This week, Bliss and I led our final rehearsal at St. Joseph’s Villa. This rehearsal ended up being our best rehearsal yet, as the students were the most engaged they had ever been, and many of them seemed very excited for the show. At first, Bliss and I were slightly concerned, as when we arrived at the Villa Timone alerted us that we would not be able to practice in our usual rehearsal space, which is the chapel where the final production will take place. However, practicing in the smaller room ended up being better than practicing in the chapel, as the students were a lot more focused practicing in the smaller space. Luckily, all but three students were in attendance at this rehearsal, which also contributed to things running so smoothly.
Bliss and I started off the rehearsal by announcing the final cast list, and giving each student the props and costumes that went with their character(s) once their role(s) were announced. I think this helped get the students engaged in the rehearsal right from the start, as the students were excited to receive the props and costumes. After Bliss and I announced the final cast list and gave out the props and costumes to students, we played the question game, which seems to be the students favorite game. The students had a fun time playing this game, and almost everyone went up to play at some point. We ended the rehearsal by reading through Act V (this was our first time reading through this act). At first, Bliss and I tried to assign the students blocking, but as the readthrough went on we realized that the students weren’t really paying attention to the blocking and were starting to lose focus, so we stopped assigning blocking.
One thing Bliss and I noted during the read through was that Prospero has way too many lines, so when we went through the script to edit it one last time we cut about two pages of his lines. Overall, Bliss and I are feeling good for the production, and- as long as we get a pretty good student turn out- feel as though it could turn out pretty well.
In my experience, the genre of space movies has been consistently dominated by white males with a white woman tossed in every now and then. Hidden Figures breaks from this mold by highlighting the stories of a group of black women who had an integral role in advancing the work of NASA. Every other space movie that I have seen positions the male astronaut as the protagonist. Hidden Figures is different because it brings to the forefront the efforts of those who have previously been considered “behind the scenes”.
The Calculated Response article was very interesting because it brought to my attention aspects of the movie that have been adjusted from reality to target a white audience. In particular, the article analyzes the role of Al Harrison, who is portrayed throughout the movie as being an advocate for equal rights. One of my favorite scenes was when he tore down the bathroom sign, signaling to Katherine that she could use the bathroom that was previously forbidden to her because of her race. When watching the movie, it did not occur to me that this scene and Al Harrison’s character were actually fictional and that he was inserted into the story in order to make white people feel better. After reading the article, I realized that was exactly the affect it had. When white people are faced with confronting the inequalities of the past, instead of acknowledging their wrongness, they grasp for a silver lining of sorts. Al Harrison’s character allows white people to watch this movie and in the midst of all the blatant discrimination and mistreatment, they can focus on him and say “look we weren’t all bad!” The upside of this is that it makes the story more appealing to white people thus broadening the scope of the audience and increasing the exposure of this very important story. The downside is that it detracts from the efforts of Katherine by implying that her success can be partly attributed to a white man. It begs the question, why was this necessary? Can white people really not enjoy a movie unless they are featured in some type of positive light. Would the movie have been better off without the “white savior” plot line? Or do the benefits of increased exposure outweigh the negative repercussions from a slight deviance in actual events? Additionally, I wonder if the decision to include Al Harrison was a conscious choice on the part of the director to cater to white people or of he just thought Harrison would make the movie more interesting without realizing the deeper implications.
This past week, Timone cancelled our rehearsal last minute as he was unable to attend and could not get someone to cover for him in time. While Bliss and I were disappointed that rehearsal was cancelled, we were also somewhat relieved, as rehearsals have become increasingly stressful due to lack of student interest and stage fright. At our rehearsal, Bliss and I had planned to review the revised cast list, and to conduct our first full read-through of The Tempest.
As of now we have only conducted a full read-through of Act IV, and have yet to read through Act V. As we only have one rehearsal left before the show, the students will pretty much be conducting a cold reading of the script the night of the show.
Next rehearsal, Bliss and I plan to review the revised cast list, conduct a full read-through of Acts IV and V, discuss blocking, and to review the different characters and the plot of The Tempest. Bliss and I will also be bringing props and costumes, and we will be incorporating the latter into the read through.
As the show approaches, I am nervous that very few students will attend/ go through with playing their roles during the show. However, the show must go on, and Bliss and I will do everything in our power to make do with whatever conditions present themselves the night of the show.
This week was fairly similar to last week, in that we were only working with a few of the scholars while the rest worked on another project. Unfortunately, our Prospero and Ferdinand had been picked up early, so we had some other brave volunteers read the lines for their friends. We finally made it through the entire script in one go, so our other characters will be much better prepared when we run things through with the originally cast Prospero and Ferdinand two weeks from now. Script readings have gone well the past two weeks, our only challenges being volume and the scholars’ comfortability with Shakespearean language. However, we are still left without sailors, though we do have a few scholars willing to read for the nobles. Again, this seems like it will have to be a last-minute decision, depending on who is available and willing to help with the water and pirate ship on the day of the performance.
Hopefully when we return from Thanksgiving, we will have our entire group to help us finish the pirate ship and fill in for sailors and stagehands where needed. We should bring prop hats and the “water” next time we go, so that we can mark which hat goes to whoever and get our scholars used to their props before the performance the next day. Maybe the realization that the performance is impending will inspire some of the scholars to participate more, though ultimately, it depends on who shows up on any given day.
The final night of my Disney trip happened to align with the 20th-anniversary performance of Fantasmic. My friend and I attended this performance but had no idea at the time that it was the 20th-anniversary performance. We did, however, pick up on the fact that the overall vibe seemed to be very different from the past times we’ve seen the show, and that more people were in attendance than usual.
Once the show began (while neither of us could put our finger on exactly why) both my friend and I could tell that the show felt very different from the previous performances we had seen. For example, during the show, everyone around us was absolutely silent and fully engaged in every number, which is not usually the case for Fantasmic. After the show, we both noted that the show seemed even better than it has been the past few times we had seen it, and wondered if perhaps Disney had made recent changes to it.
A few hours after the show, I saw a post on the Disney Instagram that stated how the 20th-anniversary performance of Fantasmic had occurred earlier that night. I immediately showed the post to my friend, who responded “that makes so much sense!” I found this to be interesting, as we had both been able to detect that there was something different about this specific viewing of the show solely based on the audience’s reaction to the show that night.
When I was at Disney over fall break, I attended one of the Halloween parties. At the Halloween parties there is a parade called the Boo-To-You parade. This parade is one of the biggest things that draws people to Disney’s Halloween parties, and happens twice throughout each party. Both my friend and I love the Boo-To-You parade, so we planned our party night out so that we could see the parade twice. The first Boo-To-You parade occurs midway through the party (around 9 pm), and the second Boo-To-You parade occurs at the end of the party (right before midnight). Because the Halloween party goes so late, a lot of parents who have younger children leave after the first parade. As a result, the first parade tends to have a much younger audience than the second parade.
Thus, when watching the parade the first time my friend and I found ourselves surrounded by a very young audience- in fact- the people surrounding us predominantly consisted of parents and toddlers. As anticipated, the toddlers LOVED the parade- they would shout the names of the characters and try to high-five them as they passed by, and were singing along to the music the entire time. Overall, the excitement the younger audience had for the parade combined with the fact that I had not seen this parade since I was seven years old made the experience fun, uplifting, and nostalgic for me.
However, my friend and I had a much different (and slightly less positive) experience at the second parade. At the second parade, my friend and I were surrounded by older teenagers and college students. A lot of the older teenagers who were near us were heckling some of the characters, and others were complaining that certain sections of the parade “weren’t scary enough.” Of course, other factors likely contributed towards my experience being slightly more positive at the first parade than at the second parade besides the audience. For example, the first parade occurred earlier in the night when I was less tired, and I was more excited for the first parade than for the second one as I hadn’t seen the parade in years so everything was fairly new. However, I would say that- overall- the people I was surrounded by/ the audience did largely contribute to my overall experience at both parades.
When I was at Disney over fall break, I attended the Frozen Sing-Along. I had never been to this sing-along before, but had heard really good things about it from people who had been, and was really excited to attend. Unfortunately, the sing-along did not live up to my expectations, and I believe that a large part of this was due to the fact that the audience members were not very responsive to the two actors leading it.
The main gist of the Frozen Sing-Along is that there are two storytellers/ narrators named Eric and Aria who are the “Royal Historians of Arendale” (where the movie Frozen takes place). Eric and Aria recount the history of Arendale, placing an emphasis on the role Anna and Elsa play in the history of Arendale, and singing songs from Frozen along the way.
The audience of the sing-along was pretty diverse, and the age range of the audience members varied. However, no one in the audience (regardless of age) was very responsive to the actors- few people laughed at their jokes, and even fewer people sang along to the songs in the show. By the end of the (hour- long) sing-along show, it was clear that the actors were fairly exhausted, and I felt bad for them as they had little energy coming from the audience to work off of.
On another note, the historical nature of this sing-along actually reminded me a little bit of the song “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” from Hamilton as throughout the retelling of Arendale’s history one of the royal historians (Eric) continuously states incorrect facts about the story of Anna and Elsa. For example, he states that their parents are alive, and includes an “ice monster” (who was not actually present) in the story. The latter is representative of the way facts are left out/ misconstrued throughout history as stories are passed on through the generations.
This week was another slow-moving week when it came to making progress during rehearsal. For the second week in a row, Bliss and I were met with far fewer students than we anticipated due to sickness, dropouts and other issues. Thus, Bliss and I decided that it would be most productive to spend the rehearsal playing improv games with the students.
Overall, the rehearsal ran well. We played a few rounds of improv games we have played in the past such as Zip Zap Zop, Three-Headed Expert, and Freeze, and introduced the students to a new game called Questions Only. In Questions Only, students are given a scene and must portray two characters in the scene. However, the catch is that the two actors in the scene can only ask each other questions. Once someone makes a statement rather than a question, a new round begins, and the actor who made the statement is switched out with a new actor. The students loved this game and got really into it. Additionally, there was one student who has always been really quiet during rehearsals who excelled at this game, which was cool to see.
After rehearsal, I emailed Timone and confirmed which students have left the program and which ones are still participating. Bliss and I reworked the cast list accordingly based on Timone’s response.
Moving forward, I am worried that not many students will show up the day of the show. The students don’t seem very engaged in The Tempest- in fact- only two of them brought their scripts to rehearsal this past week. However, I hope that we can further engage them in the story of The Tempest throughout our final rehearsals leading up to the show.
This week’s rehearsal was more laid-back than usual, seeing how we were missing a good majority of our returners as well as non-returners due to sickness and other problems. Taylor and I received yet another email update from Timone which added names to our yet-expanding list of dropped students.
Fortunately, throughout the process, Taylor and I have become old pros at modifying cast lists and adapting to our circumstances, and thus, our most recent iteration of the cast list leaves room for change as well as double-casting if necessary.
So far, we have only read halfway through our script (Act Four, with Act Five yet to be read) but it felt foolish to attempt to read through the entire script with less than ten people, only several of whom had speaking roles. I must admit that I am slightly nervous about the performance as I don’t want anyone flying blind, but I don’t truly know what our expectations should be for this performance. Eh, I’m a worrier.
The improv games that we played were definitely helpful; the highlight of the day was when two of our shiest girls had an epic, five-minute-long game of “Questions”, which is practically unheard of if you have never played the game before.
Another, sillier moment happened as we taught the new students to play “Zip-Zap-Zop”, and a newer, very vocal student announced that ‘[the game] is a white people game!’ Taylor and I, despite both having Hispanic parents, shared a look that said, “Well, she’s not wrong.”
In short, I’m nervous about how the show itself will go, but I have every confidence in the abilities of the students to perform.
I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I’ve read the books a couple times and seen the all the movies more times than I can count. When I heard that there was a new Harry Potter installment, I was ecstatic. However, when I read it a while ago, I could barely get through it. I absolutely hated it. I thought the whole premise — saving Cedric to somehow atone for something that Harry didn’t even do — was dumb and unrealistic. I understand that a series about the wizarding world is inherently unrealistic, what I mean is that within the Harry Potter universe, Albus’s decisions are not believable. Most of the people that I have discussed this with feel the same. This is unfortunate because as I reread it, I realized that it actually wasn’t horrible, it was just not what I’d expected it to be. In her interview from the Newsweek article, Noma Dumezweni makes a very valid point when she says that a lot of the negative backlash to the script resulted from people not being used to reading scripts. When all the Harry Potter fans heard about a new book, they were expecting it to be just that, a novel not a play. I, like many others, wanted the same things from the script that I’d gotten from the novel and that just didn’t happen. Trying to read a script like a novel will inevitably leave you feeling somewhat unsatisfied. Once I adjusted my expectations, I found that I liked the script much more because I was appreciating it for what it actually was.
I think this discrepancy between people’s expectations and reality is also why there was backlash towards a black woman playing Hermione. It is true that her gender was never specified, but our default assumption is that she is white. Granted, that is how the movies portrayed her, but that just further illustrates the assumption — when the cast list was released for the movie, I doubt anyone was shocked that they chose a white actress. I am curious as to whether this default assumption results from projecting ourselves onto the character (I am white so I assume the character is white because it makes them more relatable), or if it results from subconscious bias and stereotypes (similar to how we see the word doctor and assume man). Either way, the more we can combat this, the better.