I decided to follow Jacob’s lead and combine last week’s (10/3) and this week’s (10/10) blog post into one. We were unable to meet for our third rehearsal, since Maddie is our designated driver and she had a scheduling conflict. Since the shuttle times didn’t match up with our rehearsal times and neither me nor Jacob can drive, we decided to postpone rehearsal until the next time we would meet. Unfortunately, with our fourth rehearsal falling during fall break, this meant our next meeting would be on October 17th. I’m a little concerned that since last rehearsal wasn’t as exciting for the kids (since we focused less on games and more on the script) and since it will have been so long since we held a rehearsal, that a lot of our cast members won’t come back. Timone seemed to really like the program, however, so hopefully he’ll encourage them to show up on Monday. As for planning our next rehearsal, we decided to go over the script more in depth and practice reading Shakespeare more. We went through the whole script and “translated” it into modern English so we would have descriptions ready if the high schoolers were confused on what was happening during a certain scene. We also left the group with a “homework” assignment for the next rehearsal. We wanted them to watch She’s the Man, which they all seemed fairly excited about, and read over the script. My group and I worked more on a props and costumes list, which we will hopefully solidify more next week. As for Monday, I think our goals would be to cast the play, determine if the group wanted to use a creative twist (by making in modern, set in another era, etc.), and figure out what we’re doing about Feste’s songs. I also think we should try to incorporate more games into the rehearsal if we have time, because it seemed to let them burn their excess energy and focus better later on.

(Since we could not rehearse both 10/3 and 10/10, I am combining both rehearsal days into one blog post. I hope this is okay. I just assumed it was better, because two separate ones would just look exactly the same)

Last Monday (10/3), we were unable to meet with our students because Maddie had a conflict, and she was our designated driver (Natalie and I had no way to get there). Today (10/10), it is fall break, so no rehearsal for us.

I guess my biggest concern is who will show up next Monday. It will have been three weeks since we saw them. Will people not show up? Will the initial interest they had fade away? And for the people that do show up, will they be as excited or ready to work as they were during the first rehearsals?

We are remaining optimistic, however. We had 3 of our first 5 come back last rehearsal, with promises that the other 2 would as well, and we had 2 new people at our last rehearsal. We’ll make it work! We’ll play some theatre games to get people excited about the project again!

When it comes to plans for our next rehearsal, we want to make sure that we cast the play. It is time to start working on our scenes. We will cast whomever is there, and we will talk with them about what parts they want/how many lines they want. But we have to make sure that gets done.

Then, once we’ve casted the play, we should read through the script so everyone can start getting a feel for their lines. We can also start offering our brief modernized explanations of what is going on in each scene and exchange.

I think we have a great rehearsal planned, given that our goal is to get people interested and excited again in Twelfth Night. I just hope it works out!

This week at Youthlife was by far our most challenging. Upon arriving at the cite, we learned that we once again only had three of our five students available for rehearsal. I hope that attendance does not become an issue with the other two students, however, given how much time we have until the play we still have plenty of time to make up lost ground with the absent students. Our first challenge today was with Adrian, our “star” student. Adrian has thus far been the most enthusiastic, and knowledgable student in our class and we currently have him playing Duke Orsino today in Act V. However, last Thursday, Adrian got in trouble with one of the supervisors at Youthlife and for the first 30 minutes of rehearsal was in time-out. In addition, upon returning, Adrian was in a horrible mood and was in no way willing to listen to TJ or myself, or act to the natural ability that we know he has. This really set us back as Adrian is usually the one who keeps the other students on track with the performance and motivates them to do as well as himself.


In addition, we also lost Khalil who will be playing Antonio, for the first half of our rehearsal because he had to finish an online reading test. As a result of Khalil and Adrian being absent for the first half of our session, we only had one student who will be playing Olivia in the performance. It was extremely difficult for TJ and myself to motivate Jeniyah to perform when “no one else had to”. To keep her on topic, and to keep the session productive, TJ and I decided to play all of the other roles surrounding Olivia (Jeniyah’s character). This worked fairly well, however, it did also have its challenges as it was not the same as having all three students act together. One final challenge we faced this week was keeping all of the students on track when they are together. They really like to sing and dance when they are not performing, so in order to capitalize on this TJ and I assigned them to come up with a rap to Feste’s song for next week. We hope that this will help to motivate the students even further by giving them flexibility and independence, and help to align their interests with Shakespeare. Despite the challenges this week at Youthlife, I am optimistic as to what next week has in store.

Finally, after our third scheduled week of meeting at St. Joseph’s Villa, we got to meet with our kids. We had 4 students, two of them are also in Act IV with the other group, Javon and Aisha. We also had two new students, Charles and Destiny. Eliza was unable to make it on Thursday due to fall break travel plans, so Lexi and I arrived looking for Timone, but were unable to find him. When we eventually contacted him, and he told us that he was trying to finish taking care of some incident from earlier in the day (not an unusual occurrence at the Villa). At first I thought this was bound to be another disastrous trip, resulting in having to come back next week, still standing at square 1. Although we did not get started until about a half hour into our scheduled time slot, and we didn’t get to use the chapel space that I thought we would, the small room we did get worked out fine for our 4 players, and the day was successful.

We started off by introducing ourselves and describing the goal of our class to put on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Just to familiarize them with the plot without overwhelming them, we showed them the trailer to She’s the Man, and Destiny said she had seen it before. To get everyone acquainted, since Charles and the other three students had never met, and to help Lexi and me with names, we played the classic orientation name game where you have to say your name preceded by an adjective that starts with the same letter (e.g. Magical Matt). As you go around the room, you have to also say everyone else’s name before saying your own, to test your memory. This worked well for all of us except Javon, who seemed disinterested and did not want to give us an adjective for his name. We moved on to play a couple more games, including zip zap zop, and a number game where you had to go around in a circle counting upwards, but could only clap and remain silent when the numbers 3, 6, and 9 came up. By the end, everyone was having a good time, including Javon, who had broken out of his shell in the 20 minutes we were able to play some games.

Lexi and I had originally planned on going over the plot of Twelfth Night a little bit with them, and starting to describe some of the characters so that they could have some time to think about the roles, but the late start this week limited our options. All in all it was a good day, and I am excited to see Charles, Aisha, Destiny, and Javon act when the time comes.

Lexi, Matt, and I have been very much looking forward to meeting the kids at St. Joseph’s Villa these past 2 weeks but unfortunately we have not had the chance to do so yet due to some complications. During our initial meeting with Timone, the coordinator, he seemed very excited and hopeful about the prospect of Lexi, Matt and I coming to St. Joseph’s for the Shakespeare class. He was confident that there would be a solid group of kids that would be interested in the class and he planned to get them signed up before we returned later that week.

After this meeting, Lexi, Matt, and I came up with a plan for how to tackle the project – we wanted to make it fun, informative, and productive for everyone involved. We agreed that we should start the first class by taking the time to get to know the kids. Understanding that they would already know each other we worked to come up with ideas that would keep them engaged with each other but would also give us the opportunity to get to know their names and their personalities. We decided that we should begin with a quick name game and then get into some general team building exercises, followed by more theater based games. We figured this would allow the kids to become comfortable with us, with each other, and with the subject matter we were going to be exploring together. If time permitted we were also planning on doing a quick briefing of the project with a summarization of the entire play of Twelfth Night and its characters. Assuming that this would take up much of the hour we would spend with the kids we decided that we would wait until the following week to fully delve into our specific act of the play (Act 3).


When we showed up for our first day, no students ended up being available for the activity. As it turns out, many of the students who Timone was hoping would enroll have another weekly commitment during the time slot we were assigned. Despite being disappointed that we were not able to work with students that week, we coordinated with Timone to arrange a new time slot that worked for all of us as well as for the interested students. We left looking forward to our next meeting. Unfortunately, that meeting was cancelled as well because of an event that all St. Joseph’s Villa students were attending that day. Again, it was a bummer that we had yet to meet the students, but we are keeping our hopes up for the next meeting.

This week we finally met with the group. Of course naturally, things didn’t go as planned. We wanted to talk about the play, Shakespeare, and learn everyone’s names. This did not happen. We did get everyone to sit down and introduce themselves and say an animal that started with their first initial. Most of the kids, the boys particularly lied about their names and spent the duration laughing and crawling around on the floor. The girls were more honest, my favorite part was when a girl, Blanca, introduced herself and she said her animal was a banana. I couldn’t help but laugh. All of the girl are so sweet. I spent most of the time wrangling the boys though. They really liked leaving to go to the bathroom and hiding. I was very much reminded of why I do not and will never have 12 kids. Although I love kids, it was extremely overwhelming. Aleeza and I went and she tried to keep the session organized while I tried to contain the children so that they would pay attention to what she was saying. We did get to talk a little about Shakespeare and Twelfth Night, but they really liked playing hitch-hiker more, which I was thrilled about. It had always been my favorite theater game growing up, so I’m really glad that they took a liking to it. I’m not sure how to approach this going forward. Last working class we figured out what props we would need already. But I am not sure how we will cast the parts and get the children to actually read the script. Professor Bezio suggested that since they enjoy running around, perhaps we should have them read the script while running. I’m not sure if that will work, but I’m certainly open to giving that a try. If anything it will at least tire them out and get them to mellow out a bit.

Caroline and I met with our group for the first time last Thursday. The meeting definitely went different than I was expecting. We walked in to a large group meeting with all the students that are a part of Higher Achievement. There were many other student mentors and adults there that also work with groups of students. Our group was a group of 12 fifth graders. We were brought to a band room filled will instruments, which of course all the kids ran to the second we walked in to the room. After getting them all to sit down we introduced ourselves and went around the room having the students tell us their name and an animal that started with the same letter. Many of the students had trouble with this so we changed it to just their favorite animal. A few of the boys in the class were making up names for themselves… some of them not very appropriate. After we finally got everyone’s real name and were all introduced we told them what we were going to be doing this semester. A few were very excited about the show and the chance to act in a play. However there were some not so excited looks on there faces. We assured them that the whole process was going to be a ton of fun and that they had nothing to worry about.

We then played a game with them called Look and scream. We all got in to a circle and looked at the ground. We had one student count to 3 and on 3 everyone had to look up at someone. If that person was making eye contact back then both had to yell “ahh” and fall to the ground. If the person was not looking at you, you were safe to the next round. You play until there are one or two people left standing. The students seemed to enjoy this game although there was a group of 3 boys that refused to join in to the game and wanted to just watch. After the game we had them all sit back down and we asked them if any of them knew who William Shakespeare was. All of them said no. We then asked them if they knew the play Romeo and Juliet and they all got excited because they had heard of it. We then briefly explained who Shakespeare was and that we would be doing a play called Twelfth Night. We asked if any one had seen the movie She’s the Man and a few said yes. We explained a basic plot of the play and that the movie is based off of the play. One of the best parts was one of the girls goes “Wow this is so cool I didn’t even know I knew Shakespeare!”

After giving them the brief plot we started another game, Hitchhiker (we made sure to mention that they should never pick up a stranger on the side of the road only for the game).  We set up the chairs with two front seats and then all the rest behind and had them sit down. One person was the Hitchhiker first and we gave her an idea of what to act like when they picked her up. The students in the car then had to pick up on who she was or what she was doing and mimic it. We played this many times, the kids really enjoyed it (some got way more in to it than others). My favorite one was a little girl we wanted to be Dory from Finding Nemo. This meaning she couldn’t remember anything. As she got in the car the driver started asking her questions and all she answered was “I can’t remember.” The driver then started to catch on and all of a sudden ‘forgot how to drive.’ It was fun to watch the students act a bit in this game and I think most of them enjoyed it! At the end of the night we walked the kids back to the main room and one of the girls came up to us saying that it was the most fun she’s had at this place. This made us happy to know, as much as Caroline and I felt unprepared the students still had a good time. I am looking forward to having them read over the script and start planning out our act with them!

Week 2 was significant for our group because we introduced our students to the script. After showing them clips from She’s the Man so they could better understand our act and the show as a whole, we gave them scripts to look over. We played a few games with them to try to help them get into their characters, even switching genders around so they could step out of their comfort zone.
We had each student (three this week) read a passage from Act V to see how well they understood the language and what their reading abilities were like. Some of them struggled. Hopefully this is something we can improve on as time goes on. We have discussed the possibility of working one on one with the students if the numbers allow it to. This would give us the opportunity to help improve their reading skills and to be able to go more in depth into each character. It is clear that some of the script will have to be cut down again to make it easier on everyone.

A few days ago my group and I went to Henderson. I had never seen a Higher  Achievement program firsthand so it was cool to see how they run the program. I immediately recognized some richmond students who walked in late and they were mentors for the students. While we took a group of about 12 students (with one exit and one late addition), the rest of the students worked on other specialized projects or had small mentoring groups. There were quite a few adults who also came to help and mentor, I thought the mix of college students and older adults was very cool.

We started our session by telling the kids our names and then we quickly transitioned into a fun Hop game in which I asked them questions and if they agreed they jumped towards me and if they disagreed they stayed in place. The kids got pretty riled up by this activity but it was fun to see them get excited and smile.

Next we sat in a circle, which some kids did not enjoy because apparently the floor is gross, and we had each kid tell us their name, grade, animal, and favorite ice cream flavor. It was a nice ice breaker and they seemed to  enjoy having a chance to speak to us.

We then played a charade game in which you are assigned an animal and you must act out that animal and find your partner without making a noise. They enjoyed this activity so much that we played it two more times.

We sat back down at the table and passed out scripts while Maren explained who Shakespeare was and why he is a cool guy. The plot was challenging to explain to a bunch of middle schoolers. I ended up drawing  a love triangle chart so they could visually see the craziness that takes place in Twelfth Night. A few kids seemed super excited about having big parts which was encouraging to see. Next time Maren will go alone since Page and I had already booked flights home. But I cannot wait to return and work with them.