We started this week off with a classic game of bull frog! The kids love this game; they love to find creative ways to act out dying! The game started off going well as we all sat in a circle on the ground, but as kids started “dying” they refused to lie on the dirty ground so we honestly could not tell who had been killed and who had not been killed. So it did not end perfectly, but the kids still enjoyed it and had a blast like always.

After warming up the children’s acting skills we split into small groups based on the scenes we were going to practice acting out. Our Macbeth once again out shined everyone else. He is so good at reading, speaking in his British accent, and acting. He is not afraid to move around the stage, do silly things on the stage, and he really gets into his character. He inspired the others in his group act as best as they could. Some students were shy and just stood on the stage, but once they saw how energetic Macbeth was, they started to get some energy and move around stage. The project is finally all coming together. I am nervous because next week, there is a Thanksgiving Feast, so we will not have rehearsal. We sent the kids home with scripts in hopes they will practice their acting skills and lines!

Today, we did not have rehearsal due to it being Thanksgiving week. Last week, we talked to our participants and many were going to be out of town so we decided to resume rehearsal next week. I sent out an email today reminding everyone we would not be meeting.

For next week, we will need to go over our part from start to finish. We have not done a full run through from start to finish with blocking. We will continue to work on the blocking. Seeing our part as a whole will help us figure out transitions and how the blocking looks as a whole. Hopefully, everyone can be present in order to see how the play looks as a whole!

This week at Henderson we got the opportunity to observe the children in their Geography Challenge. We were not told that we wouldn’t be able to meet with the kids directly this week, so we went to Henderson and got to sit in on their Geography Challenge. Watching this activity helped us learn how to instill positivity amongst the kids. As per the teachers rules, even when a kid got the question wrong, the entire crowd applauded them. I would like to use this energy in our next meeting with the 5th graders. I think if we can get them enthusiastic about the Shakespeare project, they will be more willing to cooperate.

To prepare for lasts weeks meeting that we unfortunately didn’t get to have, we had name tags to split the scholars up into groups. There were those who wanted a large, medium, and small part. We went through our script and assigned each character large, medium or small depending on their lines. We were then going to have the children read some Macbeth and then we would assign them accordingly to meet what they wanted and what they were able to do. We hope to still use this method of assignment for next week when we get to meet with the kids.

This week when we arrived to rehearsal, scholars were playing geography trivia. I recognized many of the contestants as the scholars in our Shakespeare group. As they answered true/false questions, the audience cheered them on. The crowd was a bit wild, and upon our arrival some of the students in the audience were negative and booing at the others participating on stage. The Higher Achievement staff were quick to shut down the negativity, and soon the scholars were extremely supportive of their classmates. Even if a participating scholar had gotten the question wrong, they received a multitude of cheers. Although we quickly realized there would be no rehearsal, I am glad we went because we were able to see different techniques other Higher Achievement staff used to manage the many loud students. We heard different ways of getting their attention too. It was a good example for Jessie, Bridget and I and we’ll use these strategies going forward. Our contact person is a Jepson alum and it has been great to see the work she does at Henderson. What she has learned here in Jepson is applying to her new job at Higher Achievement. I look forward to talking with her more and hearing of her experiences with both Higher Achievement and her time at the University of Richmond.

We had gone into today’s rehearsal hoping to a read through of Macbeth in our smaller groups with new casting. The smaller groups will allow us to not only move through the script more quickly, but also keep control of the scholars and help them focus. I am disappointed that we were not able to practice as we found out this coming week we will not have rehearsal either. This makes me very nervous as the show is in a few weeks. The scholars attend Higher Achievement on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so Bridget, Jessie and I plan on trying to make up a few rehearsals on some of these days leading up to the performance. Many of our rehearsals have been cancelled due to early school releases or the fall festival. This is a bit frustrating as there is little time until the performance. I know that no matter how much rehearsal we get in, our scholars will still do a fantastic job!

Unfortunately our rehearsal was cancelled this week because the Higher Achievement site was having a Thanksgiving celebration. However, with this cancellation it quickly made me realize that we only have two more rehearsals with our children and we have a ton of work to do! We have finally nailed down a script that should keep us within our time constraints. We found it most helpful to limit the longer parts for the children because that is where even our best readers were really struggling. So for a rule of thumb we made no one’s lines at a given time longer than 5 lines unless it was crucial to the plot.

With not having rehearsal this week, it also made me realize that we really need to start getting the children to act with some props. I think that they will not only enjoy that practice, but that it will be beneficial for the show. I know that our witches are excited to have hats and be working with a cauldron. In a previous rehearsal me and the 6 witches rehearsed Act 1 Scene 1 around a round table and we acted out throwing stuff onto the round table as if it were a cauldron, but I think they would really love to actually do it. I am hoping for next rehearsal that we can bring a few props, but that it won’t be too distracting for them.

Our kids have been doing really well with their lines and we are lucky to have students that have been consistently showing up. We only know of one girl so far that cannot make the show. She has had a small part from the beginning of casting so that will not serve as a challenge come show day. Our time with the children has gone so fast, but I think our final 2 rehearsals will even more enjoyable once we see the kids really get into their lines. I can’t wait to see them perform at the final show!

This week, we finally began acting on stage. We were able to proceed through both the feast scene and the witches scene, which make up the majority of the production. After many weeks of reading through lines, casting, and discussing the play, it is pleasant to see the actors up on stage. Progress is incredibly shaky. Talia is confident and intelligent, but her voice is difficult to understand. Deandre continually reads off the stage instructions. Christina has difficulties with pronunciation and, unlike our other actors, stops in the middle of her lines to ask about each word. Derek is torn between wanting to participate and wanting to stay out of the way. I am sure that as we run through these scenes again and again, these problems will gradually disappear, but they are very present right now.

Our main problem is with casting. Our actors are incredibly inconsistent in their attendance. Kurntz, Deandre, and Christina are always present, but people continually show up and disappear. When new actors arrive, they always seem so excited to be participating. However, when the next week comes, we are left with an empty chair and a need to recast. I worry that we will be continually switching and combining roles until the day of the concert. As I said above, each of our actors has an individual problem that can only be addressed through repetition and practice. As much as Christina tries, no amount of scolding will stop Deandre from reading some of the stage directions. These are problems that can be addressed through run-throughs and practice, but I worry that our time is now very short. December is coming quickly. We will put on our best performance.

While we are still moving forward at a pretty good pace, finally up and off of the reading table and getting into some actual scenes, we are battling some inconsistency in who shows up each week.  Thankfully, our Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are there every week, so we don’t have to work around any main characters missing.  Still, though, we seem to have somewhat of a rotating cast of supporting characters.  It isn’t difficult from the standpoint of putting on an interesting production, I think that will happen no matter what.  It becomes difficult when members of the group who don’t show up every week, of which there are quite a few, seem to want to fall back into their normal roles upon return.  So, we’ve sort of ended up with a few of our students unintentionally jockeying for a few of the supporting roles.  Hopefully, through attendance, this problem will figure itself out.  I’m planning to talk to Timone about whether or not he has any inclinations about the future participation of the group members.  If there comes a time when it looks like everybody will be showing up consistently, then we can do some final casting.  I guess for now we’ll just have to work with whoever comes on that given day and hope the students enjoy themselves.

I will say that it is really interesting to see this come together so quickly, and it is especially enjoyable due to the genuine interest that certain students have taken in the subject throughout the process.  Students that I anticipated being terribly uninterested have shown increased investment pretty much every week and I think that can be attributed to our letting the students kind of dictate their own path.  Now, it seems as if the students just want to get up there and act each week, which works for us, because we can finally start figuring out some of the mechanics of this thing.  I can’t wait to see what is going to come out of these last few weeks.

This week, we were ready to go with name-tags, role descriptions, scripts, etc. We had the ideal divisions of groups set. We arrived at Henderson to a game of trivia being hosted with what looked like multiple groups of Henderson after school classes. There were 15 scholars lined up on stage and each one would be called one at a time to answer true or false to a fact about the US. Everyone in the audience would applaud if the scholar answered correctly, and if they were incorrect scholars would shout, “its okay!!” It was really cute to watch them answer so many correctly and show great sportsmanship if they were incorrect.

Because it appeared to be more than just one class of scholars at Henderson’s after school program, the room was a lot louder than usual. It was fascinating to watch the teachers calm down the room by shouting certain commands that they would respond in sync to. One of these teachers graduated from Jepson. She spoke to us during orientation about how she loves being able to directly apply what she learned as a leadership major at Richmond to this after school program. She is a leader within the organization and a leader among the students. It was cool to see her actually implement a lot of what she told us to do at orientation. I have been using a lot of her tips and have seen great results. For example, she told us to say, “on three, I want you to quietly, take out your notebooks and write one thing you learned today. Okay, one, to three.” The italicized can be substituted for anything that you want them to do, but you must explain how (quietly, quickly, etc.) and what, with good instructions of the task.

After we watched 30 minutes worth of trivia, we were able to get a hold of our site contact person to ask when we would resume practice. She apologized and told us they were not having that today. She then told us the following week we would not have practice either. We began to worry about when we would be able to get enough practices in before the play, and she told us we would be able to come in on a different day. We plan on going in on a Thursday, probably the week following Thanksgiving.

This week, Jessie received a text from our contact person saying we were not having regular rehearsal hours and that there was not an activity for us to come to with the scholars, so we did not go to Henderson. A blessing for me, because it was B-Schools second wave of midterms and I had a lot to study for. However, we were so ready to show our scholars actual Shakespeare texts 🙁

We planned out that we were going to divide our script into three parts so that we can have three waves acting out each character. Since our act does not have that many characters, and we have 25 scholars, it made the most sense for us to do it this way. Again though, this is just a trial and error – what seems to make sense in our heads may not play out as planned. We also got ready to make nametags for the scholars and we would try to divide them up into roles with a lot of speaking and roles with little speaking, depending on what each would prefer.

The most frustrating part about practice being cancelled is that we have fresh ideas to improve from the previous session, which is now three weeks in the past. It is impossible to ask scholars to recall what went wrong or what they need to do better this week, because they simply do not remember that the last rehearsal we had was just me.

For our next session, I want to begin with ground rules, that the scholars and Jessie Carolina and myself agree with. I think this is a great way to hold them accountable for their actions. A punishment for disobeying a rule they generated could potentially result in them sitting the rehearsal out.

As there are limited weeks left before the show, I am excited to get the scholars hands on Macbeth. I think their enthusiasm will make for great actors and actresses.

Today we had both of our main characters present for the first time in three weeks! We were finally able to block our fight scene, which we had been putting off since participants had been absent. We spent most of practice today talking about the fight scene and seeing how it should be blocked. None of us have blocked a fight scene before, so it took some creativity and imagination! Juliana gave a great suggestion on how the scene should look and after trying the blocking it looked great! Everyone clapped once the scene was over because it looked so good! It is exiting to see the participants still engaged and excited to be at practice.

We did have a few missing people today, which is usual, so we were not able to do certain scenes. The rest of our practice was spent going over previous blocking and practicing the scenes with the actors we had present! I filled in lines for two characters which was fun! At the end of the rehearsal, we got into a discussion about how Shakespeare wrote his plays about history and how this one is about King James. They were very excited to talk more about this and get into a discussion on why Shakespeare writes the way he does. We talked more specifically about the representation of Lady Macbeth in the play and what Shakespeare was trying to say about women with her character. Hopefully, we will have more discussions like this in the future! We will not be meeting next week, because most of the participants are going to be out of town and they asked to skip next weeks rehearsal.