Today went very well! We had a few newcomers this week so our number went up from 15 students to about 18. We started off with the Bull Frog game, which was an instant success. The kids loved to act their death and it was quite comical to watch for sure. I think it worked well to do that game in the beginning because when we get the children they seem very wound up.
For the second half of our time, we started to read through the script in small groups. We broke up into groups of 4-6 students and did popcorn reading by switching every time a new character talks. In my group, there were 3 students who instantly acted out the lines when they read them. We definitely have some very enthusiastic witches in the making! The one other child in my group struggled to read, let alone read Shakespeare. I did my best to help her sound out the more difficult words, but she made it clear to me that she did not want to read in front of people. I did find though that she enjoyed that the rest of the group was very loud and acting out their parts. She was laughing and enjoying the read-along so I was happy to see that she was not totally discouraged. Also, while I was going through my script with the children I would stop them and have them try to explain to me what was going on in the play. I think we need to do that a little more as a whole group so that they understand how to act out those lines. There were a few times where my children were very close to the plot points and other times where they were way off or did not understand. The more we stop and study the more they will understand I hope.
After we read through the first 3 scenes of our part, I noticed that the students were starting to get tired so we went back to Act I Scene 1 and had each of them read the first two lines of the First Witch and I told them to give me their best witch impression of those lines. They went on to come up with 3 or 4 different kinds of witches they could be; old lady who sick and talking to their grandkids, a young witch with a screechy voice, a young with with a soft creepy voice, etc. It was really cool to see them act out just two lines because they were really creative. I think it is important to have them act out small parts while reading through the script for the first time so that they remember that this about acting as well as about reading.
Our second week at Henderson-Higher Achievement went well and there were definitely improvements from last time. We have yet to show them the physical script or have them read. With so many scholars (now approximately 25), it’s important to get to know them and create a comfortable environment.
When we arrived, we decided to get the kids moving and play a name game to refresh our memories. Last week’s introduction of having them sit in their seats and go one by one lost their attention quickly. We had them play “slap slap clap” and say someone else in the circle’s names. This way, the scholars were also able to learn the names of those in the group they did not know from different middle schools. Next, we asked if anyone could go around the circle and say everyones names. A few students were impressively able to do this!
After the name games, we showed the scholars another video summarizing Macbeth. It was a bit more lengthy and detailed, but they were able to retain more of the plot. I was surprised at how much detail they remembered from the plot the previous week. We described our section of Macbeth in greater detail and began introducing the various characters so the scholars could begin to think of roles they’d want to play. In doing this, Jessie, Bridget and I realized we might need to add characters, such as more murderers or porters. A few students offered to be trees as well.
In discussing the role of the drunken porter, we explained that there is a scene of knock knock jokes. We asked for examples and one student’s joke was a bit inappropriate: “Knock knock. Who’s there? An earthquake. An earthquake who? Your mom”. He was quickly asked to gather his things and he was sent home. I felt a bit guilty as we had asked the students for their best knock knock jokes. To finish our rehearsal, we played another round of bullfrog, which the scholars had really enjoyed from the previous week. Jessie introduced the game mafia, and it was also a hit.
In conclusion, I feel that we were able to maintain better control over the group this week. One strategy that worked was moving a student that was having a smaller conversation. When we separated them from their friends, they were able to focus and stay on task. I’m glad they are enthusiastic to begin looking at the script and casting roles in the very near future!
This week proved to be a lot more productive than last. I would imagine a huge factor in that is the level of comfort in our students. Last week it seemed as though they were warming up to us and the idea of their acting in a play as a whole, which is something I can absolutely appreciate.
I feel like our ability to effectively and comfortably communicate with our students saw a huge improvement between the first and second weeks. It became immediately apparent that we would not be teaching the students Macbeth. Instead, we’d be teaching them a really interesting tale about greed that is filled with “magic,” British royalty and action. What I mean is that we’ve realized how important it is going to be to frame everything we do in a way that we think will interest or excite out students.
This week we added another very enthusiastic student, though we are waiting for a few more. We’ve sort of rewarded those who have been committed from the beginning with the opportunity to choose roles before the others. Framing the roles in a fun and interesting way is as important as our framing of the action in the story. More than being interested with the plot and themes of the entire play, the students really only need to be interested in the role they are playing. It seems as though they started to recognize this as a possible opportunity for expression and some freedom and they are growing more excited. I am looking forward to what this upcoming week, and our newly added students, will have in store.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when we walked into Boushall last Thursday. I have never worked with Higher Achievement before so I didn’t know how it was organized, and we didn’t know how many kids we would have. We had heard from the other Higher Achievement group that they had a huge group of kids, so we were all nervous to end up with thirty kids instead of the fifteen they had predicted we would have.
Our kids arrived, and we took them down to the art room to get started. I was surprised how enthusiastic the kids were when we told them we would be doing Shakespeare. Some of them had their reservations, but for the most part, they seemed to all be on board.
We got started with a name game to help us get to know them a little better. This started out really well, but the kids quickly lost interest in it and started to get distracted. They seemed to enjoy our more active game though even if some of them struggled to catch on. I think they appreciated the chance to be up and active after sitting for the last game.
Then we broke into groups so we could watch a summary video of Macbeth and talk about it. The kids were attentive and interested in what was happening, so I think small groups will be the way to go to keep them involved and focused. Overall the first week went well, and I’m excited for what the rest of this project has in store.
Over in the Villa, we are running low on volunteers. We are one of the smaller student groups, just the four of us. Even so, we match our actors 1:1, if they all attend. Despite our low numbers, I am not afraid of the final product being lackluster. I can easily see this group of students succeeding. Among the actors, there are varying levels of both talent and enthusiasm. Even so, I am certain that each of these students is very much interested in participating. Their interest makes our jobs so much easier.
Due to the small size of our group, I am able to discuss the students specifically:
Kurntz is a gentleman interested in playing a warlock. The role fits him, his height allows him to loom over the other actors in an ominous way that I think he will be able to use to great effect. He is prone to starting side conversations with the members of our group, but has had some truly insightful moments. After a viewing of the video summary of MacBeth, he began a discussion of what he saw as the central theme: that power corrupts and must be used responsibly.
Justin Long is the most personable of the group. He is quick to start a conversation (even if it often gets him off topic). He is enthusiastic and excited to perform. He has expressed interest in playing the role of MacBeth. I look forward to seeing him again, he could not join us this week.
Derek is a man of few words. However, he fully participates. He seems to be a genuinely kind person. He has expressed interest in playing the role of Banquo.
Christine is the newest addition to our crew. She joined this week and has proven to be experienced and professional. We would like her to play Lady MacBeth, but she is hesitant to accept the role. Next rehearsal, we will have a script to provide her with so that she can choose a role that she will enjoy.
Ultimately, even in those people who have claimed roles, everyone is going to have to perform multiple roles. With such a small group, we cannot afford to have one person be just a witch or just a murderer. It will be a challenge to model the script such that only 4 actors are needed.