Week 10 was a big one – on Thursday we had our final meeting with our students at St.Joseph’s Villa and on Friday was the final performance, also at St.Joseph’s villa.

We went into our final rehearsal a bit apprehensive knowing that the show was coming up the next day and that we had never made it through a full script read through. Because of this we walking into rehearsal on Thursday ready to be efficient and get through what we knew we needed to. Prior to the meeting Lexi, Matt, and I had established how many lines each character had in our act and did our best to assign the students we had in the past to roles that we thought would be fitting for them. We based these assignments primarily off of factors of enthusiasm, projection, and reading speed. Luckily none of our students was particularly dead set on a character, so we knew we had the freedom to move some assignments around in order to make the final production go as smoothly as possible.

We had 7 students show up on Thursday and the first thing we asked all of them was whether or not they would be at the performance the next day and they all said YES! This was very exciting for us because up until that moment we really had no idea who we could expect to show up on Friday. We spent much of our time on Thursday going through Scene 4 as it was the one scene we had never gotten to during past rehearsals. Luckily, Matt brought the prop swords along to rehearsal which got the students especially excited about this scene and we had a great run-through. We felt great leaving St.Joseph’s on Thursday, but were worried about one little issue – we had never gotten through the entire act, let alone more than 2 scenes in less than an hour. Yikes. That being said, we trusted Dr.Bezio’s words from the day before that she “wasn’t worried” and hoped for the best.

Immediately upon our arrival on Friday (final production day), Lexi and I gathered the scripts that Dr.Bezio had printed for us as well as the extra copies we brought along and made a personal script for each student. All of the students aside from KT were only playing one part, so we highlighted that character’s lines throughout the script and gave each student the script that belonged with their assigned character. We were able to stay relatively consistent with the character assignments from rehearsals, but had to move a few students around with the hopes of keeping our act within the right amount of time. All of the students seemed content with their roles, especially Charles who got to play drunk Sir Toby Belch. Christina was slightly frustrated with us that we had switched her role, but she got over it quickly and took her new assignment with stride. Rufus also showed a bit of resistance around being Malvolio, especially when we were suiting him up in his cross-gartered yellow “stockings,” but he too was able to overcome his frustrations.

We were lucky enough to have a solid amount of time with our students before the production, so ACT IV, who shared the same students, teamed up with us and we worked together to organize the students, their costumes, and their scripts and explain to them what would be occurring over the next few hours. We decided to do a read through prior to the performance and unfortunately only got through our act because it took so long, but I think this read through definitely made our students feel a lot more comfortable with the material before going on stage.

And then all of the sudden… it was 6:00 – show time! We gathered the scripts and rounded the students up before heading to the audience to watch Acts I and II perform. Unfortunately due to the acoustics in the church and the shy, quiet nature of many of the students it was close to impossible to hear what was being said. Dr.Bezio suggested that going forward, all acts should be performed in front of the stage rather than on it, a fact which we prepared our students for.

40 minutes later and it was time for our act. Jayvon, who had never shown us much emotion up until that point, expressed that he was nervous, Christina couldn’t sit down out of excitement, Dale locked himself in the bathroom less than a minute before he was supposed to go on stage, and Rufus’s cross-garters wouldn’t stay up – but otherwise the performance went down without a hitch. It was so fun and rewarding getting to see our students on stage performing what they had been practicing for weeks. They were so much more excited and confident than they had been in rehearsals and many of them really came to life on stage. The majority of our students have a tough time reading and speaking, so to see them power through a whole performance was really incredible. It was also very special to see a lot of their families and friends in the audience, they were all clearly very proud of the students and impressed by what they were witnessing.

Overall I think it was a great success and I do believe that in one way or another we had an impact on the students that we worked with throughout the semester. It would have been nice if each and every one of them could have made it to the production either to perform or to watch, but I couldn’t be happier with how the final 7 students took control and put on a show.

We had our final rehearsal last Thursday – the day before the performance, and we knew we had a lot to cover in a short amount of time. We had not yet rehearsed all of our final scene, and we still did not know all our roles. Fortunately, we had 7 people, who ended up being the same 7 we had the following day for the performance. Lexi, Eliza, and I had figured out during our in-class workday how many lines each character had, and we had a rough idea of who we wanted to play each character in order to minimize the overall time of the act. This meant that Charles would be playing Toby, and he was ecstatic when we told him that he would get to pretend to be drunk for his new role. It also meant that Dale would be playing the officer, with by far the fewest lines in the act. We compared our script length to the other groups, and saw that after cutting it down 4 or 5 times over the course of the semester, we were actually around the class average.

On Friday, I arrived at St. Joe’s with TJ, AJ, and Dylan after my Ethics class, and saw that Eliza and Lexi had highlighted the scripts for each character, which would help people keep track of when they had lines. We also went through the entirety of our act beforehand with the Act IV group there, but unfortunately we still took too long to go through the entire act (sorry guys!) and the other group did not get to rehearse. I think that we needed that though, because it was the very first time we went through the whole thing from start to finish, and I know that it helped with confidence for our actors.

When it came time to perform, I was a bit scared that Rufus would not want to be Malvolio anymore because he tends to get upset about things easily, but he already had the socks and cross-gartering on way ahead of time, which looked good with his signature sunglasses and jacket with the hood up. Everyone was ready and exciting to for the show, and they all did great. Christina was a little bit nervous, and even though she stumbled on a few lines, her passion for acting really shined. Keteira was a great Olivia, and Talya did a great job with Viola. Jayvon, who was completely indifferent to Shakespeare when we first met him 10 weeks ago, was asking me during the act if he could say, “Why art thou fighting?” instead of another line because he thought the language sounded better, and he did great. Charles was without a doubt the star of the show, and probably the best Sir Toby Belch any rendition of Twelfth Night has ever had, wine bottle and all. The only hitch was Dale, who mysteriously disappeared into the bathroom 30 seconds before he had to step on stage. Recognizing this, I grabbed his captain hat and script, and nailed the performance on his behalf. He then stepped up and did a good job for his role in Act IV.

I was so proud of all of our actors, but I felt even better seeing how happy the performance made their family, friends, and teachers. I am going to miss our group at St. Joseph’s Villa, but I am happy that we were able to do something that hopefully had an impact on their lives.

Aleeza, Caroline, and I arrived at St. Joseph’s Villa around 2:30 p.m. on final production day. We organized costumes, decided where our group members would stand during certain scenes, set up our music, and mentally prepared for the rest of the afternoon and evening to come. About 30 minutes before the students were expected to arrive, Dr. Soderlund informed us that there was only one bus picking up students at one school, when we originally had 2 buses picking up at 3 different schools. Aleeza, Caroline, and I were in a minor state of panic. Finally, 4:30 p.m. rolled around, and the front Church doors swung open. I noticed Ms. Kiesha walk in, with Andy, Betty, and Selene trailing behind her. 3 of our 15 students had showed up. Rather than freak out, we decided to reassign roles and have the students go through their lines right away. After an hour, every role had been casted, and we successfully read through our entire Act. The show was a success, and our students had a wonderful time performing.

Our final rehearsal with Higher Achievement was our best yet. Aleeza, Caroline, and I went to T.C. Boushall with the plan to split into groups by scene and go through the students’ lines. We were sent to the Mural Room. Right when we got there, we asked the kids if they were aware that the final production was the following day. Some students knew, while others did not. We then announced that we were going to split up into groups based on what scenes that students were performing in. I had Scenes 2 and 4 of Act 2, but only 2 students out of the 4 that were supposed to be in my group were present. Therefore, me, Teddy, and Selene moved off into a corner of the room and went through lines. I read the lines of our missing students. Near the end of rehearsal, Ms. Kiesha, one of the Higher Achievement coordinators, came in and one by one pulled the students aside to call their parents to remind them to send their child with a completed permission slip the next day, or else that student would be unable to participate in the final production. Some students’ parents were native Spanish speakers and did not speak any English, so the students had to call the parents themselves.