At this weeks rehearsal, Bliss and I were slightly slammed. Bliss and I had been hoping that more students would attend this weeks rehearsal than attended the last rehearsal, as we had planned to finish up auditions, finalize the cast list, hand out scripts, and do a full read-through of the play at this weeks rehearsal. However, the second we walked into St. Joseph’s Villa we were greeted at the door by Timone (our site supervisor) who alerted us that there were only 12 students in attendance. Thus, Bliss and I followed the first part of our rehearsal plan (to hold auditions for the students who were not in attendance at the last rehearsal) and then were left to improvise the remainder of the rehearsal. Thankfully, Bliss and I had a few improvisation games up our sleeves.

For the first improv game we played, we went around in a circle and told a story, and each student was required to add a line to the story. Then, we played an improv game called Three Headed Expert. Three Headed Expert involves three participants, who all work together to answer questions related to an obscure field (for example, one of the experts in a round of Three Headed Expert we played was an expert in “dinosaur fashion”). However- unlike in the first game we played- each person can only say one word at a time. In this way, Three-Headed Expert requires that students work together and listen closely to what the student before them has said so that they can build off of what they say and create an interesting and coherent response. Finally, we played a game called Freeze. In this game, two people are in a scene together. Then, someone who is not in the scene says “freeze,” and the actors in the current scene are required to freeze in the positions they’re in. Then, the person who said “freeze” gets to tap one of the actors in the scene out and start a new scene with the remaining actor. The new scene the actor starts must be related to the position the two prior actors were frozen in. For example, there could be a scene where two people are looking up at the sky, notice a UFO, and point up at it, then someone could yell “freeze,” tap one of them out, and turn the upward pointing hand motion into a sports motion, and create a new sports-related scene. Freeze requires that students pay close attention to the scene that is taking place so that they can choose a good spot to pause the scene at. Freeze also involves a lot of creativity and requires a lot of teamwork between the two actors in the scene. Bliss and I feel as though the students enjoyed Freeze the most of the three improv games (likely because it was the most fast-paced of the three).

Next week, Bliss and I will be announcing the cast list to students, handing out scripts, doing a full read-through of the play, and answering any questions the students may have about their characters or the premise of the play. Bliss and I had a fairly easy time casting the show, with the exception of two things. First, we only had 14 students audition for 15 parts. Thus, we did not cast a Sebastian, and figured that we could reserve this role for any new actors who join. Also, Bliss and I were alerted at our rehearsal on Monday that one of the students (Chris) who Bliss and I wanted to cast as Caliban may no longer be a part of the program. Thus, we have sent our finalized cast list to our site supervisor (Timone) so that he can confirm everyone we are giving major parts to is still a part of the program before we announce the cast list at our next rehearsal.

After a long hiatus from rehearsal, Caroline and I finally got to go back to Henderson to work with the kids again. We met the new crop of kids who we’d be working with, and they did not disappoint. They seemingly all had theater experience, which I wasn’t aware was even an option for kids so young.

When I was their age I had only been in the required school plays, and I always had the smallest roles possible. To see kids that were motivated and excited about it was really encouraging for me.

The rehearsal went well for the most part, but we hit a bit of a snag when we were relocated from the theater to the cafeteria, where two other groups were having study hall. Quickly the kids focus was gone, as they fed off the presence of the other groups. The worst part about the cafeteria was the noise. We couldn’t hear the kids, and they couldn’t hear us.

They were fooling around, running around the stage and hiding in the curtains. I couldn’t blame them though, it’s hard to expect kids to refocus on a dime, especially when you change environments. We were able to still have a decently successful rehearsal, but this was one of the more “roll with it” experiences we have. Next week we’ll have the scripts and we’ll assign roles, and hopefully then they’ll really get into it.


This week was cancelled for us, but I think that next week will be a continuation of our audition process, as we still have to cast Gonzalo and several other roles. We specifically designed it this way so that we could save space for people who may have missed our last practice.

We have the majority of the roles cast, and I could not be happier with the selections. The lead roles went to the handful of consistent returners, all of whom were passionate about the roles that they chose.

I personally think that Chris would have made an excellent Prospero, but he was extremely set on being Caliban, and I think that he will bring a fiery anger to the role that will be an interesting contrast to his cheerful personality.

Laura is our Miranda, and from our first meeting I knew that her sweet disposition and natural ability would make her into the perfect child of Prospero.

My one concern is with Jack, our Boatswain. When it came time for him to audition, he hid in the bathroom after declaring loudly that he wanted to be a tumbleweed. I think that he might prove to be upset with having lines, despite his ability to speak with intent. But we will see next Monday, and perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised!


This week was not as successful as the last, due to a number of factors. We started about 15 minutes late, as our scholars had not been dismissed from the class before quite yet. Per their request from the last week, we introduced a new game, Elves, Wizards, Giants, though it took quite a while to convince them the game would be fun and explain the rules (effectively a more active Rock, Paper, Scissors). We didn’t settle down to read the script until halfway through our time, and settling 20 fifth graders down to read Shakespeare was no easy task. Most of the scholars were disappointed to learn that they did, in fact, have to read again, while a few scholars just outright refused. However, we did have some of our more interested scholars try and get their friends into it by using funny accents and trying to tackle big passages, which was exciting to see. By the end of our time, which was cut short by another 15 minutes, we had only gone through about 2 pages, though I’m not sure we could have gotten much further.

For the next time, we promised to start with their favorite game, Froggy Murder, since we did not have time to finish with a game this time around. Many of the scholars were more interested in knowing their characters than actually reading through the parts, so it may be time to start picking out our sailors and spirits to help us with the less literary aspects of the play. At this point in the timeline, we should start focusing more on our scholars who are actually interested in having lines and giving them the opportunity to work on their accents and their reading skills. Hopefully, next week we will have our full time to play our theatre games and begin to divvy up the parts. Hopefully, once the scholars see this elective as more than just reading, they’ll be more excited to participate.

On Monday morning, Timone texted Bliss and me last minute telling us that he was cancelling our rehearsal as he was not going to be able to attend. At first Bliss and I thought we would just reschedule the rehearsal for Friday morning. However, when we suggested this, Timone responded that although he will be at the Villa on Friday morning, he has a group going out to VCU that day. This week, Bliss and I had planned to hold a second round of auditions, as last time we held auditions (which was before Fall Break), we had many people missing and were only able to cast about half the roles (we still need an Antonio, a Gonzalo, a Sebastian, a Ferdinand, and an Alonso).

Thus, I explained just this to Timone, and suggested that (as many students will be away at VCU on Friday) we skip this week’s rehearsal and start rehearsing again on Monday. Bliss and I plan to run our second round of auditions the same way we held the first round of auditions, which was by giving students an option between reading four monologues: A Prospero monologue, a Miranda monologue, and two Caliban monologues. After we are done holding our second round of auditions and finalizing the cast list, we will conduct a read through of the script.

I’m considering today’s rehearsal our first official rehearsal. Although we went to HE two weeks ago, we only worked with 6 or 7 students and weren’t exactly prepared to introduce them to the play. However, this week I think we can start to dive into the plot of the play and some basic acting exercises. Although we’ve cut the play, I don’t think we should have the students work with the script on the first day. I think we can do a read-through next week and begin to block scenes then.

With all that being said, here is my outline for how we will run rehearsal today (10/22).

  • Introductions
    • Joe and I introduce ourselves, who we are, what we’re doing here.
    • Introduce the program. Explain that we’ll be putting on a play, when the final production will be, etc.
    • Have the students introduce themselves. (Name, what school they go to, maybe ask if they have ever been in a play or performance before)
  • The Tempest
    • Briefly explain who Shakespeare is. (The kids last time didn’t really know who Shakespeare is, but they were familiar with Romeo and Juliet, so this could be some helpful context.)
    • Explain the plot of the entire play (simply and quickly, so we don’t lose their attention and interest). Play up the magical aspects (wizard! fairies! spells! etc!).
    • Explain, in more detail, the plot of our particular acts (Acts 2 and 3)
      • Act 2, Scene 1: Alonso, Antonio, Sebastian, Gonzalo talking about their fate. Ariel puts Alonso and Gonzalo to sleep, while Antonio and Sebastian plot to kill Alonso and Gonzalo, who wake up right as Antonio and Sebastian are about to kill them with their swords.
      • Act 2, Scene 2: Trinculo hides from the storm under a tarp(?) with Caliban. Stephano finds them. Caliban gets drunk, declares himself the servant of Stephano.
      • Act 3, Scene 1: Ferdinand and Miranda getting engaged.
      • Act 3, Scene 2: Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano conspire to kill Prospero and take control of the island.
      • Act 3, Scene 3: Fairies bring in the feast to Gonzalo, Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian. Ariel appears and yells at them.
    • Run through the characters: Prospero, Miranda, Ferdinand, Trinculo, Stephano, Caliban, Ariel, Alonso, Antonio, Sebastian, Gonzalo
  • Acting!
    • Walk them through vocal and physical choices (American Shakespeare Center Basics)
      • Vocal choices
        • Pitch
        • Volume
        • Pace
      • Physical choices
        • Stance/posture
        • Pace/gait
        • Leading part of the body (head, heart, gut)
          • Head – smart, cunning
          • Heart – in love
          • Gut – active, angry

I don’t know how much of that we will get through, but it should fill the 1.25 hours we have to fill. If not, we can play some Zip Zap Zop or musical chairs.

I’m not sure if I buy into Taunton and Hart’s argument that the apocalyptic language in King Lear was a reference to James’ reaction to the Gunpowder Plot. They refer to the fear of separate kingdoms and a new ruler as “apocalyptic” (pg 713) in order to place King Lear in an apocalyptic framework. To me, placing King Lear in a doomsday framework is a bit of a stretch. Admittedly, James’ rule brought much anxiety to England, as many citizens did not trust him to rule effectively. This distrust finds its parallel in Lear’s corruption after handing his legitimate power as king over to his daughters, though this transfer of power does not necessarily invoke doomsday imagery.

Taunton and Hart reference the storm in which Lear is caught, as well as his mad ramblings, though Act III Scene 2 is up to interpretation. In order to make the leap from Lear’s experience in the storm to James’ fascination with Armageddon, Taunton and Hart assume that Lear’s storm-driven madness represent an apocalyptic mindset. Lear’s madness can represent the end of his rule, as well as the madness in which his kingdom descends. However, whether or not that madness is truly apocalyptic still remains up to personal interpretation. If audience members don’t make the connection between Lear’s madness and Armageddon, the apparent reference to James’ apocalyptic fascination and rhetoric is even more difficult to find. While apocalyptic rhetoric may have helped James appear as a hero for stopping the Gunpowder Plot, there is not enough clearly apocalyptic language in King Lear to make this connection between Lear and James.

This week was much more successful, even though we missed last week’s rehearsal due to the weather. Some of our scholars were actually excited to see us again, and they were more willing to participate now that they had a better idea of who we are and what the project is. We had a smaller group this week of only about 20 scholars, which was a bit more manageable. We started and finished with games, which they appreciated, though the scholars requested new games for the next rehearsal, so Julia and I will have to have something new ready for them. Once we finished our first game, the group settled down and we went around the circle, each scholar reading lines for the characters as they came up in the script. They were surprisingly calm and thoughtful readers, with some scholars volunteering for the tougher speeches or helping their friends with difficult words. We only got through a few pages, though I was very happy to see how interested they became in the project once they had scripts in their hands.

Next week, in addition to new games, we will continue to read through the scene character by character so that every scholar has a chance to read. As we go through the script, we’ve been explaining the story and other opportunities for extra sailors and stagehands here and there. Some of our scholars have already expressed interest in helping backstage, though judging by the success of the first read-through, they may change their minds in the future. Hopefully, we won’t miss any more of our rehearsals, and we can finish reading through our scene before beginning to stage things. I’m also very hopeful that their enthusiasm yesterday will carry through to the next week.

Because Higher Education was closed for Columbus Day, we were not able to have rehearsal. Unfortunately, we still have a lot of unanswered questions. We don’t really know how large our group of students will be or what they will be like. Will they be excited to perform? Or will their overall reaction to the idea be similar to that of the small group we worked with 2 weeks ago? These questions won’t be answered until next week when we finally return. In the mean time, here are some questions I will be considering:

  1. Casting. This is the thing that is worrying me the most. As someone who likes to have plan, I am struggling to be okay with inconsistent attendance at HE. I’m thinking it might be a good idea to have several students on call for the main roles we have in our scenes.
  2. How to structure rehearsal. Rehearsal then games? How do we fill an hour and 15 minutes?
  3. How to get the students interested in and excited about the play, without making them rowdy. I tend to encourage kids’ bad behavior because I think it’s funny. This is not something I should do during rehearsal (but inevitably will).
  4. How to explain the plot of the play without boring them. Also, how to explain the characters, the themes, anything else they might need to know. And how to do all this while they are trying to run around the auditorium.

My plan is for my next blog post to be answers to these questions, a detailed plan for our first real rehearsal. I have to graduate and find a job soon but for some reason this play is the thing giving me the most anxiety.

Monday’s rehearsal ran a little differently from past rehearsals, as only about twelve students attended (in the past, Bliss and I have had twenty+ students attend rehearsals). At first, Bliss and I were a little thrown off by the lack of students, especially since we had planned to hold auditions. However, we went ahead and held auditions even though we had students missing, as we do not know for sure if the students missing will be returning in future weeks, and as most of the students we have been considering for major roles were present. Many of the students who auditioned were exceptionally talented. This made Bliss and me feel relieved, as we will have no problem filling some of the more line heavy and challenging roles- such as Prospero, Miranda, and Caliban. However, as expected, there were also a handful of students who requested smaller roles, and who were fairly timid when it came to reading the audition monlogues. Bliss and I will be giving these students smaller and less line heavy roles, such as the Roman goddesses and the Boatswain.

As we were able to find good fits for the major roles in the play, Bliss and I still left rehearsal feeling pretty good. Further, our moods were lifted by the enthusiasm the students who were present demonstrated towards the production at rehearsal. For example, one student (Lauren) asked if there would be costumes in the production, to which Bliss and I replied that there can be costumes if the students want to do them. Lauren then responded that she loves sewing and designing costumes, and that she would be more than happy to make costumes for the show. Bliss and I also received a few questions regarding stage makeup for the production. Next rehearsal, Bliss and I will introduce the students to the script, which we’re very excited about. Bliss and I have also decided that if students who were not present at Monday’s rehearsal come to rehearsal next week, we can hold a second round of auditions at the beginning of the rehearsal.