On Friday, we finally had our performance of Twelfth Night. It’s so hard to believe that after an entire semester with them, we won’t be seeing our students anymore. Even though the rehearsals could be stressful, it was so rewarding watching the students grow and become more comfortable with us, with Shakespeare, and with themselves. They all gained so much confidence throughout the project. It was really amazing to experience, especially considering what we had discussed at the beginning of the semester pertaining to Shakespeare Behind Bars and how theater can be an enlightening experience that gives people insight into their own lives. Whenever the students got frustrated, we were able to see them channel this frustration into their acting and turn it into something productive. I’ve loved getting to know each of them this year and I hope they remember this project as much as I will.

On Friday, Jacob, Maddie, and I met outside of the dining hall to drive to St. Joe’s. There, we met Dr. Bezio some of the other groups to begin setting up. We sorted props into the backstage rooms, prepared scripts, and discussed our plans of action for when the students arrived. My group had made some last minute edits to the script to make sure we’d be able to finish in around 15 minutes. We took these new scripts and highlighted them based on roles, so that way it would be easier for our actors to follow along.

Then, I went with Page and Sarah to the main building so we would know where the bathrooms were should any of the students need to use them. Outside of the main office, I ran into Christina, Talia, Rufus, and Dale. I said hi to them and wished them luck. Christina pulled me over and told me how nervous she was for the show. When I asked her why, she said she didn’t know a lot of her lines for Act III and was nervous she would get confused while playing different characters for the two acts. I reassured her that she would have her script with her the entire time, and that if she wanted, we could run through her lines and practice before the show. This seemed to calm her down a bit. I told the students that I had to get back to the church and that I’d see them later.

Once back at the chapel, we continued setting up for a while. Dr. Bezio gave us the materials to make a dungeon door and after a little manipulation, we seemed to make something resembling one. Soon after, Charles arrived. He seemed really excited to perform and told us all about how he had been on stage in front of tens of thousands of people before with “10 to 20 famous people” like Jason Mraz. We asked him if he wanted to run through some lines and he immediately said yes. We showed him the new highlighted scripts and he seemed to like how easily he could find his lines. He told us about his “Shakespeare voice” and wanted to practice his lines with this new addition. He busted out a pretty impressive Scottish accent which was adorable and hilarious. He then proceeded to sing Bad Blood in this same accent. This was truly hysterical and a performance I’ll never forget.

Once all the other students showed up, we tried to run through lines with everyone. However, since we shared actors with Act III who went first and then we had snack time, we didn’t have time to get through our Act. I wasn’t too worried about this since we had rehearsed a couple times on Monday and everything seemed to go smoothly. We asked the group if they had any questions or anything they were worried about. It seemed like most of them had mild stage fright and didn’t want to mess up their lines. I reminded them again how everyone in the audience was their family and friends who were there to support them and not make fun of them. I also reminded them that no one in the audience knew what the script said, so even if they messed up, as long as they spoke with confidence, no one would realize the mistake. Charles also joked that he was scared because the elementary students were terrifying. Talia initially expressed interest in a costume but after seeing that her options were a wig or tiara, decided against wearing one.

Once the actual play began, we quickly realized how hard it was to hear people on the stage. However the earlier acts quickly adapted to this by reminding their actors to speak loudly and by standing on the ground, closer to the audience, instead of on stage. I sat next to Christina in the audience, and she, too, realized the importance of being loud. I think observing what would happen if they didn’t speak up really helped them understand why they needed to project their voices.

Maddie and I joined Act III backstage to wait until our act, since we shared the same actors. Jacob had already been backstage because he was acting. Unfortunately, when it was time to transition from Act III to Act IV, we struggled to do this quickly. In Act III, Rufus had played Malvolio. However in our act, Rufus played Sebastian and Charles played Malvolio. This meant that Rufus had to quickly change out of his yellow socks and ribbons in order to get on stage to be in the first scene. However, when he put on the socks, the ribbons were tied to his shoelaces. This meant that we had to untie his shoes and try to get the ribbons off. This took way longer than anticipated, and Rufus, who had been a little frustrated upon arrival, seemed to get really anxious and upset by the whole situation. This made the process take even longer. We suggested he go on stage without his shoes (since we couldn’t get the ribbons off) or put his shoes on and hold up the attached ribbon, but he kept exclaiming that this wasn’t “right” so he couldn’t do it. However, we eventually got the ribbon off and sent him on stage.

Another issue we had with transitioning was that the props used by earlier acts ended up on different sides of the room than we needed them to be in. However, by sneaking backstage to the other side of the room, we quickly fixed this. During our act, Sarah noticed that Christina was having trouble keeping her pants up. Maddie and I were unaware that this was happening since we were backstage and couldn’t see her. This posed an issue because no one could tell her until the scene was over, and by this time it was almost too late. However, after the scene was over, Christina’s sibling came backstage and talked to her about it, which saved Maddie and I from having a potentially awkward conversation with her.

Later on, the tinker toy door was on the opposite side of the stage we needed it to be. I had to run backstage to grab it so Charles could pretend he was in jail. I don’t think he wanted to go on stage without it. However, it got a little messed up on the walk over, and wouldn’t stand up on it’s own. It almost fell over, but thankfully Dr. Bezio slid out on stage and held it up. The other side began to fall down, so I ran out and held that one up as well. During this scene, Charles nailed his Scottish accent. Earlier in the day he asked Christina if they could both sing Bad Blood, since he liked the song as well and wanted to show off how he could sing it in his “Shakespeare voice.” However, she didn’t want to share the song. So, during this scene, Charles did some really hilarious improv. While Christina sang, he decided to shout out things like, “Ah make it stop!” or “Oh God, no !” This was hysterical because we had no idea he was going to do it. In the script, his character was supposed to be silent. However, I think his improv went over really well and allowed both him and Christina to share the spotlight. After we went offstage, he apologized to her and made sure he knew he actually thought she was a good singer and it was “all for the play,” since this was technically a torture scene. This was a cool moment to witness, because it really demonstrated his understanding of the play. It really reaffirmed the work we had been doing with them.

Another challenge we had was getting Dale to stay focused. During Act III he missed his part because he was in the bathroom. We were worried this would throw him off and confuse him when it came time to do Act IV. However, Dale came on stage and read his lines really well. He did get distracted, but since I played Fabian, I was able to stand next to him on stage and help him follow along. Because I had my script, I could show him what to read if he forgot to turn the page or got lost.

After we finished our act, it was hard to contain our excitement. I was so proud of how much our students had matured and learned throughout the semester. They seemed to realize this as well, and all shared in our excitement. They were giving us all high fives and Talia even gave me a hug. I told them all how proud I was of them and how amazing they were on stage. Rufus had a huge smile on his face, which was wonderful to see especially after how frustrated he was earlier in the day. I’m so glad the performance was able to turn his day around. When I congratulated Charles, he asked me, “Really? You guys really think we were great?” He was so ecstatic and proud of himself, which was really infectious.

Overall, the performance went really well, despite the challenges we faced. It was so much easier to manage these difficulties with a team than it would’ve been to deal with them alone. Jacob, Maddie, and I all seemed to excel in different areas of leadership. I think this helped us because we all naturally fell into different roles. We were each able to help out in our own ways. For example, Jacob, who had a passion for the play, was able to explain the plot, the project, and the acting skills really thoroughly to the group. Maddie did an amazing job of translating things to the students in a way that made sense to them. She was really good about checking in with the group to make sure everyone was on the same page. Maddie was also very practical and organized, which helped a lot with our easily distractible group of students. I think I did a good job of relating to the students and being there if they had any concerns or frustrations with the project.

This week we had our last rehearsal with our kids. They seemed super excited to get back to rehearsals and greeted us right when we walked in the door. We had one of our girls, who came almost every week, casted as Viola but when we got to the site we learned that she had moved to “the south side” of town.

At the start of rehearsal a lot of the girls told us they had a cooking class for five minutes and would be at rehearsal when they were done. We found out that they actually did not have a cooking class and instead went somewhere to get brownies. Once they returned and we had our entire group, we had an extremely productive rehearsal.

We started by play a quick game that they all like called “Mr. Fox” then went straight into rehearsals. We asked all of them what parts they still wanted to play and asked if they wanted to have extras. Luckily Jamirah, who never really seemed as though she wanted to be at rehearsal, wanted a bigger role and decided to take on the role of Viola. We went through the entire act with them, asking them to act according to how they thought their character would act. We also brought them props to use and try on before the actual play. I think that this made them even more excited about the play, knowing they could wear crowns and tiaras. They did a much better job running through the scripts than I thought they would and did not have much trouble with the words. Tyvell, who played Duke Orsino, was my one concern because when he didn’t know any of the words he would jumble them all together or make up words. None of the kids made fun of him and it didn’t seem to bother him when he did this which I was happy about. Reading through the act took the majority of the rehearsal time so when we were done we asked the kids who had their permission slips in so we could get a possible number of how many we would have during the play. We sent them home with posters of play and could see how excited they were about it.


I refuse to believe that this Thursday (12/1) was our final rehearsal and that the show is tomorrow!! We definitely felt the pressure today.  We decided to start with scene IV because it is the longest and most complex scene in our act.  All of the characters, besides Sebastian, make an appearance in this scene.  Today, we worked with our final, cut down scripts and had a good idea of who will be attending the performance tomorrow, and therefore, what roles they will actually be playing.  This week was the first time I could really see the act coming together (which was good timing given that the performance is indeed tomorrow).  We had Rufus reading Malvolio, Christina reading Maria, Charles reading Toby’s lines, KT reading Olivia, Talya reading Viola, Jayvon reading Antonio, and Dale reading the officer.

Rufus arrived to rehearsal today visibly frustrated.  After giving him some space, he was able to participate. I could see him channeling his frustrations into his acting. It was actually really cool to see.  Rufus is always cooperative and focused.  He does a great job with any role we assign him. I was proud of him for being able to throw himself into rehearsal and deliver his lines with the same conviction as he always does, even on a tougher day.

We continued to support Christina in her role as Maria.  She expressed her concern about playing a new part, but we encouraged her, knowing that she will do her best.  We reminded her that no one besides her knows her lines, and therefore she should not be afraid to make a mistake and should deliver her lines confidently.  She would ask us how we wanted her to deliver a certain line, and we told her that she could say a line whatever way felt right for her.  We wanted her to feel free to make the part her own, which she definitely did.

Charles noticed that in the stage directions for Sir Toby that he is described as “drunk,” and he very politely asked us if he could act “drunk” for us. It was adorable.  Of course we said yes, that he could make the part his own.  He was absolutely hilarious, slurring his words, stumbling around, and having fun with it. He got super into his part, asking if he could have a prop bottle with him on stage.  When asked what he wanted in the bottle he quickly replied, “Hawaiian punch.” 

KT is such a strong performer.  She wanted to be Olivia from the first rehearsal we met her because she wanted to be “the princess.”  Luckily, Olivia is one of the characters with the most lines, and therefore, we can really show off KT’s talent in the show.  She delivers lines confidently, projects well, and understands her stage positioning.  She’s always flexible and easy to work with. She’s just awesome.

Talya expressed some apprehension as we were wrapping up rehearsal about having to perform in two acts.  We assured her that she did not have to do so if she didn’t want to, but she immediately replied “I got it.”  That pretty much sums up Talya. She’s game to play any role, and she’ll do it well.  Talya joined us later in the project, but then attended rehearsals regularly.  I am so happy that we had the opportunity to work with her.

Jayvon’s character, Antonio, doesn’t make an appearance until the end of scene IV, but he was super patient throughout rehearsal.  We made sure he was comfortable with his props and stage directions.  Even though he acts like Mr. Tough Guy, I think he’s secretly a little nervous.  We had fun staging his entrance, emphasizing that he enters “running” to break up the fight.  Without us saying anything, he ad libbed his entrance telling Cesario and Sir Andrew to “woah, woah, stay cool” before beginning his actual lines. It was entertaining, and I hope he adds his own style to the role in the show tomorrow night.

Dale has a bit more trouble delivering lines and following along the script, so we have him in a smaller role as the officer. However, today he was entertaining as always.  He cracks jokes throughout rehearsals, most of them only he understands, but we appreciate his humor and ability to have fun with the play. None of his jokes will top the “Sir Toby Belch, excuse me” though.

It has been a ton of fun working with these students and watching them progress throughout the project.  Eliza, Matt, and I have progressed as amateur Shakespeare directors along with them.  I am super excited to see it all come together tomorrow night.

Our rehearsal this Thursday (11/17) gave us a lot of clarity regarding role assignments for the final production. As always, many of the students were very flexible with roles, which has always been very helpful for us, given the unpredictability of attendance.  However, for the students that we have had the pleasure of working with consistently week to week, I have noticed them growing more comfortable with certain roles.  For example, Jayvon has become attached to his role as Antonio.  Luckily, that role assignment works well for him.  He is a strong performer, and I believe he will feel confident reading Antonio’s lines since he has been able to practice that role consistently.  Unfortunately, Christina has grown attached to Olivia’s role, but we do not think that will be the best fit for her.  We had Christina read Maria for us this rehearsal, and it went very well.  She is not quite yet confident, but we will continue to practice with her and give her pep talks until she feels ready.  Throughout the rehearsal, as she adjusted to her new role, I could see her having more and more fun with it.

We continued to take notes on any further script changes that appeared necessary.  We have cut down the script a decent amount, but we will continue to do so because we are slightly nervous about time. 

Given the proximity to the final production, we treated rehearsal as a more formal and organized dress rehearsal, so we would be able to pinpoint the major areas that needed a little more practice before the show.  We emphasized having the kids enter and exit from the locations they will in the actual show.  We want the kids to feel as confident and prepared as possible for the final production, although there will definitely be some last minute adjustments, no doubt.  We also continued to emphasize their positioning on stage, so that they face the audience whenever they deliver a line.  Next rehearsal (our final practice before the show), we will incorporate props, as well. 

We had a huge group this time, which was a bit hectic, but also tons of fun.  We were super excited to see some new faces.  We had a new student who was very confident, entertaining, and eager to act.  We had him reading Malvolio’s lines, and he had fun putting his own twist on the role.  On the other hand, we also had a new student who was a bit shyer.  We encouraged him to try reading a role, but unfortunately, he did not make it up on the stage this rehearsal.  However, I think he enjoyed observing and taking it all in.  I hope very much that he attends next week’s rehearsal, so we can continue to try to get him more involved. 

Due to the size of our group this week (first time we had more kids than roles…usually the other way around), I noticed that the students not involved in a particular scene were becoming disengaged in the rehearsal while the other students were working on a scene on the stage.  Therefore, I pulled a few aside to just read through lines while waiting in the pews.  This way, they would remain engaged and hopefully feel more prepared for when it was their turn to perform their scene on the stage.  I also used the time to gage how they were all feeling about the performance in general and to get any feedback about role preferences.

I think we made major strides in our rehearsal this week, and I look forward to our final rehearsal and the actual performance next week!!