Act V’s performance on Friday went well. All five of our students showed up: Janiyah, Tamiya, Adrian, Marcus, and Khalil. Having Marcus back definitely helped because we only needed a few Richmond students for the performance. Khalil being there was a surprise since last week the kids told us that he had quit. We were still glad to have him back, though we hoped his troublemaker tendencies would not make an appearance. We were able to read through a bit of our act, though the students got distracted towards the end by the audience filling up. We decided that would be a good opportunity to break for a snack, and then to get the students into their stage makeup. Adrian went through two makeup mustaches and two stick-on mustaches before he decided on one he liked. Even backstage up until the last minute, he was still trying to choose his facial hair. Janiyah was excited to have “girly” makeup for Olivia, while Tamiya chose a mustache to get into character as Cesario. Marcus was given a beard and absolutely loved it. When we asked Khalil if he wanted a beard or mustache, he pointed to his face and said something along the lines of, “I’m a man, I already have facial hair.” We divvied up the props, which was harder than expected. Khalil and Adrian fought over one gold necklace with a dollar sign on it. Khalil emerged the victor and, to ease Adrian’s hurt feelings, we let him wear a crown. He was hesitant at first, but once we convinced him that dukes were royalty and would certainly wear crowns, he felt better. We also had to deal with the issue of the students knowing their cues of when to come on and off stage. This was a problem throughout our rehearsals because they would get tired of standing or would not be paying attention and would go sit down. We told them to sit in the benches on stage if they really needed a break. When the girls started panicking about the audience, I reminded them that everyone was there to support them and knew they would do a great job. I pointed out to them that a group of my sorority sisters had come to the performance and that if I could read my lines in front of them, they could do it in front of everyone.

We got our students seated to watch the first three acts before we had to go backstage and get ready. It was obvious that our kids were nervous, especially about the size of the audience. They kept looking back at certain points to see the number of people there or to tell us about their nerves. When it was finally time for us to go backstage, the excitement and nerves were at an all time high. Since TJ, AJ, and I all had to be on stage at some point during the act, we told the kids that if they got nervous or had trouble, they could just look to us for help. We also tried to get them to understand that messing up a line was not going to end in disaster. We walked out on stage to introduce ourselves and our characters, and Khalil turned to me and whispered, “Who am I playing again?” I reminded him that he was Antonio and Sir Toby Belch, and, if I’m being completely honest, was very nervous for the performance. Thankfully, it turned out about as well as we expected it to. Though the students would wander off stage because they didn’t have any upcoming lines and it was hard to hear them at times, I’m really proud of how they performed.

When it was time for “Juju on that Beat,” I thought that we were in the clear. The kids loved doing the dance and would often ask to spend more of rehearsal time doing it. But during the performance, they seemed scared to be on stage and not willing to commit to the dance. Khalil showed off some of his moves but he too seemed frightened. As soon as the song ended, they became new people and ran off stage yelling and laughing about how happy they were to be done. As we started packing up, Adrian came around and thanked all of us for teaching him this semester. And in what came as a surprise for me, Khalil came around and expressed his gratitude to each of us for working with him and thanked us for introducing him to theater. Though I didn’t expect to be, I really am sad that we won’t be getting in the car and going to YouthLife on Thursday. It feels a bit like the end of a summer at camp, where you are in one part excited for what is to come, but sad about what you are leaving behind. I am especially grateful to TJ and AJ for all of their help during this process, and to Corinne at YouthLife and Dr. Bezio. Regardless of the times I just wanted to yell at the kids to listen to us or to walk out of rehearsal and not come back, I really am proud of each and every one of our students for their progress this semester. Though there were definitely days I was stressed beyond belief, I can say with certainty that this project taught me a lot and that I was glad to be a part of it.

First and foremost I think the performance went great! When Caroline, Colby and I arrived at St. Joseph’s we were not sure what to expect and which, if any, of our kids were going to show up. Leaving our last rehearsal we were told that all the kids had been given permission the only thing that needed to be figured out was transportation. At St. Joseph’s, Dr. Soderlund informed us that she had been emailing back and forth with Higher Achievements director about which kids are coming. I turned out that only three of our pretty consistent 12 came to the show. The three students were Andy, Seline and most surprising Betty. I say that because throughout our rehearsals both Andy and Seline showed a lot of interest in the play, while Betty most of the time would hide from us and try everything to get out of what we had planned for rehearsal. Despite this all three of the students really stepped up and did better than we ever imagined!

When the three of them first arrived we jumped right in to rehearsing. We had to figure out which parts they would be playing now and who would fill in some of our other roles. We went through each Act and let our three students pick which roles they wanted and highlight their scripts. We had Caroline take two of the roles and we asked Jacob from our class to fill in two other roles as well. As soon as all of the parts were figured out we had them stand up and read through the whole act. Each of our students had 3 roles to play. After our full read through we had them look at some of the props and pick out what each of their characters would be wearing.

As it started to get closer to the performance time I could tell that Andy was getting nervous. I talked to him about the show and how great he’s been throughout the rehearsal process. He said he was excited but that there were a lot of people out there. Soon it was time for the show to start. We were Act 2 so we were back stage preparing during Act 1. As soon as the first act ended it was our turn. The kids went out to introduce themselves and then the Act began. It all went by pretty quickly with many quick costume changes and reminders of what they were saying when to go out on stage. They all read their parts perfectly and made it through the whole Act. At the end they all could not stop smiling.

We spent the rest of the play in the audience. It was so fun to watch the rest of the acts and see students of all ages preform. I believe the play was a great success and a great ending to the semester!

The day of the performance was exhausting all the while amazing to see our work and our student’s work finally paying off. My group was the first act on stage and our students definitely got a case of the pre performance jitters. We had no idea which students were going to actually show up, but we were delighted to have Amanti, Conald, Shania, Aiyonna, and Jamiriah. Conald and Amanti have been our shining stars from the beginning of this all, they were always so attentive and eager to learn, and in turn they each played about three parts. They both got excited for the stage makeup and the three girls enjoyed all of the fun props.To our extreme surprise when Jamiriah arrived she announced to us that she finally wanted a huge part and in fact she wanted to play Viola. She was not even bothered by the fact that she would have to play a boy, she was excited. The smile on her face was all the confirmation I needed to know she was really ready for this! We went over her new lines and whenever she got stuck on a word we would try to help her but in the end I told her if she got stuck and scared she could always skip over a word because in the grand scheme of things no one would notice or care. After telling her this tie bit she seem relieved and I saw her posture relax a bit. I just wanted her to have fun out there and to feel like a success. She told me afterwards that she was really happy she stepped up to the plate, and she said talking to Olivia(Shania), was so easy because it felt like a regular conversation between the two of them. After some slight costume mishaps and a frazzled Amanti, I think the kids were super excited to take their final bows and to look out at the tons of audience members who came to see them. I wish we had put them on the steps closer to the audience because I do realize that they must have been very hard to hear. We encouraged them to project their voices, but in the end I do not think any of them felt comfortable being loud. I was hoping Jacob’s confidence on stage would rub off on them! The other acts were fun to watch, each group had a completely different set of kids that came with a different set of challenges, but it was so cool to watch all of my classmates interact with their own students. I felt that everyone had strong connections with their students and it really paid off when we successfully put on a production of Twelfth Night! In the end I do not care what went wrong because I am just so proud of each and every one of them, it has been so challenging and rewarding to be one of their directors. I am going to miss their sweet faces every Thursday, who knows maybe I will go back to Henderson for my Justice hours next semester!

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!

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!!