Yesterday we had a great practice. The participants were very excited to continue to block our acts. Our original plan for practice was to block the fight scene since this is the most complicated blocking we will do. Unfortunately, one our participants did not show up to practice for the second week in a row. This has significantly slowed down our blocking as this person has a main roll and is in the fight scene. I received communication from him and he is still planning on participating and hopefully he will be there next week so we can inform him of the blocking.

It was great to see the participants excited about their rolls and want to have input in the blocking of the scenes. Some made great suggestions on how to block scenes and where others should be standing. We blocked three of our scenes yesterday. We still have more scenes to go but I feel like we are in a good place with our rehearsals.

After rehearsal, a participant shared that she loves Shakespeare and has suggestions about characters based on her knowledge. I told her that we welcome any suggestions and she should feel free to share her comments during rehearsal with everyone! I am hoping that as time goes on the participants a continue to get more comfortable with acting and their rolls.

When practice was over yesterday, many were sad that it was already time to go! Looking forward to practice next week.

As expected we had a new mix of students again today. We lost two from the previous week and gained one more. Despite the changes in our cast we had a very productive week. For the first time, we read through the script assigning specific parts to each person. One of our new members has decided he would like to be Macbeth and was excited and engaged with the scene we read through constantly asking questions about aspect he didn’t understand. As we read through we realized that we had unfortunately cut to many lines from certain character and not enough from others. For example one student named Shakira wants to play the murderer but would like more that the 3 lines she has. In light of this we plan to out more of the murderers lines back in and maybe reducing some of the less important lines of the witches. As a whole though this week was very productive. I think having each person read one character helped everyone engage and start to really understand the script. We as mentors are doing a better job of communicating with the students and I think we are making a lot of progress.

Week four at Henderson was definitely the most challenging it will ever be. It was the first time I was alone. Jessie and Carolina were unable to make rehearsal, so it was up to me to structure and organize the hour and a half meeting. I did a lot of preparation so I could plan it. The three of us had busy weeks so I didn’t get a chance to discuss with them ideas for the session; however, I thought back to my childhood — games that I enjoyed the most, but had the most structure.

I wanted to take this week to ease them into the idea that this was not just fun and games, and that we were actually going to be serious and read from a script. I wanted to teach them how important silence was, how to act in front of each other, and how to read from a script with multiple characters.

Therefore, I started with the game Four Corners. This was good because it placed on student in the middle with their eyes closed, and the other students had to SILENTLY choose a corner. The middle student would listen for the loudest corner and would point to call them out. Whoever was in that corner was out and they had to sit down in the audience. This was great in theory, but after the third round everyone was so loud that I called the came. Students were running around so loud and screaming to distract/confuse the person in the middle.

I brought them back together with a quick round of Bullfrog. This was great because they circled up and they were easier to control in this formation. Then, I numbered them in fours and told the groups to meet in one of the four corners. I then went around to every group and gave them a topic to act out. Then ended up picking their own: Marching band, Teachers, Halloween, and Murderers (because of Macbeth). This was great for the groups to brainstorm what they wanted to do, but they had a terrible time acting this out. The first group went and they were too shy. They were afraid to act in front of their peers. It was also hard to get everyone to listen right away. The next group was so excited to go, but again, regaining the attention of the others was difficult. Two groups got through presenting and I told them if the other groups wanted to go the entire class had to sit quietly. That took forever!

I called that activity early because they were misbehaving. I had them all sit in the audience again in silence and I explained what we were going to do next. I had printed out a spongebob script that was easily split between 5 groups, with each group having 4-6 characters. Each group would get up and read 1-2 pages of the script to the class and jointly, the entire class would read the script. However, getting through the explanation and questions took a long time. As soon as I split them up they went crazy again, so for the last 15 minutes I sat them all back down in silence. I stood there and told them that this would no longer be fun if they weren’t listening, and that we were moving on to harder material next week. I then asked them all to say one thing that didn’t go well tonight and what they want to improve on for next week. I got great responses.

Overall, running the rehearsal alone was a rewarding challenge. I did collect ten phones, but I was also able to get them to reflect on their behavior. Next week, I will open with them recalling what they did poorly this week, and ways they want to make practice more efficient.

I was not able to attend rehearsal this week at Henderson as I was sick. Bridget ran rehearsal by herself and I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been as our large group is hard to manage as is with the three of us. They were very poorly behaved and struggled to listen to Bridget’s direction. She had to take multiple phones and re-arrange certain groups of friends that were sitting together. In talking with her and Jessie, we have decided it will be best to break into three separate groups. We will divide the script into three parts and cast within each of the three groups. In doing this, we believe we’ll be able to be more productive and keep better control over the scholars. It will also give more kids opportunities to play the roles they’re interested in. This large groups struggles to listen to Bridget, Jessie and I. I believe that if we are a bit stricter with them, it’ll be easier to get more done during rehearsal. This will also improve the individual relationships we build we the scholars and create a more effective way to explain the themes behind Macbeth. I am looking forward to our next rehearsal and working with a smaller group!

This past week, we were really able to start bringing the play to action! We retrieved some props from Dr. Bezio’s office, including plastic swords, a crown, and the production posters, which the participants were very excited about.

We focused on blocking today, and the adults were very on top of their roles. We sat behind the “stage” in our Jepson room and did a run-through where the actors blocked themselves. Then we were able to give them some tips. Rachel, who is skilled in theater strategies, told them to raise their voices and to “cheat,” or face the audience at an angle in order to project their voices and not have their backs toward the audience. When you want to whisper (such as the doctor in Lady Macbeth’s hand-rubbing scene), you can direct your voice at the person you are “whispering” to and half-cover your hand. If you raise your voice but act in this way, you will still have the appearance of a whisper.

We then had a bit more of an in-depth discussion about certain scenes, deciding what emotions to portray based on the themes we want to present. For instance, we talked about how Malcolm would be nervous in our first scene when talking to Macduff about ascending to the throne. His hesitation plays out in this scene and he tests Macduff’s loyalty and honor. I think discussions like this are one of the real pleasures of hosting adults who are excited about Shakespeare.

Our Macbeth and Macduff were excited to start the sword fight in the second-to-last scene, but we are tabling that to work on the logistics next week. We finished with a final run-through of the blocking we had decided on, focusing on entrances and exits and stage directions. I think we made some real progress today in bringing the lines to life!

This week was extremely productive and definitely felt like a bit of a breakthrough in comparison to the previous two weeks at St. Joseph’s Villa (I missed last week.)  Before this week, the students seemed a bit abrasive, both to us mentors and to the material itself.  I think a lot of the improvements revolve around us mentors beginning to learn how to best communicate with the students at the Villa.

Thankfully, as we found our grove in addressing the group of students, a few more students trickled into the room.  So instead of having two or three students, as we did in weeks prior, our number grew to about six.  At this point, we were really able to dive into the script and better engage the students in particular roles.  Through asking about preferred amount of lines and explaining the characters, the students worked out the roles pretty easily. Certain students wanted more involved roles with certain characters and others just wanted to be a part of the production.

Finally, after kind of explaining the plot and explaining the roles, laying out the character assignments fairly loosely, we began to read the script.  I was really surprised that we got started this early and it was awesome to see that the students were actually curious about the play, asking questions when confused by Shakespeare’s language.  Essentially, we did a read-through of the scene we are working on, stopping about halfway through.  At the end of every page, we would sort of stop and explain where we are in the story to the students.  This proved really helpful as it kept students engaged and interested as opposed to drifting attention as they grew more confused.

I think next week the play might really start to take form. With certain roles laid out pretty clearly, and us already diving into the script, I think we might be able to get into the details of the play.  I hope the students are as excited about each week as we are.


The kids were excited going into today because we told them we would assign roles. We started off by playing an improv game called Space Jump. The point of the game was that one person would start acting out what they’d do in a certain scenario, and then one of us would yell, “Space Jump!” and another person would get up an join them. A couple of the boys really enjoyed it and kept trying to jump into the scenes, but for the most part, the kids didn’t really seem to get it. Maybe next week we should try a simpler activity that can get them all up and active at the same time.

Assigning parts went pretty well. Everyone seemed content with their lines. We started a run-through where everyone got to actually read their lines. All the witches are doubled up, so we’ll have to work with them to get them to read their lines together while still getting to use their fun witch voices. We also have a Macbeth who loves to read in a British accent. They seem excited to finally be settling down into set roles, and a lot of them were even asking to take the script home so they could practice, which was encouraging and a reminder that they are actually enjoying it.

We realized our script is too long, but we should be able to cut it down some more to stay in our allotted time. The kids seem really excited to continue practicing so I’m excited for next week!

Our goal for this week was to start gauging the kid’s reading levels and what parts they were interested so we could assign parts next week. We started off with Two Truths and a Lie as our game at the beginning. Some of the kids didn’t really seem to grasp the point of the game, and they seemed distracted so it didn’t go so well. Maybe next week we should try a more interactive game to get them up and moving.

We split into groups to continue reading through the play. I had a group of five girls, and we took turns reading parts and then pausing to explain what was happening. They seemed interested in understanding what was going on, but I could tell I started to lose them towards the end. I tried mixing it up by having them all pretend to be witches, but I think they were too tired at the end of the day to really try it. Hopefully next week they’ll be more eager when we actually assign their parts.

Today went so well! We started off with a new improvisation game called Space Jump. The kids absolutely loved it. I would highly recommend it for any of the kids groups that you volunteer with! The point of the game is to get all of the kids to think of how they would act in certain scenarios on the fly. The way it works is that one kid goes into the middle of the circle and you give them a scenario like “you are on a farm”. Then, that one kid must act however they want that has to do with a farm. In our farm scenario, our first actor acting as one of the farm animals. Then we yell “Space Jump” for the actor in the middle to freeze and we add another actor to the mix and now they must both interact with each other in the same farm scenario. You do this up to 4 actors in the middle. We did a farm scenario, beach scenario, and a few others.

After this we gave all of the kids their parts, which went much smoother than I thought. Every kid seemed like they were happy with their parts. We do have 6 witches since we have many girls who wanted to do evil witch cackling, but it worked well since we just double upped for each witch. Our kid who was cast as Macbeth is actually so perfect for the part! He was talking in a British accent from the start and it was absolutely great! He was so into it. All of the kids even thought he was really good at reading his lines from the start. The rest of the kids are going to take a little coaching in order to act their lines instead of just read them. I think it will be a challenge, but I think next week we will really emphasize acting out the lines instead of just reading them. It was a great read-through working as an entire group with their assigned parts.

We also noticed that our script needs to be cut a lot still because we do have some slow readers. This shouldn’t be a problem, but I do want to keep some of the longer parts because those kids do enjoy them. Next week we will hopefully do more acting! (and maybe we will all be witches in celebration of Halloween!)

This past week we started having our Osher participants work with props. The Osher participants were very excited to start working with props and in a sense i think it revitalized our groups energy. Since the Osher participants are adults, they appreciate having something tangible to connect to the work they do with us weekly. We ran through an elementary level blocking stage this Monday to start sketching out choreography for the fight scenes and staging. We taught the Osher participants some theater tricks with the help of Rachel, who has the most experience in the world of theater in our group. We talked about the importance of never facing your back towards the audience while delivering lines because it emotionally and physically cuts the audience off from the performance and we discussed the importance of cheating on stage. Cheating is when you angle yourself towards the audience even when the character in a play is supposed to be speaking directly to the character. This creates a connection between audience members and the performers. We are excited to add new props during our next rehearsal such as a candle for Lady Macbeth and to continue staging!