I thought that Friday’s performance was a huge success! The crowd was much larger than I expected, and every act really lived up to the high expectation I had been reading about in weekly blogposts. Well done everyone! While I am inherently biased, I was very pleased in our act. We had five students ultimately show up to the performance; Adrian (Duke Orsino), Jeniah (Olivia), Tamaiah (Viola), Marcus (Officer, Sebastian, and Fabian), and Khalil (Antonio, Sir Toby Belch). We were all rather surprised with Khalil’s attendance as throughout rehearsal he insisted that he was not going to come to the performance. However, we were very happy that he finally decided to attend. When the students first arrived, they were rather shocked as to the size of the crowd (we were as well). This kind of came back to bite us as throughout rehearsal, when students would ask us how many people were going to be there, we would respond with “not many”. We did this not only to keep the nerves of the students at ease, but also because we actually thought there were not going to be many people at the actual performance. It is evident now that we thought wrong. After initially greeting the students, we then showed them some of the props that they would be using throughout the show. While we brought many props to rehearsal, the students were still interested in adding final touches to their costumes. The props ultimately proved to be both beneficial and distracting for our overall performance. For one, they really seemed to get the students excited about the show. Adrian really liked wearing his crown, and the gold chains were a very big hit for the students. However, given that there were only two gold chains, there were clearly not enough to go around. Thus, when Khalil got to wear the money chain, Adrian became very upset as he wanted to wear the same chain. In addition, Adrian could not decide as to which mustache to wear during the performance. While we tried to tell him that this was rather unimportant, he insisted that he needed the right one to do well. On the plus side, however, Marcus and Jeniah were both very excited about their make-up. Marcus had a beard drawn on his face, that he was clearly very excited about. He even told me at one point that he was “going to wear it to school the next day”. Evidently, he must have forgotten that the performance was on a Friday, and the next day was Saturday.

After we finally got set up with our props and make-up we did one final run-through of our act. A lot of the lingering problems such as word pronunciations and stage movements that we had really attempted to work through in our rehearsals were still posing an issue, however, at this point it was much too late to really correct the students, so I just told them to simply skip over a word if they could not pronounce it. Additionally, we still had a problem with students wanting to sit down frequently during our act, given how long some of the students would consecutively be on stage. Again, I told them that I would like to remain on stage for as long as possible and to ensure that they read all of their lines. I also told them that if they get tired, they can sit down in the pews on stage, and come back on stage if there is something they urgently need to ask. Even with all of these hiccups, however, I thought our final run-through went pretty well. It was evident that at this point nerves and excitement were really starting to set in. On the one hand, the students showed a lot of enthusiasm and excitement in this rehearsal. On the other, you could tell that they were extremely nervous and tensions were rather high. At multiple points during this final rehearsal, Adrian fumbled with his lines, insisted he wasn’t ready, then walked off stage in a very dramatic fashion. Given these nervous existential crises, however, he always was able to come back on stage and finish out his performance.

After we ran through our final practice, it was finally time for the show to begin. We had all of our roles assigned, with Jacob and Dylan being confirmed as Feste and Malvolio, respectively, all of our students were there with their respective roles, TJ would serve as the “attendant”, and I would read the lines of Sir Andrew. As we watched the other performers, I was really glad we went last. I thought that it really calmed our students down, and set their expectations up nicely. Throughout the show, however, one problem that was evident was that students were not projecting their voices. Thus, during the show, as well as in our brief time backstage before our performance, we really tried to emphasize to the students to speak loudly. Finally, after long last, it was our time to perform.

Our performance, in my opinion, really went smoothly. Given how “silly” some of the performances were at times, it was really evident how seriously the students were taking the performance itself. This was especially evident in Khalil. Throughout rehearsal, Khalil would frequently stumble with words, and forget which part he was playing. However, during the show he had no such problems. While he did again stumble with some words, I was very proud of his resilience, especially in his long monologue as Antonio in the beginning of the show. One problem that we discovered early on, however, was that our students were not speaking loud enough. This was extremely hard to address, given again, that many of our performers did not come off stage the entire scene. Thus, it was really hard to tell them to speak louder, given that we could not go onstage. Additionally, in our performance, our students randomly would enter and exit the stage. This was, again, a result of students who were supposed to be on stage the entire performance, leaving if they had a gap in lines. Finally, after the students read all of their lines, it was time for our song and dance. It was really obvious that the students were nervous at this point during the show. While in rehearsal, they would really enjoy doing the dance, they looked very stiff out there for the actual performance. In addition, their nerves were evident, in their expulsion of energy and apparent relief as soon as the show ended. At that point, they finally decided it would be appropriate to dance. Looking back, I was extremely pleased with the performance. It was very bittersweet, and somewhat strange knowing that next week, I will not be going to Youth Life to teach the students that we had grown rather close to during the semester. After the performance, Adrian said that he would miss having his “friends” teach him every week, and Khalil shook each of our hands and told us how he was so glad he chose to do theatre. At that point, I realized, regardless of how the show went, we really had a successful night, and semester at large. In seeing how proud these students were of their performance, from all acts, and the bonds that had been made throughout this entire project, it was clear to me that the show was a great success, regardless of how it actually turned out. Again, I cannot express enough how happy I was to be a part of this show, and project at large.

Only one day before our final performance! I thought that this week’s rehearsal went very well. We had four students this week, and really tried to iron out a lot of the logistical elements before our performance. We began our rehearsal by answering the many logistical questions that the students had regarding the performance. Things such as what time the performance would be, how they would logistically be getting there, what they should wear, etc.. Luckily, we had Ms. Carin in the room with us to answer many of the transportation questions that students had that had been arranged prior between her and Dr. Soderlund. It was great to have Ms. Carin in the room to answer many of these questions given that TJ, Dylan or myself could not explain the exact nature of how this performance would impact the student’s schedules. One thing that I thought was funny in this section in particular was how much the students were concerned with what they were going to wear for the performance. Adrian was hung up on this subject for a good ten minutes of our rehearsal. He debated everything from what color hat to wear (he didn’t even end up wearing a hat), to wondering where he had left his jean jacket (again, he did not even wear this). All the while, I think that his anxiety regarding what types of clothes to wear, then got the other students worried. For instance, after we debated what Adrian should ultimately wear for the performance, Jeniah then became worried. She was debating whether or not she should wear a dress, and wondered what sort of stage makeup she would have access to. After we assured her that this performance would not require her to wear a dress, and that stage makeup would be provided, we realized we were already almost  halfway through our scheduled rehearsal time.

After we got through the aforementioned logistical debate, we were then able to move into actually rehearsing our act and our lines. I thought that this went well, however, we frequently had to stop reading and work on our stage movement. I thought that this was rather challenging given that our act is essentially one scene. There is not a whole lot of stage movement aside from people walking in and out of the scene. While this seems as though it would be easy, the students were reluctant to grasp the concept that they would essentially be on stage the entire time. One problem we had with this is that if a student did not have lines for a short period of time, yet they were supposed to remain on stage, they would evidently just walk off stage and sit down. While we attempted to tell our three students playing Duke Orsino, Viola, and Olivia that they essentially had to stay on stage the entire scene, our efforts were rather futile and we ended up compromising and allowing them to come off stage if they had a break in lines. Another challenge in our final run-through was with Marcus. While Marcus is probably our easiest student to work with, he had not been to rehearsal in over a month before this one. Thus, we essentially had to re-teach Marcus his lines and his stage movement as if he were practicing for the first time. Finally, in our last rehearsal, we attempted to improve our on-stage movement showing students who to face with given lines, and how to project their voice. While I thought that all of this was good to go over in our rehearsal, I was rather nervous that we still had not run through the entire performance without interference yet. I was confident, however, that come performance time the students would be ready to go.

Naturally, the rehearsal ended rather bittersweet. I think that by the end of this rehearsal, the students finally understood that the show was the next day, and really started to get nervous, and serious about doing well. While we assured them that they would do fine, it was evident that their natural nerves were setting in. While, this again, made me nervous as a result, I was still confident in their ability to perform. Looking back, I am confident that our rehearsals not only prepared the students for the performance, but also made the students more interested in theatre and arts as a whole, ultimately accomplishing the mission we set out in Leadership on Stage and Screen. Regardless of how the students actually do tomorrow, I have been extremely proud of their progression, not only as performers, but as individuals as well.

We did not meet this week as a result of the Thanksgiving break. The only news we received this week was from Corine, one of the Youth life directors, telling us that Marcus will not be in attendance at our show. This is obviously sad news and we will need to work around it come performance time. I look forward to our final rehearsal next week.

Unfortunately, this week, we took a few steps back in our rehearsals. Things the last few weeks just seemed as though they were too good to be true at times. While we had made great strides in our line reading the last few weeks with Adrian, Jemiah and Tamaiah, this week we had Khalil back. While it is a pleasure to have Khalil at rehearsal, he can at times be very distracting to the other students, and has a very apathetic approach to the performance. While Adrian, who is currently playing Duke Orsino, is very invested in the performance, Khalil is very much not insisting that he is not attending. Thus, at times durring rehearsal, he and Adrian antagonize one another to annoy one another. This week, Khalil kept yelling that Adrian wasn’t reading his lines clear enough, then Adrian would respond that Khalil couldn’t say “easy” words in his monologue. The two would then proceed to get into arguments, and both were so frustrated, that they could not proceed with the rehearsal. So this week, instead of working on reading our lines, we usually had to divert our attention to breaking up Khalil and Adrian from their continuous arguments.

Another huge setback to our performance was that this week, we learned that Marcus, who was supposed to play a number of roles, will not be in attendance at the performance. This was big for us because Marcus has consistently been a calming presence at rehearsal. Additionally, Marcus has always been willing to pick up the slack when other performers do not want to take on a role, thus his presence in our performance will be missed very much.

Given the setbacks we experienced this week, one positive did come of all of it. Finally, amongst the arguing and joking around, we were able to see some glimpses of passion from our students regarding the performance. We noticed that many of the arguments that were taking place between the students were a result of their passion and their desire for the performance to be good. While this detracted from the rehearsal itself as I outlined above, I thought that it was really cool to see how much the students cared about the performance. This reassured, at least me, that our performance, no matter how bad it may seem in rehearsal at times, will be acted properly and well so long as the students have passion for what they are doing.

We again had a very productive rehearsal this week at youth life. With only two more rehearsals before the show, there is definitely a sense of urgency among the students to do well in rehearsal so that they can impress everyone durring the show. I can honestly say that I was very surprised by this urgency because up to this point the students had shown little interest in how they performed come showtime. This week at our rehearsal we had three students, however, the three students that were in attendance were those with the largest single roles, thus it was good to have them practice together.

One great thing about this week was that we were able to run through the script through its entirety, and the students were finally able to implement their own stage notes into the scripts. I thought that both of these tasks that we accomplished this week were extremely monuments in moving forward and making progress ahead of the performance. Despite getting a lot done again this week, we had our usual setbacks of the students getting distracted from time to time. However, I have noticed that the students have been getting better and better each week about putting more focus into the performance. Despite only having two rehearsals left until the performance, I am extremely optimistic that our students will be prepared and confident on stage.

We again had an attendance problem this week in our rehearsal. Instead of all five of our students being there we were down to two. However, we found that this was extremely helpful as the two students who were in attendance, Khalil and Adrian, were those who needed the most practice. In the instance of Khalil, I felt as though we really had a productive week in getting him motivated about coming to rehearsal and the show in general. A mere few weeks ago, Khalil refused to read his lines and would frequently make excuses as to why he had to miss part or all of rehearsal. However, this week after we did an initial run through of our opening scene in which the director of Youth life was present (high pressure), we decided to split Khalil and Adrian up individually to work on particular facets of their characters. Dylan and I were paired up with Khalil, while TJ was paired up with Adrian. Our run through of lines and description of the character with Khalil was rather brief considering he is only playing the minor roles of Antonio and Sir Toby Belch. However, after we ran through our lines, Dylan and I fielded many questions from Khalil regarding our personal backgrounds and life in college. In our discussion, we learned a lot about Khalil and his eventual ambitions to attend either the University of Oregon or the University of Richmond. Granted, he is only in 7th grade, so he still has a while to make his college decision. This discussion that we had with Khalil was one of the pinnacles of my experience with rehearsals thus far, and really gave me a chance to take a step back and realize the importance of a mentor to a younger student. I truly hope that we have more talks like this with Khalil because for one, he seemed to be very receptive to Dylan and I’s openness. As a result, after our discussion, he read his lines more confidently and with more purpose as opposed to before. In addition, I think that our conversation with Khalil will help him in finding motivation to work hard in school. Moving forward, I look forward to hopefully connecting to more of our students as we did with Khalil this week.

This week we continued to make great strides in our performance at Youth Life. We were lucky enough to have Chris Miller, a fellow University of Richmond student help us this week and play the role of Feste, as his elective at Youth life was short on kids this week. With Chris’s help, we were finally able to run through a whole scene with everyone being the characters that they were supposed to be. It was very exciting! In addition to running through scenes, we were also able to begin talking about stage presence, how each scene should be played.

We started this week with TJ, quizzing all of our students on their roles, and asking them to analyze why we were asking them to do the things that they did in each of the scenes. Then, we ran through a few scenes and had great success. Our biggest challenge in this part of the rehearsal was teaching the students to remain quiet while other students were performing. After around 20-30 minutes of this, the students were starting to get restless, and things were becoming relatively unproductive. As a result of this, we started to play an acting game with the students where one student would start a sentence, the next person would say another word, and this went so on and so forth until the sentence ended. If you inserted a word that did not make sense in the sentence we had to start over. I thought that this game was really successful because it really engaged one of our students, Khalil, who usually is very unenthusiastic about the theatre. Before playing this game, Khalil refused to read his lines in his role as Antonio as he wasn’t feeling well. However, it was evident that Khalil simply did not want to be a part of the performance, and thus that is why he did not want to read his lines. However, after our game, and a talk me and Khalil had comparing Antonio to LeBron James (I’m not quite sure how I pulled this off), who is Khalil’s favorite athlete, he seemed to be much more enthusiastic about his part in the performance.

Of everything that had happened this week at rehearsal, I felt as though this was the most productive event. I sincerely hope that Khalil comes back to rehearsal next week with the same attitude he had in the second half of our rehearsal this week. I also look forward to making more progress with our remaining cast members as well and finalizing the logistics of our scene.

I can say without doubt that this was our most productive week at youth life in regards to the Jepson Shakesphere project despite the fact that we only had three of our students present. For whatever reason it just seemed like this week everyone wanted to learn and was very enthusiastic about the performance, something that we really had not seen in weeks past. In some scenes, we were even able to move past simply reading lines and introduce some basic acting in the play. Given this success, our rehearsal time this week was limited. We didn’t get started until 5:15pm because snack had ran over the hour before and we had to end early so that we could let the kids watch the cheerleading elective perform at 5:50pm. Even given these challenges, we still managed to get a lot done. Given this week’s success, look forward to next week’s rehearsal with great enthusiasm.

I thought that this week at youth life was one of our most productive weeks thus far. We finally had all five of our theatre students in attendance, and were able to distribute all of the roles among the students. Another very positive thing that came out of this week was that we were able to run through significant portions of scenes. One great thing that came out of this was that we finally were able to move “beyond the lines” so to speak and focus on how the lines were to be read and the appropriate movements associated with the scene. I thought that this was a huge step in the right direction for us as it showed that in some sense the play was finally starting to come together. In addition, one very bright spot of the play that really has the kids excited is Feste’s song at the end of the play. At this point the kids are thinking that they want to do some sort of dance at the end of the play, what that means and what it will ultimately look like is still to be determined. One really bright spot that came out of this week was, one student Marcus. Marcus has missed the last two weeks of rehearsal, and had not even seen the script yet. However, Marcus was thrilled by the story line of the play and even asked us if he could take on more smaller roles if possible. I thought that this was a very cool gesture by Marcus, given the trouble we have had with the other students thus far.

While a lot of things went well this week, one thing that was not good was the students attitudes towards one another. One of our students, Khalil, reads at a much lower level than the other students and sometimes struggles reading his lines. This week, some of the other students were making fun of Khalil which was completely inappropriate. As a result, Khalil became very offended and stormed out of the rehearsal. TJ was eventually able to calm him down and get him to return some time later. The students that were responsible for making fun of Khalil were disciplined by Dylan and myself. We let the students know that that sort of behavior would not be tolerated going forward. Even with this setback, however, I would still say that this was a productive week of rehearsal. I look forward to next week greatly when hopefully the students are ready to continue their development.

This week at Youthlife was by far our most challenging. Upon arriving at the cite, we learned that we once again only had three of our five students available for rehearsal. I hope that attendance does not become an issue with the other two students, however, given how much time we have until the play we still have plenty of time to make up lost ground with the absent students. Our first challenge today was with Adrian, our “star” student. Adrian has thus far been the most enthusiastic, and knowledgable student in our class and we currently have him playing Duke Orsino today in Act V. However, last Thursday, Adrian got in trouble with one of the supervisors at Youthlife and for the first 30 minutes of rehearsal was in time-out. In addition, upon returning, Adrian was in a horrible mood and was in no way willing to listen to TJ or myself, or act to the natural ability that we know he has. This really set us back as Adrian is usually the one who keeps the other students on track with the performance and motivates them to do as well as himself.

 

In addition, we also lost Khalil who will be playing Antonio, for the first half of our rehearsal because he had to finish an online reading test. As a result of Khalil and Adrian being absent for the first half of our session, we only had one student who will be playing Olivia in the performance. It was extremely difficult for TJ and myself to motivate Jeniyah to perform when “no one else had to”. To keep her on topic, and to keep the session productive, TJ and I decided to play all of the other roles surrounding Olivia (Jeniyah’s character). This worked fairly well, however, it did also have its challenges as it was not the same as having all three students act together. One final challenge we faced this week was keeping all of the students on track when they are together. They really like to sing and dance when they are not performing, so in order to capitalize on this TJ and I assigned them to come up with a rap to Feste’s song for next week. We hope that this will help to motivate the students even further by giving them flexibility and independence, and help to align their interests with Shakespeare. Despite the challenges this week at Youthlife, I am optimistic as to what next week has in store.