We weren’t exactly sure what to expect when we walked into Boushall Middle School, but we were quickly greeted by the Higher Achievement folks. They certainly have a ton of kids on their hands. We arrived prior to the kids, but as soon as our group arrived we branched off from the larger Higher Achievement group. We were given a large art room with plenty of tables and room to move around, which will come in handy later in the semester.

We started off by going through the kids names by playing the name game where you have to say an adjective with your name that starts with the same letter as your name. This was a bit difficult for the kids to pay attention to since there were 17 of us trying to listen. That number includes us 3 mentors. The kids were a bit restless from this icebreaker so we moved onto a game called lumberjack where kids act as trees and the others act like lumberjacks by chopping down the trees. This game served its purpose of getting the kids up off of their feet, but I didn’t think the kids could be occupied by it for long.

The best part of our first session was when we decided to divide our group into three smaller groups to watch the Macbeth cartoon and discuss the big plot points of the play and of our particular part. My small group consisted of three girls who were on the more quiet side and one boy. They were silent while watching the video and they comprehended much more than I thought they would’ve. I asked them a few questions like, “Who is the main character?”, “What do the witches tell Macbeth?”, “What does Lady Macbeth do to Macbeth?”, etc. They were able to answer each question! I thought that working in smaller groups was much easier for our purposes of learning the basics of the play. I even had 3 of my 4 kids volunteer to have main character roles. The other child wanted to be a witch. After this, they asked me to read through Act I Scene 1 of the play, which they sat quietly and seemed to enjoy.

All in all, I think that in the future we will do things in small groups when we want the children to understand the lines in which they are reading. I think this attention helps those in our group who are more quiet, but do want parts in the play.

Week one at St. Joseph’s Villa basically entailed everything we had expected.  First we arrived at St. Joseph’s Villa to meet Timone, a familiar face who had given us a tour of the campus a week prior.  Timone let us know that we’d be meeting a few participants for the first time.  He also mentioned that though we’d only be meeting three last Thursday, that more would be jumping on board and there was the potential for ten participants.

After meeting up with Timone we made our way over to the Chapel, outside of which we met our first three participants.  Though the conversation was a little scarce at first, our group soon fell into comfort and began to make conversation with the three young men we had just met.  After a little getting to know one another, we moved into the plot of the play and finally, a little bit of casting. One of the young men took a liking to the evil side of things, sending him in the direction of the witches, while others wanted to be more benevolent characters such as Banquo.  Hopefully next week we’ll get the chance to meet some new participants and hopefully move forward with the casting!

This Monday was our second rehearsal with the Osher participants. This week we started out by having the Osher participants self cast themselves. We took time to discuss each role in Macbeth and the corresponding characteristics of each character. After we discussed the characters the Osher participants chose the roles they wanted to play and the self casting process went fairly easy. It was great to see how excited our participants were to get up and start reading through the play. We had a few last minute drop outs in our group which made it difficult to fill all the parts, but our remaining participants were very excited to fill the remaining roles. The only problem that occurred during this practice was over some of the language in Macbeth that the Osher participants felt uncomfortable with, words such as niggard, which has a completely different meaning than the word’s current association, and other racially loaded lines. Our participants were very aware of the potential impact of these lines and requested that we find a way around this immediately. I was very impressed by the attention to detail each participant had, especially because of the current social climate. Im looking forward to next weeks rehearsal! We will be adding a new participant into the mix!

Between our first and second practice, we had two OSHER participants drop of of the program. We started off with 8 participants and now we are down to 6. At practice today, there were two people who were not able to come. Even with only four people, we were able to successfully cast the play. They asked our opinion in casting but we decided it would be better if they had parts they wanted to play! Everyone is playing two or more roles. I was worried that there would be multiple people who would want to play the same role or someone would feel slided in the part they received. Much to my surprise, all of the participants were very gracious and there wasn’t two people who wanted to play the same role. We have broken up a few of the parts into two people.

After casting, we read through the play with the everyone reading the lines to their parts. The reading went relatively smoothly. There were some who were better and more comfortable reading than others but as time goes on I am confident everyone will feel more comfortable reading their lines. We left them with the homework of going over their part and seeing how they would act the lines. We told them to think about what kind of emotion would be in the lines. Next week we will begin to start blocking and thinking more about costumes and props we would like!

I was unfortunately unable to meet the OSHER participants last week since I was sick, but looking over my group members’ posts and planning for this next week has gotten me to start thinking about how OSHER will fit in with our Shakespeare project. I think it is an interesting contrast to have children playing the first three sections of Macbeth, and then having the older, more experienced actors coming in for the ending. It is almost as if the innocence and blind ambition of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth turns into their understanding and wiser remorse by the end of the play.

This being said, I am thrilled to hear from my group members that the OSHER participants have a child-like excitement towards performing with us. I think it will be productive that the older members of our play are more experienced with Shakespeare and are participating of their own volition, which will make them easier to deal with when learning the play. I assume our issues will arise more from our own lack of experience than issues with OSHER, but as the semester moves along, I am confident we will adjust well.

This week, my group plans to talk to the OSHER participants about casting and get roles assigned. We hope to do another read through of the play after figuring out roles. I am excited to meet the participants and get to casting!

Our first week of practice went so well! I was so impressed by our Osher participants! My group has been lucky and we were given the privilege to work with adults instead of children which makes our job a lot easier. However, we were not sure how engaged our Osher participants would want to be so I was pleasantly surprised to see their high level of engagement. We had thought that our first week of practice would consist of introductory matters. However, our participants wanted to jump straight in! We did a complete cold read of the speech with our participants just alternating lines, not casted yet. I am greatly looking forward to working with our Osher participants for this projects. We even have one participant who is a professional actor. They all come with at least some knowledge of Shakespeare which also makes our job easier. Our participants are very interested in Jepson’s role in the Shakespeare project and how leadership plays a role in this project. This is something we plan to address in our upcoming practice.