This week the kids started acting up, more than they usually do. I think we had this coming because nothing went wrong for the weeks leading up to this one. One of the problems we ran into is that we ran out of games to play with them because some of them are just not interested at all in the games we decide to play with them; they seem to think they are too cool for those games. Another issue we ran into is that the handful of girls who are in our group are in seventh grade and act rather immaturely during practice. They like to be loud and boisterous and run around and hit each other. Surprisingly, the boys we have in our group are so well-behaved and absolutely adorable. This shocked me because I went into this project thinking that we would run into more problems with the boys than with the girls. Once we got their attention we decided to run through the script with all of the kids, and not break into multiple groups, because we had such a small group that day. It went really well and we found that some of the boys wanted to take on multiple parts. I was really happy when some of the kids asked if they could take their scripts home to practice. Even though it feels like it has taken a few weeks for them to get excited about this I think they are finally realizing how cool it is that they are putting on a Shakespeare play!

Our third week with the kids went really well. We decided to split into multiple groups so that there was a limited amount of time when the kids are sitting around doing nothing. We had one group of kids rehearse their lines while the other group worked on the set. We have found that we have a rather large group of kids who do not want to speak in the play at all and would rather work on the set and costumes. It was hard at first to work towards what they wanted but we ended up finding a way to let them work on the set and costumes. We had them design what they wanted the ship to look like and Maren showed them the stage at the Henderson location so that they had an idea of what they were working with.

On the fourth week, we worked again in the smaller groups. This week we had a huge group of kids, much larger than we usually get. I think they needed a place for some of the kids so they just gave them to us. Fortunately, the majority of the kids had an interest in the play and wanted to have a part in it. It was hard to adjust to the large number of kids but I think we managed it well. At the end of our time with the kids we did “trick or treating” and Maren, Sarah and myself spread out in the room and allowed the kids to trick or treat for candy we gave them.

This week we were in the choir room. They were a bit distracted by some costumes hanging on the wall and the piano in the corner. We played museum again and zip zap zop. I said if they were good I would play a song or two on the piano for them. They requested the “Peanuts song.” Which I happily obliged. We got them to go through the cast list and work on their characters. We got them to read through their scenes fully. However, they had a lot of energy this week and it was all I could do to keep them from bouncing off the walls. I think they have been coming down from the hype of Halloween. At least, I hope that was it. We really need to figure out how to contain their energy. Also, Alan pulled Colby and I to the side afterward and told us that they completed the reading testing of our 5th graders to figure out what grade level they are at. The person who walked out last week because the reading was difficult was labeled at 1st grade reading level. Two others were at a 2nd grade level and one or two were at 3rd grade reading level. This will be difficult for us especially in terms of teaching them and coaching them on Shakespeare. Hopefully we can work it one on one with them, but I am concerned that there are too many of them and not enough of us. Not to mention, I’m not sure how to translate Shakespeare to a first grade reading level. We have already determined that we need to shorten our script, but I’m not sure how to edit Shakespeare’s language so that is more easily understandable.

This week was ok, it went better than expected. They really enjoyed the museum game I suggested. “Museum” is a theatre game in which everyone strikes a pose while one person is the guard. The guard walks around the area and the “statues” (people” have to switch poses behind their back without getting caught. If the person gets caught then they’re out. They really enjoy this game because it lets them move around. This week we were in a room called the “we the people” room. It is decorated with murals of historic moments. This room has a better layout than the band room. Also, there were no instruments which were a plus. In addition, we finally got them to sit down and read the scripts. We split them up into two groups. I got my group to go through lines and work on accents. Some children in Aleeza’s group had issues with reading and would give up and walk out. Hopefully though, we can work one on one with them so that their lines will be easier.

This week went much better than the last. We were put in a more open room which allowed us to play more fun games with the kids. We started off by playing a game called museum guard. On the count of three the kids all had to freeze and stand like statues. I acted as the guard and walked passed them. When my back was turned they had to move positions but if I caught them moving they would be out. We played that game for awhile and them had them all sit in a circle on the ground to go over their tentative roles. We also went through the five scenes giving them a brief description of what happens in each and asked if they had any questions. After that we split the group up and had them start to read lines. With my group the majority were excited to start reading even with the odd language. However, when one of the boys started to read he tripped up on a few words and one of the other boys made fun of him. Allen, who was made fun of, immediately got up and left the room. I told the group that we have to support each other and that Shakespeare is difficult for everyone including myself and many adults. I then followed after Allen and talked to him about what happened. After that he was willing to come back in to the room but did not want to read again. (We’ll have to see next week how he’s feeling about it or maybe talk to him about having a non speaking role.) We went through the rest of the act we were working on and then it was getting close to the end. The kids asked if we could play the museum guard game again so we played that again before we left.

Halloween Monday! And one student wore a costume (Charles)!

We arrived a little early, and Timone told us that we wouldn’t have as many students as we normally do. This was a little disappointing, as we were hoping to finally cast students. However, five students showed up, which is about as many as we normally have. Christina, Rufus, and Charles returned (they have been here pretty consistently now, so we think that we can rely on them!), and they were joined by Dale (from Week 1, back from a foot surgery!) and a new girl, Morgan. We were excited to see Dale, but it was clear that the foot surgery had taken a lot out of him: his energy was zapped, and we could barely hear him when he talked.

We started rehearsal with our emotions game! We gave each student an emotion on a flash card (and we each took one too), and told them not to tell anyone else. Then we gave a sentence and everyone performed that sentence with their emotion and we all had to guess. This went really well! Most of them were doing a great job portraying emotions (the exception, unfortunately, being tired Dale). After someone successfully performed an emotion, we would ask the students to comment on how they knew that person was happy/sad/mad/etc. We hope that this helped the students to understand how to portray emotions with their Shakespeare lines.

Then, we decided to read through the act again. We decided that since we were considering Dale as our Sebastian the first week, we would have him read the part today (we knew that Rufus could read it). We also decided that we wanted to hear Morgan read more than a few lines, and since we knew Charles could read well, we gave Charles a smaller role for today and gave Morgan Malvolio. Christina played Feste again, Rufus was going to play Sir Toby, and Charles was playing multiple minor roles, from Sir Andrew to Maria (something he found very funny). However, right as we were about to start the read-through, Dale told his assistant that he had to use the restroom. His assistant told us that it would take about 20 minutes (because he’s on a wheelchair). So we switched Rufus to playing Sebastian. We realized that this sudden switch frustrated Rufus, who wasn’t sure which character he was supposed to be playing. He seems to dislike inconsistency — it might make the most sense to keep him as Sebastian at this point!

Everyone read very well today. Rufus seems to be getting even more comfortable with his lines, and is performing them a little faster. Charles was good and expressive. Morgan impressed us — I briefly explained the plot and the character of Malvolio to her before we started Scene 2, and she brought this interesting, dark side to Malvolio. It was really cool to see this new student read so well (but that’s our problem — we have so many students who read really well and perform well, and that makes it hard  to commit to casting…)

The biggest surprise for today was Christina. It was clear that she had looked over Feste’s lines some more since our last rehearsal, and she was reading the lines more smoothly. Sure, she was still pausing in many places, but there was big improvement. One of the highlights of the rehearsal was Christina realizing that we had swapped out the older Feste songs with Taylor Swift songs (Love Story and Bad Blood, which we thought roughly fit the themes of the scene). She said, “Aw, I love you guys!” and then proceeded to sing her heart out for both of them. We hope that this helped her grow even more comfortable with playing Feste (though she still wants to play Olivia FOR SOME REASON THAT I JUST CANNOT UNDERSTAND). Though we feel bad not letting her play Olivia if that’s who she really wants to play, we have no one better fit to play Feste, and she clearly enjoys playing Feste (especially now with the Taylor Swift songs!) She will do great!

We finished the act in about 20 minutes, which is a pretty good time for still having four more rehearsals! As we were reading the last lines of scene 3, Dale returned. Too late for him to read in the act run-through. However, we still wanted to hear him read, and we still had about 10 minutes left of rehearsal. So, we returned to the emotions game, but this time we had the students use their chosen emotions to read a line from the play. We did two rounds of this. Morgan, Christina, and Charles did very well. Rufus and Dale struggled with simultaneously portraying the emotion and reading the line correctly. And Dale especially struggled with the reading today, both with understanding it and enunciating it. We feel bad for Dale — he was so enthusiastic the first week, and we really don’t want him to be unable to perform. We will figure something out if he returns again!

Next rehearsal, we hopefully won’t have anyone else new (we have not had a week yet where there hasn’t been at least one brand new person, which is exciting for sure, but also inconvenient). That way, we can start officially casting and doing specific scene work. We will split up into small groups to work on things, and one of our big focuses will be helping Christina to read and understand her lines better!


Im back! This past thursday was extremely hard for me, I had just started coming down with what I would discover to be Strep and I was exhausted. However I was excited to go see our kids at Henderson, they truly have become a bright spot in my weekly routine. I felt that I could not miss this considering how little time we have left with them. I was so happy to get to work one on one with two of our leads, I was even able to convince our Feste to also take on the role of Sir Toby! Once he read through his lines and felt more confident he agreed with me that he could handle more, he even asked me if he could take his script home with him! I was so excited, a few other leads asked to take theirs home to practice too. At one point they looked at me frustrated and asked, “why does he talk like this” referring to Shakespeare, to which i replied, he just had to do this in his time period and it was how he mocked society. When I explained this the kids nodded and kept reading, I explained to them that I also get annoyed with this speech and its confusing nature but we just have to learn it! They read through the entire script pretty quickly this time and i was so pleased with them. Then Maren brought Halloween candy for them and we waited until the end to let them “Trick or Treat”. The kids had so much fun running around the room from me, to Page, to Maren, and back again! They definitely got too much sugar but luckily we did not have to deal with them and their sugar highs. I am excited to go back and watch their progress since they have taken their scripts home.


Rehearsal on Halloween was both entertaining and productive!

We had a return of nearly all of our previous students, including Dale–who missed the last rehearsal due to bunion surgery on his right foot. He rejoined us today in a wheelchair but otherwise in good spirits. It was nice to have him back. Neither Aisha nor Katera returned, unfortunately (S/O to Thursday’s group–you have them, right?). We did have one new addition, Morgan. At first, I wasn’t sure if she was actually interested in the production, but she quickly turned out to be one of the better performers.

After some brief introductions and an overview of the act, we went through another read of the entire script, which was edited and reformatted during the most recent workday. We made some of the language simpler, included phonetic pronunciations in the margins, and reformatted the script so that it was easier to read. These changes–especially the phonetic pronunciations–helped some of the students read more fluidly. Notably, Christina’s reading of the Clown, who has a lot of lines, improved significantly since last week. We were also touched when she told us “I love you guys” upon discovering we’d replaced the Clown’s original song with Taylor Swift lyrics.

Christina is an amazing young lady. She is high-energy and very invested in the project. But her biggest struggle is reading the complicated language of the play. This has been slightly frustrating for our group, as we have intentionally made changes to the Clown’s parts so that they accommodate Christina, yet she still insists she would rather be Olivia. We will likely end up casting her as the Clown regardless, but we are still working on strategies to help her feel more comfortable in that role. Next week, one of us will work with her, one-on-one, to improve her reading.

After a full read-through of the act, our timing came down to 23 minutes! Obviously, this is not acceptable for the actual performance, but we estimate that the true time is closer to 15 minutes because we had a few interruptions during the first read of the rehearsal. Dale ended up leaving to go to the bathroom before his lines started, and, being in a wheelchair, took a long time, so we had Rufus read both his and Dale’s lines instead. This slowed things down significantly. Also, Kendra…disappeared (?) about 15-20 minutes into the rehearsal, and Natalie took over her role as Olivia for the day. With some more practice, especially on Christina’s part, we think the act will fall within the time limit.

The last activity we did during this rehearsal was another attempt at the emotions game. We started the group with the phrase, “I went to the Zoo today,” assigning each student a range of emotions. Charles is very good at this exercise. The next phrase we used was “an apple fell from the tree.” Again, the whole group was very engaged. Emoting is mostly a struggle for Dale and Rufus, but we will take time to work with them as we get closer to performance day.

This week when we met with our students at St. Joseph’s, we were surprised to see that we had 4 new students and were missing 2 of our returners from previous weeks, Jayvon and Destiny. We came into this week completely prepared with roles for all of the students, so this threw us off guard and we had to improvise. After playing zip-zap-zop and one word story, I went over the plot again to refresh the returners and to introduce it to the new students. Lexi and I decided we should split up our rather large group in half and temporarily assign them roles in some of our scenes so that they could get used to what it is like to read Shakespeare, familiarize themselves with our act further, and for us so that we could gauge their individual reading abilities. I was pleasantly surprised at how well each of the students in my group read their lines, not being afraid to sound out the tricky words and ask for help if they needed it. After we read a scene, I went over it with the students, explaining what certain parts meant so that they actually understood what was happening. We concluded by reuniting the two groups and playing one-word story again, since the new students seemed to have a lot of fun with it. It should be interesting to see which students we get for next week, and decide if we even want to assign roles that are set in stone since it seems like we will have some attendance fluctuation in the 4 weeks we have remaining to meet.