I refuse to believe that this Thursday (12/1) was our final rehearsal and that the show is tomorrow!! We definitely felt the pressure today.  We decided to start with scene IV because it is the longest and most complex scene in our act.  All of the characters, besides Sebastian, make an appearance in this scene.  Today, we worked with our final, cut down scripts and had a good idea of who will be attending the performance tomorrow, and therefore, what roles they will actually be playing.  This week was the first time I could really see the act coming together (which was good timing given that the performance is indeed tomorrow).  We had Rufus reading Malvolio, Christina reading Maria, Charles reading Toby’s lines, KT reading Olivia, Talya reading Viola, Jayvon reading Antonio, and Dale reading the officer.

Rufus arrived to rehearsal today visibly frustrated.  After giving him some space, he was able to participate. I could see him channeling his frustrations into his acting. It was actually really cool to see.  Rufus is always cooperative and focused.  He does a great job with any role we assign him. I was proud of him for being able to throw himself into rehearsal and deliver his lines with the same conviction as he always does, even on a tougher day.

We continued to support Christina in her role as Maria.  She expressed her concern about playing a new part, but we encouraged her, knowing that she will do her best.  We reminded her that no one besides her knows her lines, and therefore she should not be afraid to make a mistake and should deliver her lines confidently.  She would ask us how we wanted her to deliver a certain line, and we told her that she could say a line whatever way felt right for her.  We wanted her to feel free to make the part her own, which she definitely did.

Charles noticed that in the stage directions for Sir Toby that he is described as “drunk,” and he very politely asked us if he could act “drunk” for us. It was adorable.  Of course we said yes, that he could make the part his own.  He was absolutely hilarious, slurring his words, stumbling around, and having fun with it. He got super into his part, asking if he could have a prop bottle with him on stage.  When asked what he wanted in the bottle he quickly replied, “Hawaiian punch.” 

KT is such a strong performer.  She wanted to be Olivia from the first rehearsal we met her because she wanted to be “the princess.”  Luckily, Olivia is one of the characters with the most lines, and therefore, we can really show off KT’s talent in the show.  She delivers lines confidently, projects well, and understands her stage positioning.  She’s always flexible and easy to work with. She’s just awesome.

Talya expressed some apprehension as we were wrapping up rehearsal about having to perform in two acts.  We assured her that she did not have to do so if she didn’t want to, but she immediately replied “I got it.”  That pretty much sums up Talya. She’s game to play any role, and she’ll do it well.  Talya joined us later in the project, but then attended rehearsals regularly.  I am so happy that we had the opportunity to work with her.

Jayvon’s character, Antonio, doesn’t make an appearance until the end of scene IV, but he was super patient throughout rehearsal.  We made sure he was comfortable with his props and stage directions.  Even though he acts like Mr. Tough Guy, I think he’s secretly a little nervous.  We had fun staging his entrance, emphasizing that he enters “running” to break up the fight.  Without us saying anything, he ad libbed his entrance telling Cesario and Sir Andrew to “woah, woah, stay cool” before beginning his actual lines. It was entertaining, and I hope he adds his own style to the role in the show tomorrow night.

Dale has a bit more trouble delivering lines and following along the script, so we have him in a smaller role as the officer. However, today he was entertaining as always.  He cracks jokes throughout rehearsals, most of them only he understands, but we appreciate his humor and ability to have fun with the play. None of his jokes will top the “Sir Toby Belch, excuse me” though.

It has been a ton of fun working with these students and watching them progress throughout the project.  Eliza, Matt, and I have progressed as amateur Shakespeare directors along with them.  I am super excited to see it all come together tomorrow night.

Our rehearsal this Thursday (11/17) gave us a lot of clarity regarding role assignments for the final production. As always, many of the students were very flexible with roles, which has always been very helpful for us, given the unpredictability of attendance.  However, for the students that we have had the pleasure of working with consistently week to week, I have noticed them growing more comfortable with certain roles.  For example, Jayvon has become attached to his role as Antonio.  Luckily, that role assignment works well for him.  He is a strong performer, and I believe he will feel confident reading Antonio’s lines since he has been able to practice that role consistently.  Unfortunately, Christina has grown attached to Olivia’s role, but we do not think that will be the best fit for her.  We had Christina read Maria for us this rehearsal, and it went very well.  She is not quite yet confident, but we will continue to practice with her and give her pep talks until she feels ready.  Throughout the rehearsal, as she adjusted to her new role, I could see her having more and more fun with it.

We continued to take notes on any further script changes that appeared necessary.  We have cut down the script a decent amount, but we will continue to do so because we are slightly nervous about time. 

Given the proximity to the final production, we treated rehearsal as a more formal and organized dress rehearsal, so we would be able to pinpoint the major areas that needed a little more practice before the show.  We emphasized having the kids enter and exit from the locations they will in the actual show.  We want the kids to feel as confident and prepared as possible for the final production, although there will definitely be some last minute adjustments, no doubt.  We also continued to emphasize their positioning on stage, so that they face the audience whenever they deliver a line.  Next rehearsal (our final practice before the show), we will incorporate props, as well. 

We had a huge group this time, which was a bit hectic, but also tons of fun.  We were super excited to see some new faces.  We had a new student who was very confident, entertaining, and eager to act.  We had him reading Malvolio’s lines, and he had fun putting his own twist on the role.  On the other hand, we also had a new student who was a bit shyer.  We encouraged him to try reading a role, but unfortunately, he did not make it up on the stage this rehearsal.  However, I think he enjoyed observing and taking it all in.  I hope very much that he attends next week’s rehearsal, so we can continue to try to get him more involved. 

Due to the size of our group this week (first time we had more kids than roles…usually the other way around), I noticed that the students not involved in a particular scene were becoming disengaged in the rehearsal while the other students were working on a scene on the stage.  Therefore, I pulled a few aside to just read through lines while waiting in the pews.  This way, they would remain engaged and hopefully feel more prepared for when it was their turn to perform their scene on the stage.  I also used the time to gage how they were all feeling about the performance in general and to get any feedback about role preferences.

I think we made major strides in our rehearsal this week, and I look forward to our final rehearsal and the actual performance next week!!

On Thursday (11/10), we had a new mix of students again.  We had two returning students and two new students.  The new students participate in the Act IV group, and so they were familiar to the structure of rehearsals.  We have had one consistent student attend all of our rehearsals throughout the project.  It has been exciting to watch him throughout each stage of the production.  The spontaneity of attendance has also added an element of excitement to the project.

We are lucky to hold our rehearsals in the space where the performance will actually occur in December.  This week we began blocking our scenes and had the students practice on the Chapel stage.  We improvised parts, and all of the students were flexible and open to playing different roles.  We emphasized where the students will stand on the stage while performing, encouraged them to face the audience, and suggested that they try to project their voices. 

Some students are stronger readers than others, but they can all get through their lines.  We had to occasionally remind certain students to be patient while other students might be struggling to read their lines.  We emphasized that it was okay for them to feel as though the lines are difficult, but that they will become easier to read with practice.  While some students are self-sufficient on stage, others need a little coaching as to when to read their parts.  We might have to be on stage with them while they are performing to help them through the scenes, but we will continue to try to get them more comfortable reading and following along with the script independently.

My favorite part of rehearsal this week was when a new student, Dale, added some needed comedy into the scene.  Dale was reading Toby’s part, and before every line he would read Toby’s full name, “Sir Toby Belch,” followed by an “Excuse me.”

On Thursday (11/3), our St. Joe’s students had a conflict and we were unable to have rehearsal.  Next rehearsal we plan to continue reading through the scenes with the students and mixing up the roles.  We also plan to begin blocking the scenes on the stage.

On Thursday (10/27), we had a super productive rehearsal! We had to think on our feet a little bit because we had about four new kids join us, and a couple of kids from our past rehearsals did not attend this week.  However, after we started off rehearsal with a fun and active game of Zip, Zap, Zop, the new group felt comfortable and ready to work together.  Matt and I split the group in half to practice reading lines from various scenes.  Due to the unpredictability of which students will attend each week, we realize that no roles will be completely set in stone, and we will have to be ready to improvise a little bit each time.  The kids that I worked with were very eager to read parts, and they had no problem reading the Shakespeare, aside from the occasional difficult word.  As we read through a scene together, we would pause at certain parts to explain what exactly was happening in the scene, so it didn’t feel like they were reading complete gibberish.  Next week, we can hopefully incorporate some stage blocking as we continue to practice reading lines!

We did not meet with our group this Thursday (10/20) because the kids had an off campus field trip, and they would not be returning in time for our rehearsal.  Since we have encountered a few scheduling conflicts in the past, we are not surprised by this kind of news anymore.  We have learned to be very adaptable when conflicts arise, and we plan our next rehearsal accordingly.  Next week, we definitely will have the group start working with the script and getting used to reading Shakespeare.

On Thursday (10/13), we had our second meeting at St. Joe’s.  This time, we met with the kids in the chapel instead of a classroom.  All four students from our previous rehearsal attended, and a new student from the Dooley Center for Alternative Education joined us.  We discussed the plot of the play more specifically, and we attempted to explain the complicated love triangle that occurs in Twelfth Night (this required a diagram, because even I got confused attempting to explain it).  We started to gauge which students had interest in playing which parts.  Due to the amount of characters in our act (a total of 10), we will have to have some of the kids double up on characters, and Matt, Eliza, and I will have to step in to read some parts as well.  Luckily, most of them were excited and even requested big parts.  Once we felt we were loosing their attention, we decided to wrap up rehearsal by playing some fun games.

On Thursday (10/6), we had our first meeting with the kids.  We introduced ourselves, and gave them a general overview of what we will be doing together over the next couple months.  Our group this week consisted of one student from Brook Road Academy and three students from the Dooley Center for Alternative Education. None of the students have any prior experience with Shakespeare. We assured them that no one would have to memorize any lines.  Our first student seemed eager and excited, and he even offered to try memorizing his part.  We decided to show them the trailer to She’s the Man so they could visualize the plot of the play in a modern context.  Then we played a series of improv / warm up games (the adjective-name game, zip zap zop, “3, 6, 9,” and the number count off game).  Initially, the students were visibly reluctant, but I could see the group’s barriers slowly breaking down as we played each game and I think they actually had some fun.  After this first meeting, I definitely understand the importance of these games to get everyone laughing and comfortable, so the group will trust us and want to work with us.  I think we will try to play at least one or two new games in the beginning of each rehearsal to remind the kids that this will be a fun experience.  We plan to introduce the script and more details about our specific act of the play next rehearsal.

On Thursday (9/29), we did not meet with the kids due to another conflict.  We look forward to meeting them next Thursday. We plan to introduce Twelfth Night and play some improv games.

On Tuesday (9/20), our group visited St. Joseph’s Villa for the first time, and we met with our coordinator, Timone.  He gave us a tour of the campus, and provided some very useful insight on the different groups of kids we might be working with from Brook Road Academy, the Dooley School, and the Dooley Center for Alternative Education.  We briefly spoke with the head of the Brook Road Academy and met three students from the Dooley Center for Alternative Education during our visit.

On Thursday (9/22), our group arrived to St. Joseph’s Villa anticipating our first rehearsal with the kids.  Unfortunately, there was a last minute conflict with another class occurring at the same time as our intended rehearsal.  Therefore, we had to postpone our first meeting.  We still have to organize a time and meeting place that does not conflict with the kids’ classes, so that we can have a stronger and more consistent turn out for the rest of our rehearsals.

For our first rehearsal (whenever that may be), we plan on introducing ourselves and Shakespeare to the kids.  We want to play a few different improv warm up games to get to know each other, to make sure everyone feels comfortable, and to have fun.  We will also describe the basis of the plot of Twelfth Night, and introduce the various characters in Act III to see if any of the kids immediately gravitate towards certain parts.