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!)