8:00PM- After the performance on Saturday, I was exhausted and amazed that we had pulled off such a feat with all of our challenges.

–Rewind to 2:00PM–

Earlier that day when we arrived at 2PM at Perkinson Hall, we started off with getting ourselves ready for the show. Molly, Taylor, and I donned fairy makeup. I was a pretty intense and goth-chic Cobweb! After helping to set up props, our students were the first to arrive to Perkinson. While Taylor was doing Molly’s hair, I went to pick up our students and greet them. One of our students was unable to come but Ms. Ramsay accompanied them. We read through the script while other groups were rehearsing onstage. We then proceeded to have students covered in makeup by Dr. Bezio – Ms. Ramsay kept taking pictures of the process. All of the students were excited and felt empowered with their makeup! The students highlighted their lines while the last fairies went with Molly to get covered in glitter. I got the props assembled while Taylor had the students highlight their lines. Ms. Ramsay offered to step into the Titania/Hippolyta role, which her students loved! They were very excited to have their teacher participating with them. We assembled the props and rehearsed on stage. Each student remembered the work we had done earlier this week and we worked on our transitions. The rehearsal went very smoothly and since I was not in the second scene I directed Benjamin on the sound effects that we wanted. He was extremely helpful.

One of the students came to talk to me about how she had work later that night. She thought that she would be fine because she thought that the other acts would be shorter. I reassured her that if she was unable to perform, we would be able to acomodate and find people to fill roles. (I.e Oliver who stepped up and was our Egeus!) She was upset during the performance and walked out. Ms. Ramsay and I followed her to calm her down. She left in the middle of Act III. Taylor, Molly, and I made the changes to fill the characters that she would be playing. While Taylor filled in as Hermia, Molly filled in as Snug. I acted as a stagehand during the performance. After my performance as a fairy and then switched to managing the props and passing them off to the proper person.

Overall the experience has been extremely rewarding. Despite having lots of problems and issues, we united and were collaborative in the end in order to fulfill the task and perform together. I’m pretty sure the students received a reward for participating in the performance. I was pretty shocked by Ms. Ramsay’s enthusiasm to participate but her interaction really made the students excited. It was nice to see that her relationship based leadership had such a positive effect on the performance.

(Nov 30th)

This has most definitely been our second most successful rehearsal. We had a lot of new students but they seemed to be dedicated, we saw some students repeat. The student that was very proactive and diva-ish last time helped the new students catch up by giving them the synopsis. One student was extremely show and did not want to immediately talk to us about the conflict that she had at the same time of the performance. Another student who was unable to perform but had attended previous rehearsals helped her friend assume her role in the cast. We distributed the props among the students – they were all extremely excited about getting their wings, mustaches, and hats. We ran through the play twice with Taylor and I donning wings and acting as the fairies. We interjected in between lines to help with blocking and staging the performance. We would stop in the middle of the act to swap out characters, props, and clarify the scene for our new students. After the second run through, the entire room was covered in glitter from the wings. The students took selfies in their costumes and props.

We collected the props, cleaned up and had the students sit down. We asked them about any remaining questions that they had for us. We got asked a lot of questions on the logistics of the performance. We wondered about the permissions slips and asked the students to submit them by Thursday the latest. For the students that did not have slips, we directed them to Ms. Ramsay. We also asked students about how they were coming to campus and a few students mentioned that they would be driving themselves. Taylor and I left the rehearsal feeling accomplished and relieved that we had students to participate in the act. I can’t wait for Friday, it’s going to be great!

(Originally November 16th)

Earlier on last Sunday, I sent an email out the students that Ms. Ramsay had given us. I included a Google poll to get an estimate of the number of students attending, questions, and etc. I figured that some of the students who might be uncomfortable contacting us directly would feel more comfortable emailing us instead. I constantly checked and waited for responses only to hear back from two students. One student mentioned that she would no longer be participating in the project. The other student mentioned that she would be unable to attend this week’s practice due to prior commitments but was still interested in attending future rehearsals and performing in the play. I emailed her back exclaiming our excitement that she was interested in participating.

Before we left campus to attend the rehearsal, Taylor called John Marshall to see how many students were in attendance. Taylor was extremely calm and authoritative on the phone. She updated us periodically during the phone call. After being transferred to Ms. Ramsay’s room, with no response, Taylor was retransferred to the main office. Taylor put down the phone and told us that Ms. Ramsay had not come in for work that day. Molly tried the number that Ms. Ramsay gave us — which was unsuccessful. We unloaded the call, frustrated that Ms. Ramsay had not informed us earlier that she would be absent.

Molly the next day informed us that she had finally gotten in contact with Ms. Ramsay. She was absent because she was going through family issues. One thing that was mentioned was that her husband was in the hospital and that she was unsure when she would be returning to school. I understand the situation that she is going through and although I’m not sure what the exact issue is, family situations can be difficult to navigate. I hope that whatever she is going through is settled and that she is alright!

We may have to work with a different group such as the Ocher group (since they follow our act and are extremely enthusiastic) about the play.

(November 9th)

Last week, on November 2nd we were unable to visit the students. We also received an email from the CCE that informed us that we had to go through background checks to confirm that we had good backgrounds. Initially, we were sent an email from an affiliate of Verenda Cobbs that told us to wait for a confirmation and link. We were told (and included in an email chain) between Dr. Bezio, Dr. Soderland, and etc about the new addition to working with the public school system.

In addition, we had not heard back from the students regarding permission slips and transportation for the day of the performance. At the moment, it seems like we will have possibly one student participating. This student has come to all of our rehearsals thus far. She mentioned that she had a possible time conflict with the performance. It is difficult to not feel frustrated when we have had multiple conflicts. I think a large part of this is our communication between all the groups. We have tried to connect with students but we do not know them as intimately as Ms. Ramsey does. We are only there for one day a week which makes it difficult to really connect with the students and when we are there, Ms. Ramsey watches our rehearsal. (It feels almost Big Brother esque haha! But she has been supportive of our rehearsals and giving us space to work with the students.) Often the students get distracted and talk to her about issues instead of approaching us with questions.

(Originally November 2)

After getting the emails of the students from last week, we sent them an email to remind them midday on Monday. We all forgot to do so, but we figured that students would be checking their phones periodically throughout the day and would see our email. This time, on our way to John Marshall we decided to call Laura to get an attendance estimate. She told us that no students had stayed after school so we should not come to John Marshall. Taylor mentioned that we would get the email out earlier. This time we forgot and fell behind on sending out a reminder.

We turned around and discussed how to proceed following the last two unsuccessful rehearsals. It seems that there just may not be an interest from the students in participating in an extra curricular that was almost like another class. We were going to send out an email even earlier to remind students and to catch them before the weekend.

(Originally, October 26)

After having such a highly successful rehearsal last week we expected to have a huge turn out this week! This however was not the case. Rather, only one student showed up — the student that has been most actively involved in blocking, staging, and participating. Laura mentioned that she had absolutely no way to contact us so she did not tell us to turn around. Earlier on Laura mentioned that many of the students have other commitments. Half of the students have commitments and half the students return home. The student that came told us about a fellow student that returned home because she did not feel like staying late. Laura told us that we had to be far more authoritative with the students and we had to figure out an incentive for students to come. She said that we should bring snacks or send out reminders for students. It would be difficult for her to have an authoritative figure because she is too close to them. She asked us based on our experiences if there was something that would motivate us to go to an event. We mentioned either food or a more frequent reminder. We suggested that we would start emailing the students the night before to give them a sneak peek at what we would be doing week to week. Mrs. Ramsey/ Laura also gave us a set of emails for potential juniors who would interested in the Jepson Shakespeare Project. I had been the contact person for between Laura and us before so she sent the emails to me. Hopefully we will have more students if send out reminders and make the project more enticing!

(Originally Oct 19; Posted Later)

Taylor and I were back at John Marshall High School for our third rehearsal. Last week’s break gave us time to relax and plan what we want to work on. Molly was unable to attend the rehearsal because she had a mandatory commitment. We finally had our first successful rehearsal today!

We arrived to rehearsal and many of the students (who had returned from our first visit) had a name refresher. With so many new and reoccurring faces, we had forgotten many names. We started immediately with acting games to get everyone up and moving. We noticed that the rehearsals in the past included a lot of script reading and it appeared as if students were disappointed. At times they looked bored out of their minds…Yikes! I introduced a few games to the group to play. The game was the classic zip zap zop game which got competitive fairly quickly. Students were so focused that the room was practically quiet – except for when a student lost. Then the students would tease and wish the eliminated student luck in the next round. The next game we play was one that was introduced to me at choir camp. The premise of the game is that you have to ask the person next to you to marry them. You say, “Honey, will you marry me?” in a way that will make the person laugh or smile. If they do either laughing or smiling, that person is eliminated from the game. With the six of us girls and one guy, everyone actively tried to get people to laugh. Although we haven’t been there for very long, each member of the group was flexible and new ways to get the other person to laugh. They were attentive of what other people had done in the previous rounds to get others to laugh and were willing to step outside of their comfort zone.

Next we started reading through the script. We were not as active during this part of the rehearsal but we were highly collaborative. All of the students went in a circle reading a line from their scripts. We read through the first scene in act 4 and asked the students how they imagined the stage appearing. We started again from Titania’s line “Come sit thee down on this flowry bed” and students would jump in and convey what they were imagining. In this scene, the students imagined Titania lying down with Bottom laying beside her. Titania would be lovingly interacting with Bottom while the fairies running back and forth upstage would be frustrated at Bottom’s demands. Taylor and I wrote all of their ideas down in the margins of our scripts. Before we went into the hallway to block what we had just discussed, we asked the students which roles they were potentially interested in playing. Since we have had such inconsistent attendance rates, we had a difficult time assigning roles. Laura helped us and told us which of her students would be ideal for certain parts. This was extremely helpful as we ended up with a full cast (minus little worker fairies).

Taylor and I went into the hallway with the students to block out what they had suggested. The first time we ran through the blocking, I would shout and insert emotions or actions for students to incorporate. A few students had to double roles in order to satisfy the number of characters that we had. Taylor and I realized that we would likely have to be fairies in the performance – aka a childhood dream! We ran through the script a few more times with different character doubles and switched roles. They decided that they wanted a donkey head as opposed to the unicorn head we wanted… It’s alright! We were extremely impressed with their enthusiasm and participation in today’s rehearsal. We can’t wait til the next one!

We had break until Wednesday, so we were unable to meet with the students at John Marshall. We reminded Laura that we would not be seeing the students then. While on break, we each thought about how the act would be performed. I thought a lot about the props that we would need and how to incorporate a lot of humour into the practice. Wehave constantly reminded the students that this project is really dependent on what they would like to add. We have been trying to pay close attention to the details in the text for how the movements could be portrayed. We thought about how stage directions could enhance the comedy in the play. Molly, Taylor, and I thought about each character and their motivations. We brainstormed how these characters could represent their stories through inflection and stage directions. We have given a lot of thought about how we want the act to look but we also have had a lot of flexibility in order to incorporate the student’s interests. We want the project to be extremely successful and we want students to start moving around! In general, we have not assigned roles yet (because we are unsure of how many students will attend). We want to begin blocking, we hope that we will have enough students.

October 12th Post

On Monday, Molly, Taylor, and I went to  John Marshall High School for the second time. The first time, we had a good number of students wwho seemed to be interested in the project. However, this time when we arrived, there were only three students. One student, Dante, was new but excited to be a part of theJepson Shakespeare Project. We asked the returning students to see if they were interested in any specific part to which they responded that they were open to playing any part.

We were curious as to why the student rates had dropped off from last week. Laura mentioned to us that many students were involved in other activities afterschool that prevented them for leaving early or participating in both activities. She also mentioned that the gap from the rehearsal time and the dismissal time had many students leave early. The wait time in between both were between 30-40 minutes. Since Molly and Taylor both have classes until 2:45, it is difficult for us to leave any earlier.

During our rehearsal, we read through th script and described the plot the students again. They mentioned that they had finally started the book in class (Laura told us they took a while to start) so the students had a general understanding of the play. We then diverged and learned that many of our students were seniors. They asked us about the college application process, Richmond, class, extra curriculars, and more. We reminded Laura that we would not be at John Marshall the next week due to Fall break and that we would be back on Monday, October 19th.

During the class work day on Thursday, we read through the act and focused scene by scene. We wrote possible blocking and staging notes for the script and created a running prop list. Realizing that estimating the number of students at rehearsal was difficult, we wanted to combine parts. Titania and Hyppolita were a natural doubling. We also wanted to combine the mechanical characters in case we did not have enough students. At this moment, it seems like we may have approximately five students.

(Originally written September 26, 2015; Posted now)

Despite our excitement to immediately work with the students on Monday, we had to cancel due to the highly anticipated bike race through Richmond. Laura and I had been emailing back and forth in order to create and tweak plans for when we would arrive at John Marshall. Earlier on Monday, she emailed me and mentioned that school was sending all of the students home. We agreed that we would be meeting our students for the first time on Monday, September 28th!

In spite of this little mishap, we were able to accomplish a lot of work in class. Previously, Taylor, Molly, and I read and timed the act; We transformed the act onto a document and all edited together. We associate our act as the act that solves all of the major plot holes so we wanted to eliminate extraneous sections that did not help with this ideal. For example we discussed the idea of eliminating Bottom and the Mechanicals. We wanted to simply the act to make it funnier and easier on our student playing Bottom. After many revisions, agreed on including it into the cut script. This decision was made with several considerations. One was after talking to Dr. Bezio, eliminating this mechanical interaction could potentially eliminate the fluidity and continuity between the fourth and fifth acts. Another reason was the fact that we had no idea how many kids would appear. We wanted our script to be flexible so that any of the students could present.

We took the film and we are adding flourishes to make the women more prominent and powerful in the play. For example when Theseus and Hippolyta are hunting and find the young lovers, we want Theseus to use Hippolyta as an advocate. We envision the relationship as cheesy between Bottoms and Titania, with Marvin Gaye music, and as an opportunity for comedic improvisation.