we decided to wrap up rehearsal by playing some fun games.