First and foremost I think the performance went great! When Caroline, Colby and I arrived at St. Joseph’s we were not sure what to expect and which, if any, of our kids were going to show up. Leaving our last rehearsal we were told that all the kids had been given permission the only thing that needed to be figured out was transportation. At St. Joseph’s, Dr. Soderlund informed us that she had been emailing back and forth with Higher Achievements director about which kids are coming. I turned out that only three of our pretty consistent 12 came to the show. The three students were Andy, Seline and most surprising Betty. I say that because throughout our rehearsals both Andy and Seline showed a lot of interest in the play, while Betty most of the time would hide from us and try everything to get out of what we had planned for rehearsal. Despite this all three of the students really stepped up and did better than we ever imagined!

When the three of them first arrived we jumped right in to rehearsing. We had to figure out which parts they would be playing now and who would fill in some of our other roles. We went through each Act and let our three students pick which roles they wanted and highlight their scripts. We had Caroline take two of the roles and we asked Jacob from our class to fill in two other roles as well. As soon as all of the parts were figured out we had them stand up and read through the whole act. Each of our students had 3 roles to play. After our full read through we had them look at some of the props and pick out what each of their characters would be wearing.

As it started to get closer to the performance time I could tell that Andy was getting nervous. I talked to him about the show and how great he’s been throughout the rehearsal process. He said he was excited but that there were a lot of people out there. Soon it was time for the show to start. We were Act 2 so we were back stage preparing during Act 1. As soon as the first act ended it was our turn. The kids went out to introduce themselves and then the Act began. It all went by pretty quickly with many quick costume changes and reminders of what they were saying when to go out on stage. They all read their parts perfectly and made it through the whole Act. At the end they all could not stop smiling.

We spent the rest of the play in the audience. It was so fun to watch the rest of the acts and see students of all ages preform. I believe the play was a great success and a great ending to the semester!

This Thursday was our last rehearsal. When we got there we talked to the director about how many permission slips the kids have turned in and he told us that they were planning on calling parents during rehearsal to get verbal permission. When we met with the kids they were all really excited about the performance and had a million questions about what the night was going to entail. We explain to they what would be happening Friday night and then split them up to practice their scenes. They practiced their lines and did great. They all seemed a little nervous but ultimately excited about the performance. We reminded them that if they were stuck on a word up on stage to just sound it out and keep going because no one in the audience will know they mispronounced a word. The second half of practice the director came in and began calling parents. At the end every student got the okay from there parents so we are expecting full attendance for the performance. Before this rehearsal we were pretty nervous that the kids would not be prepared enough but leaving we feel a lot better and are excited to rehearse at the theater tomorrow before the show!

This week was Thanksgiving so we were not meeting with our group. In anticipation of this we decided to work on our script. We finished cutting it down and had it reprinted for the students to use in our last rehearsal the week after Thanksgiving. We also planned out our last rehearsal. This rehearsal will be very important because it is the night before the performance. We plan on breaking up the group in to three groups to work on specific scenes and give each student more individual attention. We hope this will help to keep them focused and involved during rehearsal. Also, because it is the last rehearsal we want to maximize our practice time. We plan on jumping right in to our smaller groups and running through lines rather than starting with a game. Hopefully the game at the end of rehearsal will incentivize the students to get through what we need to. We also plan on trying to get a head count on who of the 14 students will be attending the performance Friday so that we are better prepared.

This week only Colby and I were able to go. When we got to the choir room the kids requested to play Zip Zap Zop. After we played we passed out the scripts and asked if they remember which parts they had read the week before. Some remembered, however because not all the kids were there we just asked for volunteers to read parts. We had them start with scene one and stand in the middle of the room to read. We stood with to help them with some of the difficult words. Those that read did great. However, while students were reading the other kids began losing focus. Next time with all three of us there we plan on splitting the group up when going through the scenes. We go through scene three and then we ended with the kids favorite game, the museum game. We are concerned that not all the students are interested in the play. Hopefully the smaller groups next rehearsal will get everyone involved.

This week I unfortunately was unable to make rehearsal. Prior to Thursday Caroline, Colby and I discussed that we wanted to continue running through lines for the next rehearsal. After they met I spoke with them about how it went. They said the kids were pretty rowdy but they were able to get them to read through a few scenes. They said a few of the students actually remembered some of their lines from the week before which is great. They also found out that a few of the students were tested and the tests showed that they are read at a level well below where they should be. Mr. Allen told them that Shakespeare may be too difficult for these students and offered to transfer them out. However they decided that because there are 3 of us we’re are able to split up the group and work with these students individually. Hopefully being able to read Shakespeare will help the students feel more confident in their reading ability and for those reading at a lower level will get them practicing and improving.

This week went much better than the last. We were put in a more open room which allowed us to play more fun games with the kids. We started off by playing a game called museum guard. On the count of three the kids all had to freeze and stand like statues. I acted as the guard and walked passed them. When my back was turned they had to move positions but if I caught them moving they would be out. We played that game for awhile and them had them all sit in a circle on the ground to go over their tentative roles. We also went through the five scenes giving them a brief description of what happens in each and asked if they had any questions. After that we split the group up and had them start to read lines. With my group the majority were excited to start reading even with the odd language. However, when one of the boys started to read he tripped up on a few words and one of the other boys made fun of him. Allen, who was made fun of, immediately got up and left the room. I told the group that we have to support each other and that Shakespeare is difficult for everyone including myself and many adults. I then followed after Allen and talked to him about what happened. After that he was willing to come back in to the room but did not want to read again. (We’ll have to see next week how he’s feeling about it or maybe talk to him about having a non speaking role.) We went through the rest of the act we were working on and then it was getting close to the end. The kids asked if we could play the museum guard game again so we played that again before we left.

This week only Colby and I were able to make it to rehearsal. We got there it seemed like the number of students was a lot less than the pasted week. The students got to the room and all sat down quietly in chairs. Colby and I decided because they were already focused to skip a game and get right down to picking roles. This was definitely a mistake. As we started more and more students began to wander in which drew focus away from what we were doing. By the end we had 14 total. To pick roles we went through a brief description of each character and gave a line count. The students were told they could raise their hand for as many parts as they are interested in and we would do our best to give them one of their choices. By the last character we had pretty much lost the focus of all the student.

To bring them back together we decided to play again to end rehearsal. Because they enjoyed Zip, Zap, Zop so much last time we decided to try that again. This time however, was very different. Many of the boys refused to play and were running around playing with all the band instruments, which they know they are not allowed to. The students that wanted to play were getting very frustrated as were Colby and I. The only time all students would play the game was when someone said they heard Mr. Allen (the director of the program) coming.

At the end of rehearsal Colby and I felt a little defeated. Despite that we accomplished our goal of getting roles assigned we felt that we had no control of the students. We spoke with Mr. Allen after to get some ideas on how to better conduct rehearsal with such a big group. He told us to dictate a schedule for the hour in the beginning of rehearsal. He also told us about ‘green feathers’ which the program uses to incentivize the students. Next meeting we plan on utilizing these tactics as well as trying to split the group up to read lines and playing games that involve more movement for the students that like to run around. Hopefully next meeting will go better!

Unfortunately, due to prior travel arrangements, Caroline, Colby and I were not able to make it to week 2 rehearsal. We were worried that this may effect the flow and focus of the group and because it is such a large group maintaining focus is important. We discussed how to approach the next weeks rehearsal and get on track with productive and enjoyable rehearsals. We decided our next meeting we would introduce the script to the students and have the start to get use to Shakespeare’s language. We also wanted to try and play Zip, Zap, Zop with them to get them warmed up and let some of their energy out before sitting down and looking at the script.

 

When the third week came and it was time for our second rehearsal. We were excited to see the kids again and make some progress on the script. There were a few things we wanted to come out of rehearsal knowing; first have a setting and theme for our act and second getting a feel for which students in the group want big speaking parts. We decided to bring the group candy as an incentive to listen, participate and get through all that we had planned. We started off with teaching them how to play Zip, Zap, Zop. At first the kids did not seem very interested in the game, however as they began to get the hang of it we slowly watched the group get more and more excited and in to the game. We played three times and then had them all sit back down in their seats.

We pulled out the scripts and re went over the plot of the play. We didn’t have too much time left, so we passed out the script and just had them flip through it and talk about what their thoughts were. Most of the first reactions were something along the lines of “We have to do this whooooole thing” or “this is so long.” We told them its definitely manageable and if there are parts that they didn’t love we can make edits here and there. Another comment they made was in reference to the Clown. Which we realized we should have changed to say Fool or Feste. Many of the girls in the group expressed that they were scared of clowns, while the boys all asked if they could be the ‘killer clown’. We tried our best to explain Feste’s role as the fool, not an actual clown, but I think we will have to go over that again with them. Other than that the students were shouting out character’s that they wanted to be. Which will be a task for next weeks rehearsal. We then asked them about what setting they wanted the act to be in. The consensus of the group was to do it in modern day. By that time it was the end of rehearsal, we passed out candy and brought them back to the big group. We accomplished our goal of determining a setting and the students seemed to be excited about the play!

 

Caroline and I met with our group for the first time last Thursday. The meeting definitely went different than I was expecting. We walked in to a large group meeting with all the students that are a part of Higher Achievement. There were many other student mentors and adults there that also work with groups of students. Our group was a group of 12 fifth graders. We were brought to a band room filled will instruments, which of course all the kids ran to the second we walked in to the room. After getting them all to sit down we introduced ourselves and went around the room having the students tell us their name and an animal that started with the same letter. Many of the students had trouble with this so we changed it to just their favorite animal. A few of the boys in the class were making up names for themselves… some of them not very appropriate. After we finally got everyone’s real name and were all introduced we told them what we were going to be doing this semester. A few were very excited about the show and the chance to act in a play. However there were some not so excited looks on there faces. We assured them that the whole process was going to be a ton of fun and that they had nothing to worry about.

We then played a game with them called Look and scream. We all got in to a circle and looked at the ground. We had one student count to 3 and on 3 everyone had to look up at someone. If that person was making eye contact back then both had to yell “ahh” and fall to the ground. If the person was not looking at you, you were safe to the next round. You play until there are one or two people left standing. The students seemed to enjoy this game although there was a group of 3 boys that refused to join in to the game and wanted to just watch. After the game we had them all sit back down and we asked them if any of them knew who William Shakespeare was. All of them said no. We then asked them if they knew the play Romeo and Juliet and they all got excited because they had heard of it. We then briefly explained who Shakespeare was and that we would be doing a play called Twelfth Night. We asked if any one had seen the movie She’s the Man and a few said yes. We explained a basic plot of the play and that the movie is based off of the play. One of the best parts was one of the girls goes “Wow this is so cool I didn’t even know I knew Shakespeare!”

After giving them the brief plot we started another game, Hitchhiker (we made sure to mention that they should never pick up a stranger on the side of the road only for the game). ¬†We set up the chairs with two front seats and then all the rest behind and had them sit down. One person was the Hitchhiker first and we gave her an idea of what to act like when they picked her up. The students in the car then had to pick up on who she was or what she was doing and mimic it. We played this many times, the kids really enjoyed it (some got way more in to it than others). My favorite one was a little girl we wanted to be Dory from Finding Nemo. This meaning she couldn’t remember anything. As she got in the car the driver started asking her questions and all she answered was “I can’t remember.” The driver then started to catch on and all of a sudden ‘forgot how to drive.’ It was fun to watch the students act a bit in this game and I think most of them enjoyed it! At the end of the night we walked the kids back to the main room and one of the girls came up to us saying that it was the most fun she’s had at this place. This made us happy to know, as much as Caroline and I felt unprepared the students still had a good time. I am looking forward to having them read over the script and start planning out our act with them!

Colby, Caroline and I will be meeting with Higher Achievement- Boushall for the first time Thursday the 29th. In anticipation for our meeting, this past week we have been focusing on cutting down our script. Our goal is to have the act between 10- 15 minutes.

In addition to getting our script finished we have started to brainstorm how we would like to approach our first meeting. In general we have decided we would like to introduce Shakespeare, see what the student know about him and give a brief history. We will also give the general plot of Twelfth Night and in particular discuss Act 2. We would also like to get a feel for what kind of parts the students are looking for. This will include whether they prefer more or less lines and if gender matters to them (our Act has many more male roles than female). We also plan on playing theater games with the kids. Our hope is to get them more comfortable with us and each others and to show them how fun acting can be. We will be discussing with a few of the groups that have already met their kids to see what games they played and how successful they were.