I thought that Friday’s performance was a huge success! The crowd was much larger than I expected, and every act really lived up to the high expectation I had been reading about in weekly blogposts. Well done everyone! While I am inherently biased, I was very pleased in our act. We had five students ultimately show up to the performance; Adrian (Duke Orsino), Jeniah (Olivia), Tamaiah (Viola), Marcus (Officer, Sebastian, and Fabian), and Khalil (Antonio, Sir Toby Belch). We were all rather surprised with Khalil’s attendance as throughout rehearsal he insisted that he was not going to come to the performance. However, we were very happy that he finally decided to attend. When the students first arrived, they were rather shocked as to the size of the crowd (we were as well). This kind of came back to bite us as throughout rehearsal, when students would ask us how many people were going to be there, we would respond with “not many”. We did this not only to keep the nerves of the students at ease, but also because we actually thought there were not going to be many people at the actual performance. It is evident now that we thought wrong. After initially greeting the students, we then showed them some of the props that they would be using throughout the show. While we brought many props to rehearsal, the students were still interested in adding final touches to their costumes. The props ultimately proved to be both beneficial and distracting for our overall performance. For one, they really seemed to get the students excited about the show. Adrian really liked wearing his crown, and the gold chains were a very big hit for the students. However, given that there were only two gold chains, there were clearly not enough to go around. Thus, when Khalil got to wear the money chain, Adrian became very upset as he wanted to wear the same chain. In addition, Adrian could not decide as to which mustache to wear during the performance. While we tried to tell him that this was rather unimportant, he insisted that he needed the right one to do well. On the plus side, however, Marcus and Jeniah were both very excited about their make-up. Marcus had a beard drawn on his face, that he was clearly very excited about. He even told me at one point that he was “going to wear it to school the next day”. Evidently, he must have forgotten that the performance was on a Friday, and the next day was Saturday.

After we finally got set up with our props and make-up we did one final run-through of our act. A lot of the lingering problems such as word pronunciations and stage movements that we had really attempted to work through in our rehearsals were still posing an issue, however, at this point it was much too late to really correct the students, so I just told them to simply skip over a word if they could not pronounce it. Additionally, we still had a problem with students wanting to sit down frequently during our act, given how long some of the students would consecutively be on stage. Again, I told them that I would like to remain on stage for as long as possible and to ensure that they read all of their lines. I also told them that if they get tired, they can sit down in the pews on stage, and come back on stage if there is something they urgently need to ask. Even with all of these hiccups, however, I thought our final run-through went pretty well. It was evident that at this point nerves and excitement were really starting to set in. On the one hand, the students showed a lot of enthusiasm and excitement in this rehearsal. On the other, you could tell that they were extremely nervous and tensions were rather high. At multiple points during this final rehearsal, Adrian fumbled with his lines, insisted he wasn’t ready, then walked off stage in a very dramatic fashion. Given these nervous existential crises, however, he always was able to come back on stage and finish out his performance.

After we ran through our final practice, it was finally time for the show to begin. We had all of our roles assigned, with Jacob and Dylan being confirmed as Feste and Malvolio, respectively, all of our students were there with their respective roles, TJ would serve as the “attendant”, and I would read the lines of Sir Andrew. As we watched the other performers, I was really glad we went last. I thought that it really calmed our students down, and set their expectations up nicely. Throughout the show, however, one problem that was evident was that students were not projecting their voices. Thus, during the show, as well as in our brief time backstage before our performance, we really tried to emphasize to the students to speak loudly. Finally, after long last, it was our time to perform.

Our performance, in my opinion, really went smoothly. Given how “silly” some of the performances were at times, it was really evident how seriously the students were taking the performance itself. This was especially evident in Khalil. Throughout rehearsal, Khalil would frequently stumble with words, and forget which part he was playing. However, during the show he had no such problems. While he did again stumble with some words, I was very proud of his resilience, especially in his long monologue as Antonio in the beginning of the show. One problem that we discovered early on, however, was that our students were not speaking loud enough. This was extremely hard to address, given again, that many of our performers did not come off stage the entire scene. Thus, it was really hard to tell them to speak louder, given that we could not go onstage. Additionally, in our performance, our students randomly would enter and exit the stage. This was, again, a result of students who were supposed to be on stage the entire performance, leaving if they had a gap in lines. Finally, after the students read all of their lines, it was time for our song and dance. It was really obvious that the students were nervous at this point during the show. While in rehearsal, they would really enjoy doing the dance, they looked very stiff out there for the actual performance. In addition, their nerves were evident, in their expulsion of energy and apparent relief as soon as the show ended. At that point, they finally decided it would be appropriate to dance. Looking back, I was extremely pleased with the performance. It was very bittersweet, and somewhat strange knowing that next week, I will not be going to Youth Life to teach the students that we had grown rather close to during the semester. After the performance, Adrian said that he would miss having his “friends” teach him every week, and Khalil shook each of our hands and told us how he was so glad he chose to do theatre. At that point, I realized, regardless of how the show went, we really had a successful night, and semester at large. In seeing how proud these students were of their performance, from all acts, and the bonds that had been made throughout this entire project, it was clear to me that the show was a great success, regardless of how it actually turned out. Again, I cannot express enough how happy I was to be a part of this show, and project at large.

Only one day before our final performance! I thought that this week’s rehearsal went very well. We had four students this week, and really tried to iron out a lot of the logistical elements before our performance. We began our rehearsal by answering the many logistical questions that the students had regarding the performance. Things such as what time the performance would be, how they would logistically be getting there, what they should wear, etc.. Luckily, we had Ms. Carin in the room with us to answer many of the transportation questions that students had that had been arranged prior between her and Dr. Soderlund. It was great to have Ms. Carin in the room to answer many of these questions given that TJ, Dylan or myself could not explain the exact nature of how this performance would impact the student’s schedules. One thing that I thought was funny in this section in particular was how much the students were concerned with what they were going to wear for the performance. Adrian was hung up on this subject for a good ten minutes of our rehearsal. He debated everything from what color hat to wear (he didn’t even end up wearing a hat), to wondering where he had left his jean jacket (again, he did not even wear this). All the while, I think that his anxiety regarding what types of clothes to wear, then got the other students worried. For instance, after we debated what Adrian should ultimately wear for the performance, Jeniah then became worried. She was debating whether or not she should wear a dress, and wondered what sort of stage makeup she would have access to. After we assured her that this performance would not require her to wear a dress, and that stage makeup would be provided, we realized we were already almost  halfway through our scheduled rehearsal time.

After we got through the aforementioned logistical debate, we were then able to move into actually rehearsing our act and our lines. I thought that this went well, however, we frequently had to stop reading and work on our stage movement. I thought that this was rather challenging given that our act is essentially one scene. There is not a whole lot of stage movement aside from people walking in and out of the scene. While this seems as though it would be easy, the students were reluctant to grasp the concept that they would essentially be on stage the entire time. One problem we had with this is that if a student did not have lines for a short period of time, yet they were supposed to remain on stage, they would evidently just walk off stage and sit down. While we attempted to tell our three students playing Duke Orsino, Viola, and Olivia that they essentially had to stay on stage the entire scene, our efforts were rather futile and we ended up compromising and allowing them to come off stage if they had a break in lines. Another challenge in our final run-through was with Marcus. While Marcus is probably our easiest student to work with, he had not been to rehearsal in over a month before this one. Thus, we essentially had to re-teach Marcus his lines and his stage movement as if he were practicing for the first time. Finally, in our last rehearsal, we attempted to improve our on-stage movement showing students who to face with given lines, and how to project their voice. While I thought that all of this was good to go over in our rehearsal, I was rather nervous that we still had not run through the entire performance without interference yet. I was confident, however, that come performance time the students would be ready to go.

Naturally, the rehearsal ended rather bittersweet. I think that by the end of this rehearsal, the students finally understood that the show was the next day, and really started to get nervous, and serious about doing well. While we assured them that they would do fine, it was evident that their natural nerves were setting in. While, this again, made me nervous as a result, I was still confident in their ability to perform. Looking back, I am confident that our rehearsals not only prepared the students for the performance, but also made the students more interested in theatre and arts as a whole, ultimately accomplishing the mission we set out in Leadership on Stage and Screen. Regardless of how the students actually do tomorrow, I have been extremely proud of their progression, not only as performers, but as individuals as well.

After spending the semester at St. Joseph’s Villa, I am very pleased overall with Act 4’s performance in Twelfth Night. Our solid core members all showed up for the performance: Rufus as Sebastian, Charles as Malvolio, Christina as the Clown, Dale as Sir Andrew, and Talia as Olivia. I played Mario and Jacob played Sir Toby/The Priest. Our actors excelled in projection and seemed to enjoy themselves on stage, which were some of the most important parts of the performance. They were good sports and seemed proud of themselves afterward!

A few comical highlights:

  • Christina, the sweet young lady who played the Clown, had some…issues with her trousers during the performance (i.e. they fell down quite a bit). Poor girl! Luckily, she seemed so focused on the performance itself that I’m not even sure she really noticed it enough to be embarrassed.
  • On the upside for Christina, she decided to add in a clown nose just before going on stage, which she originally didn’t want to do.
  • Our “prison door” made of giant tinker toys almost took a tumble during scene 2. Luckily, a quick scramble by Dr. Bezio, and later Natalie, saved the scene, and the actors continued, unperturbed.
  • Charles did a hilarious improvisation during Christina’s final song in scene 2, to the point where Jacob actually laughed out loud backstage.

I think our group’s performance had a good vibe to it, focused but lighthearted. The students really took the spotlight and dominated the stage. Our timing was stellar and our students were just awesome!

There were certainly some challenges in Act 4, though. I’ll list them:

  • About an hour prior to the performance, we met up with Act 3 to do a final read-through of both the scripts. Act 3 was also at St. Joe’s and had many of the same students as Act 4, so we felt that this collaboration would help get everyone on the same page. However, Act 3’s script is a LOT longer than ours, and it took the students so long to read through the entire thing that Act 4 didn’t even get the chance to review the script with them. This was a major cause of concern for us, because that put our kids at a huge disadvantage, being the only Monday group (I think?). This meant that our kids’ last full read was on Monday, as opposed to all the other groups, who got to read through on Thursday or even immediately before the performance.
  • Most of the students came in feeling nervous, stressed, or otherwise flustered. Rufus was a particular concern; I asked him how he was feeling when he came in and he sort of blew up at me, exclaiming “I don’t feel very good at all!” I gave him some space and left him alone for a while to center himself after that. Christina was also anxious, although she exhibited a little more emotional regulation than Rufus. I think that has to do with her previous theater experience.
  • Rufus’s anxiety became alarming just as we were about to begin Act 4, when his shoes got tangled in the garter from Act 3. This caused a huge delay in transition between Act 3 and 4, and left Rufus very upset and ruffled. I helped calm him down backstage for a moment, having him do a few deep breaths, then gave him his sword and his script and sent him off. As soon as he was back on stage, he transformed and got all his confidence and gusto back. Well done, Rufus! Great recovery.
  • Speaking of the transition–ours was not the smoothest! This largely had to do with the Rufus-shoelace incident. Because that absorbed so much of our transition time, we didn’t even have time to set up the ivy for the garden scenes. We also had to rush out the prison door for Charles, which probably loosened the pieces (re: Dr. Bezio’s epic save).

Overall, I am extremely relieved that the performance went so well and that our students had a lot of fun! I already miss the group and we plan to send Timone an email to read aloud to all the students.

This project was really fun!