As with every practice we have had, there are always many moving parts. One of our leads was not there today, making blocking difficult. We have not had a practice where everyone is together, so we have not been able to see the blocking fully done. I am hoping that next week everyone will be at rehearsal, so we can practice it fully!
The participants were very enthusiastic when practicing the fight scene. Honestly, I was a little scared during it because they were getting very into it and I was afraid someone was going to get hurt. Thankfully, no one did. We spent todays rehearsal going through the play and blocking scenes we had not had a chance to get to last week. The main critiques we were able to give them is they need to work on moving around the stage and not standing still during a full scene.
At the end of rehearsal, the participants asked us if we are going to have a cast party at the end of the semester! It was so sweet that they want to get together to commemorate our experience! Another great and productive rehearsal as usual.
This week we finished blocking for our entire excerpt of the play. The Osher participants were very eager to finish the blocking of the play and have already started memorizing their lines so that they can perform their roles to the fullest extent. We then reviewed the blocking for the entire section to see how much the Osher participants remembered from last week. Its very exciting to see our creation coming to life and its been such a pleasure to work with the Osher participants. When one participant is absent all the other Osher participants have been very eager to fill the roles of the missing participants. I would have loved if we could have had a larger portion of the play because it is so great to see the Osher participants make this play their own. Im excited to get the last bit of our props together for next rehearsal, tis includes swords for every actor and capes for all the actors that play soldiers.
This week instead of having rehearsal, Higher Achievement had a Fall Festival for Halloween. We were able to attend and help run a few of the activity stations. One had the scholars try and pick a red apple from a bucket of green apples while blindfolded. Another station had the scholars drawing certain symbols that represented positive qualities on tissue paper. It was very hectic with many of them wandering from their assigned stations. Although we were not rehearsing Macbeth, it was a positive way to get to know our scholars and even some that are not in our group. I was also able to see some of the scholars that I used to tutor after school last spring!
During our class work day, Jessie, Bridget and I were able to come up with a structured plan for the coming rehearsal. We have gone through the Macbeth script and divided it into four sections. In doing this, we hope that smaller groups of scholars will be easier to manage. Hopefully it will also allow them to be more engaged and focussed during rehearsal. We also compiled lists of the characters in each section and increased the number of murderer and porter roles as those were more popular in our group. I’m looking forward to rehearsing within smaller groups next week!
This week we were not able to work on the Shakespeare project with the kids, but we had the opportunity to go to Henderson for their harvest festival. We got to work with the kids in a different setting than when we are doing our project. The kids were set in different stations that had halloween themed games. The stations did not all go smoothly, and most kids weren’t doing the “game” correctly. It was reassuring, in a way, that the kids were still poorly behaved even for something that we weren’t running. I think the fact that the event was a high energy, loud music event contributed to the kids actions. This helped us realize that we need to approach our meetings in a calm way in order to mediate their energy.
During our workday we constructed a potential plan for the next few sessions. We cut our part of the play into four parts and will be splitting the kids into four groups. Different parts have differing roles in the play. For example, those who want big parts may want to be either Macbeth or Lady Macbeth in our first part. We are hoping cutting our part of the play up this way will help us better control the kids. We can also focus on one section of our part each in order to get a better hold of what Shakespeare is saying and how to explain that to children.
We cut our script down a lot during the week which was much needed. We made sure each character never said more than 5 lines at a time. We thought if the lines were not that long, the children would not be as nervous to read them, and they would then read them faster with more confidence. Going into our Thursday night session, I was hopefully we would be able to get through the script much faster than the previous times.
We started off our session with a couple rounds of charades. This got the kids out of their seats and practicing their acting skills. They loved it! The kids that were typically shy, were still shy during this game, but for the most part the kids got into it! It is fun to see their personalities coming out each week. Some girls are so sweet, while others talk bad about each other. The boys on the other hand are typical 5th grade boys. They are constantly running around and having a good time with each other.
Once charades was over, we went through the whole script pretty quickly. We made the kids stand when they were reading their lines. We also encouraged them to act as they were reading their lines. It hit us that we only have a few more practices before the performance, so we started to panic that the kids were just going to be standing on the stage reading their lines while not acting! Surprisingly the kids were ambitious with their acting skills.
Some students kept extra copies of their scripts to practice at home which was adorable. Some students even asked for extra posters so they could give one to their mom and keep the other in their room. Fingers crossed this enthusiasm is still with the kids on the day of the performance.
T’was the night before Halloween…
Monday this week we received a text from our contact person at Henderson to tell us that they were having a Henderson wide Fall Fest so we would not be holding our regular rehearsal. We were given the option to come join and help facilitate activities if we wanted. Not surprisingly, we all wanted to go. We arrived and we went to the cafeteria where there were around eight stations. Each station had a fun activity for all the grade levels. There was an apple picking station, a symbols station where they drew symbols representing “friendship,” “trust,” etc. onto tissue paper, a “pin the light” on the pumpkin station, and coloring stations too. The scholars were so happy because there was pizza and fun music playing too!
It was a very fun break from our typical Monday sessions, and I know it meant a lot to our scholars that we came. I talked with them and asked what they were going to be for halloween. Lots of fun answers: basketball players, movie stars, etc. And they were curious to know when we were going to cast roles for Macbeth.
Next week, when we resume regular sessions and Jessie and Carolina are there, we will be able to start casting Macbeth roles. We have our plan ready for Monday and are going to use trial and error to best teach all 25 scholars how to perform a shakespeare play.
I am excited to see how they do!
We had a great rehearsal today! We started off with playing charades where we let the children choose what categories of things they were going to act out. I think that went over really well and it was a game that directly related to them acting. We have a few children in our group who are very against participating and acting in front of their peers, but we did our best to make them contribute in some sense.
After our game of charades, we handed out the revised script. We found during our last rehearsal that our part was entirely too long because we have a few children who struggled to read the longer parts. Our new version of our part is a much smoother read and I think the kept the children more interested. We read in a big group again, but we emphasized that when they had a part to speak that they must stand up and act out their lines. I would say that 3 of our 11 participants today actually acted the lines, but that is a good start. I was glad to see every child standing and reading their lines loudly, that is a good first step. We adding 3 witches to our scenes so now our witch count is up to 6 because pretty much every girl wanted to be a witch.We did have an interesting interaction between our stellar Macbeth and our Lady Macbeth. Our child who plays Macbeth did not want to say, “My dearest love” to our Lady Macbeth, everyone giggled and our Macbeth seemed somewhat embarrassed. We did not end up making him read that line because it was not essential to the plot of the play, but we did see how immature our group was. I am hoping that by the end of our time that our Macbeth will not think that that line is such a big deal. Finally, our Macbeth and Banquo are super into it and they really gain momentum off of each other with British accents and all. I really hope they end up making it to the performance.
Last Thursday, I watched my schedule spontaneously combust. The gentlemen from my group were kind enough to go to the Villa without me. I appreciate this, and I quickly recovered. In any case, I was not present at our meeting with the Villa last week. Thus, I did not get to meet Mr. Deandre or speak to any of the other promising actors. I was not there, and it is not my place to speak of what they did. However, I am happy to share my thoughts on the planning end of the production.
Putting together the prop-list has not been a hassle. Obviously, we had not placed any of our ideas on the document until the work time in class today (Wednesday, November the first). From the third week we spent at the Villa, the prop-list has been an ongoing discussion. Among the suggestions from our actors, we have had a range of ideas. For example, one actor voiced the opinion that Banquo’s ghost should be dressed “like Danny Phantom”. Our coordinator, organizer, and living legend Timone Brown has asked us to provide him with a prop-list. He knows that we are operating within a budget and has decided that the Villa would be willing to pay to provide props for its own students.
In the same vein, Jimmy and I were speaking with Professor Bezio today regarding the topic of dry ice. Dry ice is the safest smoke-producing substance that could be used for the production. The use of dry ice would add to the visual effects of the eerie witches and the frothing, boiling cauldron in our section of the play. However, touching dry ice can lead to near-instant second degree freezing burns due to the sublimation of the carbon dioxide. We worry that not only could the dry ice set off the smoke detectors, it could horribly injure our actors if handled improperly. The actor who is most enthusiastic about being a witch (or warlock) is Kurntz. Kurntz is inquisitive and deeply interested in science, I worry that he would try to handle the dry ice if allowed to. Another danger is the smoke detectors. Dry ice smoke falls to the floor, so particulate or heat sensitive detectors on the ceiling will not sound an alarm. However, low-to-the-ground particulate detectors will sound the alarm. We will have to speak with Timone at our next meeting about the specifics of the use of dry ice within the chapel, as the chapel will host the final production.
We will likely continue the prop-list discussion with our actors in tomorrow’s meeting. I look forward to hearing their ideas!
This week once again went well! It is exciting that every week keeps going well; it is making me very excited to start seeing everything come together. We started this session off with an improv game. The kids were not a huge fan of it. Most were uncomfortable making things up on the spot. They were excited in theory about the game, but then definitely got stage fright when they started the game. This was actually a surprise to me because they have been so good about reading their lines. They definitely prefer to have lines in front of them to read rather than make things up on the spot.
After the improv game, we assigned parts. This went really well. Everyone was happy with the part they got. Some were excited the did not have lines, some were excited they had main parts, and others were excited to be witches. I was relived that I did not have to deal with any complaints. We then started to read the script for the first time as a whole group and a first time as being characters. Macbeth blew my mind. He belted out in an amazing British accent and read his lines fluently in the accent. It was very impressive. After getting through a majority of the script, we handed out the posters. This made the kids so excited about the performance. I am really hopeful that the kids enthusiasm sticks for the rest of the winter. I hope there are not any no shows during the actual performance and I hope the children’s parents are on board with the play as well. They children asked to take home the scripts so they could practice their lines which was adorable. It shows they are dedicated and willing to work on their lines so the play turns out as well as it can! Fingers crossed this week goes smoothly as well.
As I seem to say in every blog post, this week was a huge improvement on the last few. I’m learning that the relationships the students have with us is much more important than the relationship the students have with the material. At first, I wondered if the students’ apprehension was fueled by disinterest in Macbeth, but have grown to realize that the apprehension is simply a product of not being comfortable around us. Now that we’ve begun to forge somewhat personal relationships with these students, they seem considerably more interested. I try to make a comment about something personal to each student throughout our sessions, and I think them knowing that I have individual interest in each one of them is really important.
Hopefully, this was the final week of casting. We’ve been having trouble finding a Macbeth, as our Macbeth’s have either been kicked off of the company or grown uncomfortable with the amount of potential lines. Thankfully, an awesome and enthusiastic young man named Deandre decided to join us this week. When he came in, I could feel his enthusiasm for the project and almost immediately knew that he genuinely wanted to be there. With that, I asked Deandre how he felt about the play and acting in general. He responded by telling me he doesn’t have much familiarity with Shakespeare or on-stage acting, but he is excited about the project. So I asked, “Would you be comfortable with a lot of lines, maybe as a main character?” Deandre responded extremely gratefully by saying, “If you’ll allow me,” as a smile stretched across his face. With that, we sort of finalized our casting.
Now, and I think this is something the students are actually looking forward to, we get to employ some of our more creative urges. When leaving we announced that we would be talking about props the next week and everybody kind of lit up. They’re really eager to have their own input, their own fingerprints, on the production and I am really eager to see how they want to construct some of this. Its become clear that we aren’t going to make progress if the other mentors and I decide what we are going to do and how we are going to do it. For that reason, I am really looking forward to seeing what these kids and their imaginations have in mind. Tomorrow should be an interesting day!