It still hasn’t really set in that we’re done with the Jepson Shakespeare Project. Maybe writing about the final performance will help it sink in.

AJ, Dylan, Matt, and I arrived to St. Joseph’s Villa around 3:30 after our ethics class. Luckily we had already highlighted our scripts so our lateness didn’t affect us. It was nice to finally see the “stage” on which our students would perform. I was worried about staging because typically in rehearsal the kids would just stand and read their lines, using little body language. Occasionally they would look at another character when addressing them or throw in a sassy head turn, but do little to utilize the space of the “stage” where we rehearsed. I was also concerned because our rehearsal space was a very plain room and when our students we’re actively reading their lines they often meandered about the room or would sit down in the “audience”. The stage at St. Joseph’s was a lot of room to fill, but ultimately the stage shifted downward to the floor in front of the audience so issues of space were not as pressing.

By the time our students arrived we had organized our props and scripts, trying to make things as easy as possible. AJ shared some stories about our rehearsals and everyone was excited to meet our students. We had a full cast for the first time in weeks with Khalil, Adrian, Janiyah, Tamiyah, and Marcus all in attendance. They were excited to get their props and there was only one small disagreement over who would wear a gold chain, Khalil or Adrian. Khalil got the chain, but Adrian was given a crown to even the score. We did a run through of our act onstage and only had a few hiccups. But it ran longer than 10 minutes which made me worry about time. It turns out our act was not the only one with a time problem. After our run through our a few students went to get stage makeup from Dr. Bezio. Impressed by the beard Dr. Bezio gave Marcus, all of our students paid her visit to at least entertain the idea of getting stage makeup.

By 6:00 PM the play began. It was really cool to see the other Acts perform. It was great to see the investment that the other students had put into the play come to fruition. The fact that other acts also featured the song “Juju on that Beat” ┬áIt was also awesome to see Jacob play a role in all five acts; his stage experience seemed to reassure the students in their own abilities and his enthusiasm rubbed off on some of the other actors. Aside from running over time, everyone did a great job. The large space created some issues with acoustics, but despite some of the audience not being able to hear all of the performance things went well.

When it was time for Act V to begin, our students were nervous to even go out and introduce themselves before beginning the act. Thanks to some last minute encouragement from Dr. Bezio they built up the courage to perform. We only had a few issues with meandering off stage and no fights broke out which was certainly a positive. The closing dance number to “Juju on that Beat” went off with out a hitch and there was even some dancing after the music ended because our students had so much energy. I am very proud of the job they did at the performance and of how far they came over the weeks of rehearsals. I am incredibly grateful to Dylan and AJ. We worked very well together and kept things cool even when issues arose. Dylan was amazing at deescalating worked up students and AJ always knew how to refocus the group by relating our work to basketball or something else relevant to the kids’ lives. I am also grateful for our friend, Chris, who helped out a ton with our rehearsals from mid-October onward. He was in the audience showing his support. I am so glad to have had this amazing Shakespeare Project experience and such awesome people to share it with.

After writing this, I guess it has sunk in a bit that the Shakespeare Project is over. Luckily I have this blog I can look back on when I start to miss it.