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.

This meeting with the students was a lot better than our first visit, but was still a bit wild. We were sent to the band room, a room filled many expensive instruments. One of the directors of the “after-school” grilled into Aleeza, Caroline, and I’s brains how expensive the instruments were and that they were not to be touched. In order to prevent this, the director recommended that we do not allow the students on the third tier (the floors of the room are essentially set up in rows, with the instruments on the third tier). Two of the students constantly disobeyed and stood on the third tier solely for attention. One of these students also refused to participate in Zip, Zap, Zop because it was “stupid.” This game is how we begun rehearsal. All of the students absolutely loved it, and had a lot of fun participating. When the first round was over, they begged to play again, and their smiles made it hard to refuse. For the second round, the student that decided to sit out felt left out and chose to play with us. After we completed the game, we went over the plot of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night because we had a few new faces joining us that evening, and also wanted to remind the other students in case they had forgotten. As we explained different characters within the play, some students shouted out what characters they wanted to be, a lot of them were interested in being the clown. We handed out the scripts for them to look over while also explaining that next week we would assign roles based on how often one would want to read lines during the performance. We also mentioned that some students would share a role due to the big size of the group and the minimal characters listed in Act II. At this point, it was time to wrap up, so we handed out candy and told the students to get excited for next week!

This was my group’s first rehearsal in two weeks, so we were curious to see which of our cast members would return and what their level of interest would be. Since it had been so long since we’d last been to St. Joe’s, we decided to start with introductions, a short description of the project and the play, and some theater games. Upon arrival, we saw that only one student had been there for all three rehearsals: Aisha. Timone told us that some of the other students, like Catarra, were excited to participate in the future but had a conflict this week. We did have a lot of new students this week, which might pose an issue in the future depending on how many decide to come back or attend the actual performance. As of now, we have around two full casts for our act.


We began the rehearsal by re-introducing ourselves and the project. Maddie and Jacob did a really good job at describing this in enough detail that they understood why we were there but at a quick enough pace that they didn’t lose interest. We then moved into some theater games, like One Word Story and Zip, Zap, Zop because we’d had success with those in the past. However, they were slightly more difficult this time around because more of the students struggled with enunciation. I think a lot of them didn’t want to put themselves out there at first and were worried about participating. However, as the games went on, they really came out of their shells more. One student, Christina told me how much she loved acting but that she was curious to see how she’d do with a Shakespeare play because she didn’t feel familiar with them. However, when I asked her if she’d ever done Shakespeare before, she listed off around three plays that she’d either read or performed in. I think Christina’s positive attitude will help inspire the other kids and her familiarity with the script will really be an asset.


During this rehearsal, we wanted to focus on reading the scripts, getting familiar with the language, and understanding how to play a character. We broke up into two groups, and took turns reading a portion of the second scene of our act. I was really impressed with the students during this activity, because, even though they struggled with the language, they focused really well on enunciating and making sure not to miss any of their lines. Christina, who was the most excited about acting, wanted the largest speaking part during this activity. Once we gave her this part, we realized that she was having trouble interpreting some of the old English, but with some help ended up doing really well with it. Another student, Rufus, who barely talked during the other activities, really transformed while reading the script and spoke louder, more clearly, and with more confidence. Talia, who struggled with the pronunciation of a lot of the words, volunteered to read the part of the clown and persevered throughout the long lines of dialogue.


We decided to end with the Bus Stop game as a way of ending the rehearsal with excitement. Two students, Christina and Jacob (not the one from University of Richmond) acted out a hilarious skit involving Donald Trump and Taylor Swift. I think that this activity really helped them get into the mindset of an actor.


We left the students with a copy of the script and asked them to read it over and if they felt really drawn to a certain character, to let us know next time. For our next rehearsal, I think we should focus on casting (very tentatively based on who comes back), solidifying prop lists, and working more with the scripts. Our biggest challenge this week was how long it took to read over the script, so hopefully with time this process will run more smoothly. This group seemed to struggle more with the language but less with focusing, which is the opposite of the last group we worked with. I’m interested to see how this will change if the two groups end up performing together (assuming all the students come back).

After a two week hiatus from rehearsal, our group finally made it back to St. Joseph’s Villa for another meeting with our students. We got there a little early–despite being slowed down by a confused driver who insisted on reversing her vehicle down the road we were on. To our not-so-surprise, we had many new additions to the group, with only one returning student, Aisha. One young lady particularly stands out; Christina is a very enthusiastic student who has had lots of prior experience with acting, even in Shakespeare productions. She was a huge source of energy for our group today and caused many laughs.

We began with introductions and an overview of the project/play, which Jacob and I explained at an appropriate level of detail. We followed these introductions with another round of theater games–essentially, starting from scratch. Zip Zap Zop, One Word Story, and Bus Stop all made reappearances with the students, who seemed to enjoy all of them. We saved Bus Stop for the very end of the rehearsal and were delighted to see the level of involvement from all of the students. One student, Jacob (not to be confused with Jepson Jacob) put on an excellent Donald Trump impression that had the whole room laughing, and Christina played a very interesting Taylor Swift.

The meat of this rehearsal was getting the group some practice with reading the lines. We broke the six students into groups of three, and then let each group take turns on each scene. We selected scene 2, the Malvolio “torture” scene, and had each group member read an assigned part. One student, Rufus, was extremely quiet in normal conversation, but as soon as he began reading from the script, he was a different person–he enunciated, observed proper pauses, and seemed to understand most of what he was saying before we even had the chance to explain the content of the scene to him. He was exceptional as Sir Toby. Christina, who excels at emoting, does struggle to read the script, but I suspect with continued exposure to the material that she will read more clearly in future practices. Finally, Talia displayed great effort today. She struggles with speech, but volunteered to take on the role of the Clown, who had the most lines for that scene. Enunciation was a problem for her, but she did not give up.

We distributed scripts to all the students at the end. Next meeting will hopefully solidify roles and practice the entire script.

Unfortunately, due to prior travel arrangements, Caroline, Colby and I were not able to make it to week 2 rehearsal. We were worried that this may effect the flow and focus of the group and because it is such a large group maintaining focus is important. We discussed how to approach the next weeks rehearsal and get on track with productive and enjoyable rehearsals. We decided our next meeting we would introduce the script to the students and have the start to get use to Shakespeare’s language. We also wanted to try and play Zip, Zap, Zop with them to get them warmed up and let some of their energy out before sitting down and looking at the script.


When the third week came and it was time for our second rehearsal. We were excited to see the kids again and make some progress on the script. There were a few things we wanted to come out of rehearsal knowing; first have a setting and theme for our act and second getting a feel for which students in the group want big speaking parts. We decided to bring the group candy as an incentive to listen, participate and get through all that we had planned. We started off with teaching them how to play Zip, Zap, Zop. At first the kids did not seem very interested in the game, however as they began to get the hang of it we slowly watched the group get more and more excited and in to the game. We played three times and then had them all sit back down in their seats.

We pulled out the scripts and re went over the plot of the play. We didn’t have too much time left, so we passed out the script and just had them flip through it and talk about what their thoughts were. Most of the first reactions were something along the lines of “We have to do this whooooole thing” or “this is so long.” We told them its definitely manageable and if there are parts that they didn’t love we can make edits here and there. Another comment they made was in reference to the Clown. Which we realized we should have changed to say Fool or Feste. Many of the girls in the group expressed that they were scared of clowns, while the boys all asked if they could be the ‘killer clown’. We tried our best to explain Feste’s role as the fool, not an actual clown, but I think we will have to go over that again with them. Other than that the students were shouting out character’s that they wanted to be. Which will be a task for next weeks rehearsal. We then asked them about what setting they wanted the act to be in. The consensus of the group was to do it in modern day. By that time it was the end of rehearsal, we passed out candy and brought them back to the big group. We accomplished our goal of determining a setting and the students seemed to be excited about the play!


This week marked our second consecutive successful week at St. Joseph’s Villa, and we were excited to have our students meet Eliza for the first time and get back to work. We had one new member in our group, Katera (or KT), who had also met with the other group at St. Joe’s, and she seemed to already be friends with Destiny, Jayvon, and Aisha. To my relief, we also had every member back from the previous week, including Charles, the most eager of our actors. We decided to go into more detail about the plot of the play and the different characters. Trying to explain the love triangle proved to be challenging, because although we felt like we were explaining it well, it was difficult for the students to understand since they were not too familiar with the identity of each of the characters. Next week it may be a good idea to find some sort of visual so that the kids can attach an identity to each character that extends beyond a name.

Familiarizing the students with the characters got them excited to see which role they would want to take on in the production. Since some of them had already established roles with Act IV from the Villa, they quickly wanted to assume those roles with us, but we stressed that if they played different people for different acts, it would probably be a lot of fun. For example, Aisha said she is playing Feste in Act IV, but when we told her that Feste does not have a big part in our act, she decided that playing Malvolio would be a good idea since he takes on a humorous role in Act III. One of the issues that we faced with assigning roles was trying to figure out how people could take on more than one role, because there are many times when two characters are engaged in the same scene, so this is something that we are going to have to go through the script and figure out as a group before we can finalize anything.

As a reward for working so hard, we played some more games, which everyone was really excited about, including the 3, 6, 9 game, one word story, and at Destiny’s request – heads down, thumbs up. Next week we will bring printed out copies of our scripts and hopefully finish assigning roles so that we can start rehearsing some of the lines with the group.