Of all of the things that surprised me about the kids involved with the production, the biggest thing that stood out to me was this:

I liked these kids.

These kids, who came from backgrounds vastly different from mine, who had been to hospitals or shrinks or had been suspended more than once, et cetera– they were genuinely kind and fun to be around.

Through the rounds of Zip Zap Zop, I immediately noticed one boy, covered in bandanas on his ankles and wrists and head, danced during every moment that did not require him to stand still. Even after I called him out on it and praised him for his smooth moves, he only shied away for a moment before he hopped from one foot to another.

Another girl, who was admittedly prone to interrupting, asked thoughtful questions about her scene as Miranda and was even able to calm one of the rowdier boys when he had a brief outburst.

As more and more students got ‘out’ from playing Zip Zap Zop, they watched the remaining players with intrigue and kept the noise to a murmur, often asking who was still in and who I personally thought was going to win.

I had been afraid of some of the young men making passes at Taylor and I, but we were met with respect all around, and Timon acted more like a watchful coach rather than a strict disciplinarian to the kids.

I quickly came to adore several kids who, though they seemed shy, immediately volunteered to read different ‘Head, Heart and Gut’ lines and understood my extremely vague synopses of their scenes. One boy, Chris, who had announced proudly at the beginning that he was now celebrating his tenth year cancer-free (and was met with whoops and applause all around) read for Caliban, and noted that his excerpt contained a swear word.

“Is it okay if I use that?” He asked.

“It’s what Shakespeare would have wanted. Let it ring out, dude!” I responded.

With a huge grin on his face, he read the lines with intense power, and practically screamed the word “ASS!” when it was time, which was, once again, met with encouraging whoops and applause from the audience.

As far as first impressions go, I am very excited to work with this group on Monday and to get them started on our next plan of action, which will likely involve more reading of lines from the show and a synopsis of the show, and Taylor and I will continue to analyze which people might fit certain roles.

On Thursday evening, Julia and I met with our project partner in order to go through the policies and expectations of Higher Achievement. We learned that we could have up to 25 fifth graders in our elective, which will probably be a challenge. That being said, I think it would be a good idea to begin our first rehearsal with an introductory game, like a name game or passing around a beach ball with get-to-know-you questions. Depending on how long this takes, we could play another game with the group, like Zip Zap Zop or Froggy Murder (a personal favorite). Following the games and introductions, we will introduce our part of the play, introduce the characters in Act I, and set expectations for the rehearsals that are in line with Higher Achievement’s expectations for the scholars. We could then ask the scholars whether they would like to audition for roles, have us decide, or just try roles out until they find a dynamic that they like. With a group of this size, hopefully some of our scholars will want to help us with staging things like the storm or Ariel’s magic. If we have time after discussing the characters, we can have some students go through some of the monologues if they like. However, with such a big group and such little time, it might be better just to end with a quick wind-down game. Overall, I am excited to meet our scholars and get started!

Bliss and I did not expect to have many students at our first rehearsal, and we did not expect for the students we did have to be especially interested in the Shakespeare Program we are leading. However, we ended up having about twenty students at our first rehearsal, and the students we had were fairly engaged in the activities we led (minus one student who kept playing the piano throughout the rehearsal). We started the rehearsal off with introductions, which was a fun way for us to get to know the students and for some of the students to get to know each other. Then, we played a game of Zip Zap Zop. In addition to serving as a fun activity for us and the student’s, Zip Zap Zop served as a great way to lead into our first acting exercise, as Bliss and I emphasized how the game demonstrates the importance of communication and collaboration between actors on stage. After Zip Zap Zop, Bliss and I led our first acting exercise. We used one of the exercises from The Basics packet, entitled “Head, Heart, Gut.” We chose the “Head, Heart, Gut” exercise because we felt it would be a good way to teach students how lines vary based on the context of a situation and the intention of a character. We used different monologues and scenes from Acts IV and V of The Tempest for this exercise, and provided students with background on the characters and context of the monologues and scenes.

In this exercise, three students stood out to Bliss and me. One student named Chris read a Sebastian line in one of the heart scenes and really got into it, experimenting with different tones, paces, and mannerisms. We feel as though he would make a good Caliban, as he read his line in a somewhat malicious way after he was provided with background on Sebastian and Sebastian’s intentions in the scene. Another student who stood out to Bliss and me was Lauren, who read for Miranda in the same heart scene as Chris. Finally, Bliss and I think that one of the students (whose name is Aaron) would make a great Ariel, as he incorporated dancing into the scene he read.

Overall, I am very content with how the first rehearsal went, and am excited to see where the next rehearsal takes us.