As we somewhat expected the turnout was not as strong as we had envisioned. In fact, only one student showed up, half of what we anticipated the day before. Nevertheless we rolled with the punches and made due. Maddie did an excellent job with her part. In fact, she surprised me at her comfortability being on stage. I imagined she would be intimidated due to not knowing most of the people who were on stage. Instead, she was engaging and confident. She knew what she wanted to say and how she wanted to act. When she arrived I made sure she was clear about what was going to happen, so that she would not be too worried. In honesty, I was more nervous for her than she was. The act finished smoothly and swiftly. I think the students would have been able to use their emotions a little bit better, since they had an idea of what the scene entailed. I spent the majority of the pre-show time scrambling to find people and making sure that they had some sort of direction. More time may had rendered more success on this front. Nevertheless, the performance was pretty good. I think that in the long run, I can say I will not be a director. The job is pretty stressful and you can never plan for the unexpected. All in all I think this semester was never what I intended it to be. It was, however, very rewarding to see Maddie confident on stage. I can only imagine how it would have been to see all the students thriving.

Yesterday was the final day of going to the Villa, and oh how productive it was. Matt informed us that only two students would definitely be there. According to him, one of the students who required extra assistance lives in a group home while the other lives almost an hour and a half away. Additionally, another student informed us he would not be able to come due to an issue of transportation. We were under the impression that this was already handled by the administration at the villa. Of course, consistent with the semester as a whole, communication was broken overall. Nevertheless, we will work with the two that we have come time for performance this afternoon. I believe that the two will move throughout the show well. Confidence should not be an issue, and hopefully they can walk off the stage knowing more about Shakespeare than before. As we wrapped up practice yesterday, I could not help but think about how working with the Villa affected me this semester. I truly learned patience as I dealt with the inconsistent and unorganized systems within the organization. Working with Haley truly made me realize that doing what you enjoy is what is most important when it comes to finding a job. The kids made me appreciate the fortunes that I have regarding my learning capacity and overall life experiences. Even though there were a lot of difficulties, the semester brought important growth by dealing with the Villa.

Finally I left St. Josephs feeling as though we truly accomplished something towards the play! Not having Haley was initially a worry as we were not sure who would get the kids and the space. In reality she was not able to distract the kids, thereby allowing for us to control the attention throughout our time there. This was the first time the students were able to act out the parts and amazingly so we were able to get through the vast majority of the play. The biggest downside was the amount of time that it took to read through what was already a cut down version for the second time. We will more than likely have to cut down again and paraphrase due to the language being truly difficult for many of the students. If our last meeting with them can go as well as this one, I believe that we will be able to put on a rather successful act. Of course this hinges on the ability of our students to show up. One student said he probably would not be able to come. Hopefully this will not be the case by next week. Yet with the Villa, who can tell.

As I again forgot to journal last week’s encounter, I will do my best to summarize both weeks in this post.

Last week all three mentors were there for the first time in a while. The group was still not solidified, since a couple of people whom were expected to be there either were not at school or again decided they did not want to participate. Nevertheless, we got through the script. Yet when the students heard that other public school students would be at the performance, they were actually quite a bit apprehensive. You could tell they were not comfortable being around kids that do not go to their school I hope that their confidence does not wane. The diction is still hard for almost all of the students. Most of them truly struggle just paying attention and following their lines. As we continue to get closer, I hope that the enthusiasm that they so often show will be just as strong as when they are in front of complete strangers. Haley however was not as helpful. During our read through she distracted the students. I just hope she will be able to assist with keeping the students focus. Of course the news then broke that she was no longer with St. Josephs.

When hearing Haley was not going to be assisting anymore, I was extremely worried about who would the contact. Yet she still texted to confirm that we would be coming. Apparently, it is her intention to be there until the project is over. To some degree this is important to hear. On the other end, this is problematic because she is no longer a staff member. This caused a few issues at the end of rehearsal on Thursday. We tried to act out the first scene and a half, but the kids really just could not stay controlled. Haley does not seem to have the authority anymore and the two faculty with us were rather disinterested. Haley did say that they would have transportation and she would contact me with the person who would be the new contact. As the weeks go by, it is becoming clearer that this will be an interesting event to put on. The acting aside, the students may have a tough time with this if focus cannot be assumed by them and their faculty advisor.

 

While I was not expecting anyone to show up due to the craziness of last week, I was pleasantly surprised to see the same group as expected with one addition back to the fold. I believe that the roles that the students chose truly will fit their personality. One male student was very adamant about playing the role of a female. As we are putting on Shakespeare, I believe this would only add to the authenticity and we are going to run with it. Additionally, the script is a bit too long and too dense. The students did an amazing job struggling through the tough lines. Unfortunately many of them do not have great reading skills and this leads to the act being drawn out longer than intended. This should not pose a problem because you have begun to see the students come out of their shells and act a little as they read lines. They have in fact become more comfortable with me and have even begun to respect myself and the fellow students a lot more. I think this is starting to turn for the better which is a great sign considering some of the apprehensions held during early visits.

Haley did say that transportation may needed to be provided. I am not certain about how she plans on getting permission slips, but I did ask her to email Dr. Soderlund and she said that she would. With all the new energy towards the project I really hope we can get the kids there to perform. If not, ad libbing works just fine too.

Last week I did not post, so I will make this week’s post a little longer and talk about the plan we developed and the crazy events of yesterdays encounter.

While we believed that we would have a core group, we still may be short in terms of participants. That being said, we will more than likely need to act ourselves and may even need to recruit some other faculty to be a part of the play. The scripts have been somewhat cut. However we thought it would be beneficial for the students to also feel that they had some part in producing the play. We plan on having them cut some of the lines as well. As we comb through the act, they will give there input as to what props and costumes should coincide with the parts of the act. Our hope is to finalize roles by next week. Unfortunately, the plans that were put in place did not exactly workout.

Due to injuries and interviews, I went to St. Jospeh’s on Thursday alone. This did not phase me as I knew there was a core group that had pretty much been assembled. Of course as I called Haley before I left, I did NOT realize how wrong I was. In fact, over the week that we missed a few of the students had been fighting and were not allowed to participate. I figured this would still leave a pretty good group and when I arrived Haley still seemed a bit uneasy about the group. Nevertheless, we went to round the group up and started our first read through. As we got through may be the second page, a fight broke out outside of the building we were in. At this moment, I knew all attention was lost. The kids ran to the windows to watch and I was stuck sitting at the table looking at Haley and waiting for them to come back. There was nothing she could have done, I honestly looked at her out of sympathy as she has to deal with this on a day to day basis. She commented on how cool and collected I seemed, not knowing that I am no stranger to chaos. After the fight ended or the kids lost interest, they came back to the table. As I started to begin again, three students left. Haley gave them an ultimatum that if they were to leave they could not come back. They kids then stated some remarks that I don’t believe are appropriate to relay. By the end of the day, we had only four guys and one girl who was totally disinterested. As we look forward, a lot of extra planning will have to go into the act. Not having enough girls may be a problem, but we shall see.

I do think Haley wants to be a big help. Unfortunately the nature of the environment at St. Joseph’s Villa is a little difficult to maneuver. She has been courageous, and I truly understand why she may need a break. I am worried as to what is in store if she does leave. That will be for another blog.

This was I believe the most successful meeting at the Villa. We have a rather small group considering we do have a lot of characters in our act. No matter, we will move through the process and quite possibly may have to participate in the acting as well. Moving through the plot was a little tedious. Yet the students were very receptive and even volunteered to read the characters summaries. I think the most important part of our meeting was the game that Kieran led. While the game initially seemed to just get the students out and moving, it led to actual team building. These students do not always interact with each other as they are in different programs. Therefore there is a lack of relationships between a lot of the students. Learning each other’s names will be an important part of the team building and this game was a great stepping stone to doing so. With this in mind, I believe the next time we meet with the students we should play a name game so as to remember everyone’s name. I think there is less apprehension now than there was before with the students and I believe this group could really thrive with this experience.

This is a tad late and I am still trying to get the hang of the timing with the blogs. Last week marked the first time that we met as a group. Unfortunately, the group was not set in stone. When we arrived, we rallied the group from the three different schools. The room that we believed to be ours was either taken or not available to us. Yet after finally getting a room and the group,  we started sharing basic information. The diversity of individuals brought a little disruption as the students all have somewhat different backgrounds. Overall, the students seemed interested and intrigued about how to best be apart of the group. People shared what they thought they knew about Shakespeare and we relayed a small amount of knowledge about the play and the history behind it. Due to a lack of time, we were not able to truly delve into the script and parts. However, we did get a pretty good idea of personalities which may help with characters. As we get deeper into the semester, I believe that we will get to know the students even better and be able to reach them all. One student in particular seems to be a little bit shy about acting. She spoke out and was a little inconsiderate. I still think she may be an important part of the act. Hopefully she will be able to accept what we are trying to do. I do feel more comfortable now than I did when I started. I believe by the end of the program I will not have any apprehensions at all.

When arriving at St.Joseph’s Villa, my group mates and I were somewhat shocked about the amount of land the organization had. We then met up with Haley who turned out to be even more upbeat and outgoing in person than over the phone. She was very excited to tell us about every aspect of the organization and then preceded to take us on a tour. Before the tour I imagined there would be a central area where the students would be congregated. In fact, there are four separate schools with different purposes. We toured the three schools that has the students we will more likely be working with. The first school was one for those with diagnosed illnesses. There were only a few kids here that seemed to want and try to branch out. Many of the teachers expressed how most of the students already act in some way or another, therefore they believed that the acting would not be an issue. This idea held constant throughout the three schools that we visited. The next school, the alternative school, saw a few more students who were skeptic about acting. Due to being expelled from other schools, these kids may have some behavioral issues. Yet the teachers all seemed to have a way of getting them to give their attention. I believe they will be able to branch out more than they previous thought they even could. The final school was a private school which consists of students who did not fit in as well at other schools around the city. There was a great number of interested students here. I believe that this group may be the most comfortable with the task that we may ask them to do. All in all, the trip was lengthier than expected. At times it seemed that Haley could be distracted very easily. We left a lot later than intended. I hope that in the future she will help the process stay on time. Overall, I think this will be a learning experience for all involved with the program.

After finally concluding the days and times for interacting with our sites, I was able to contact Haley Turner at St. Joseph’s Villa. While we were not able to get in touch for a few days, she finally called and we began to discuss what to expect for the semester. Haley seemed to be really excited about the opportunity that was being brought forward to the students. Nevertheless, there were many questions as to our experience as well as giving us a bit of background information to the types of students that could be expected to interact with us. While I was unaware of what the program had to offer, it seemed as though some of the kids had troubled pasts. Overall, it seemed that there was a sense of excitement throughout the program to try and do something new. We were able to settle on a time and are prepared to go and tour the facility for the first time on next Thursday.