Aleeza, Caroline, and I arrived at St. Joseph’s Villa around 2:30 p.m. on final production day. We organized costumes, decided where our group members would stand during certain scenes, set up our music, and mentally prepared for the rest of the afternoon and evening to come. About 30 minutes before the students were expected to arrive, Dr. Soderlund informed us that there was only one bus picking up students at one school, when we originally had 2 buses picking up at 3 different schools. Aleeza, Caroline, and I were in a minor state of panic. Finally, 4:30 p.m. rolled around, and the front Church doors swung open. I noticed Ms. Kiesha walk in, with Andy, Betty, and Selene trailing behind her. 3 of our 15 students had showed up. Rather than freak out, we decided to reassign roles and have the students go through their lines right away. After an hour, every role had been casted, and we successfully read through our entire Act. The show was a success, and our students had a wonderful time performing.

Our final rehearsal with Higher Achievement was our best yet. Aleeza, Caroline, and I went to T.C. Boushall with the plan to split into groups by scene and go through the students’ lines. We were sent to the Mural Room. Right when we got there, we asked the kids if they were aware that the final production was the following day. Some students knew, while others did not. We then announced that we were going to split up into groups based on what scenes that students were performing in. I had Scenes 2 and 4 of Act 2, but only 2 students out of the 4 that were supposed to be in my group were present. Therefore, me, Teddy, and Selene moved off into a corner of the room and went through lines. I read the lines of our missing students. Near the end of rehearsal, Ms. Kiesha, one of the Higher Achievement coordinators, came in and one by one pulled the students aside to call their parents to remind them to send their child with a completed permission slip the next day, or else that student would be unable to participate in the final production. Some students’ parents were native Spanish speakers and did not speak any English, so the students had to call the parents themselves.

We were unable to meet for rehearsal this week because it was during Thanksgiving Break…on Thanksgiving Day, actually. Thankfully, we are on schedule to meet with the group next Thursday, which happens to be the night before the final performance. Although we have not met with our group in 2 weeks, I am glad we will be meeting this Thursday rather than any other day in the week, because rehearsing the night before the performance will be a good refresher that they can carry with them the following evening.

This week we were unable to meet with our group because T.C. Boushall was hosting their own group Thanksgiving for the entire after-school program. Unfortunately, this break from rehearsal is unfortunate because last week was the first week that the students actually participated.

Caroline was unable to attend this week’s session, so Aleeza and I ran rehearsal. When we first arrived at Boushall, Mr. Allan was in the middle of a game on politics with our group of students as well as the rest of the after-school students. Therefore, we did not begin rehearsal until about 6:30. When we finally had the students to ourselves, Aleeza and I brought them to the Choir Room, which allows for a lot of spread-out space to move around and act. The kids begged to play one round of “Zip-Zap-Zop” before we began rehearsing, so we did exactly that. Two of our boys and 1 girl were missing from the group, so we had about 9 students all together. 3 of the boys that were present at rehearsal refused to be calm, participate, or be respectful. Mr. Allan happened to wander by our classroom and set the boys straight, so they weren’t as disruptive throughout the remainder of rehearsal (sort of, kind of). Once “Zip-Zap-Zop” was over, we called on a few students to come to the center of the room and read through Scene 1. While running through the scene, the few disruptive boys failed to pay attention and distracted the readers. They did this throughout Scene 2, and part of Scene 3 as well. During Scene 2, while one boy was reading, he said, “This is not English. There is no way a human wrote this. An alien wrote this.” Aleeza and I attempted to explain the concept of Old English, but this boy either did not understand or did not care. We did not have time to run though all of Scene 3, so the students read the first half of it. With 5 minutes left of rehearsal, we played the theater game “Museum,” because the students refused to go through any of the scenes unless Aleeza and I promised to play “Museum” with them at the end of the session. During the game, one student tripped on a chair and got hurt, so I brought him to see Mr. Allan as the rest of the students began to laugh at him. Mr. Allan was not happy that the students made fun of him, and didn’t seem happy with our session whatsoever, so before Aleeza and I left, he and Aleeza exchanged phone numbers and said he would call her the following day to go over some tactics on how to better control our wild students.

Aleeza was unable to attend rehearsal this week, so Caroline and I ran the session. We started late because the students were participating in a large group election activity run by Mr. Allan. When they finished and were broken up into their small groups, we took our group to the Choir Room to rehearse lines. We had 2 or 3 of our original group members missing, and Mr. Allan said they were out for personal reasons. The students were pretty rowdy, so we decided to begin with a game that they all really enjoyed: Museum. When Caroline and I (the Museum guards) close our eyes, they are allowed to move and dance around, but when we open our eyes, they have to be still, like a Museum statue.

When we completed the game, we asked the students if they all recalled their assigned part in Twelfth Night. The majority of them remembered their lines, only 2 or 3 out of the 12 or so students had to be reminded. Everyone then went over their own lines.

When Caroline and I met with Mr. Allan after rehearsal, he informed us that John, one of our 5th grade students, had completed the testing that had been occurring at Bousall that week his results stated that he performs at a 1st grade reading level. Therefore, Shakespeare may be a little too difficult for him. He offered to transfer John out of our group, but Caroline and I said we would be willing to work with him one on one in future rehearsal sessions. Mr. Allan said that 2 other boys in our group also tested at 2nd and 3rd grade reading levels. Therefore, we decided that at the following rehearsal we would perhaps divide into smaller groups to make rehearsals seem a little more personable, allowing the students to receive more individual attention.

I was unable to attend rehearsal this week due to a prior commitment for my journalism class. From what Caroline and Aleeza told me, they arrived to T.C. Boushall and our students had decided that it would be a day full of bullying. Because the kids failed to stop bickering until later in the evening, Caroline and Aleeza were forced to begin the session later than they have hoped. On a lighter note, however, the group was able to begin reading through the script and enjoyed playing a game called “Museum.” At our next rehearsal, we plan to continue reading through the script, allowing the students to become more comfortable with their lines.

This week was a bit more hectic than the last. Caroline was unable to join us, so Aleeza and I directed the rehearsal. We rehearsed in the band room, as we always do, and the students insisted on constantly messing with the instruments, an act that they all know that they are forbidden to do. When they all settled down, Aleeza and I thought we would try skipping the theater game because we didn’t want to rile them all up for no reason. This was our first mistake. We jumped right into assigning roles and told the students to raise their hand if a role/character sounded like something they would be interested in. They were allowed to raise their hands as many times as they wanted for as many roles/characters as they wanted. We wrote down each student’s name next to the part that he or she was interested in. On our workday in class on Wednesday, we will distribute the roles accordingly.

Explaining each character and revealing how many lines they had took up a good bit of rehearsal time, and the group lost focus. Therefore, Aleeza and I decided to end rehearsal with “Zip, Zap, Zop” because the students had been so fond of the game the week prior. Many of the boys refused to participate and, even though we threatened to tell Mr. Allen (the head director of the after-school program) they said they “didn’t care.” As we attempted to play Zip, Zap, Zop, many of the students ran across the room, chasing each other around, fighting, hitting each other. Every now and then, some student that was standing in front of the door and scream, “Mr. Allen is coming!” and everyone would run back to the game and act as if they had been participating the entire time. I felt badly for the few students that were in fact interested in playing “Zip, Zap, Zop,” because they consistently voiced their frustration with their peers that weren’t letting us go through one round smoothly without disruption.

At the end of rehearsal, Aleeza and I stayed late to speak with Mr. Allen about what tactics we could use to get everyone to focus and participate. He told us about green feathers: tokens that the students use towards raffles and other fun activities through the after-school program that result in prizes. Mr. Allen said that we could bribe the students with green feathers in order to get them to participate. He also recommended writing a visual agenda for rehearsal up on the blackboard in the band room before the start of each rehearsal. Many of the students are visual learners, and seeing what needs to get done between 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. may entice them to cooperate. Fingers crossed that Mr. Allen’s advice will work at our next rehearsal.

This meeting with the students was a lot better than our first visit, but was still a bit wild. We were sent to the band room, a room filled many expensive instruments. One of the directors of the “after-school” grilled into Aleeza, Caroline, and I’s brains how expensive the instruments were and that they were not to be touched. In order to prevent this, the director recommended that we do not allow the students on the third tier (the floors of the room are essentially set up in rows, with the instruments on the third tier). Two of the students constantly disobeyed and stood on the third tier solely for attention. One of these students also refused to participate in Zip, Zap, Zop because it was “stupid.” This game is how we begun rehearsal. All of the students absolutely loved it, and had a lot of fun participating. When the first round was over, they begged to play again, and their smiles made it hard to refuse. For the second round, the student that decided to sit out felt left out and chose to play with us. After we completed the game, we went over the plot of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night because we had a few new faces joining us that evening, and also wanted to remind the other students in case they had forgotten. As we explained different characters within the play, some students shouted out what characters they wanted to be, a lot of them were interested in being the clown. We handed out the scripts for them to look over while also explaining that next week we would assign roles based on how often one would want to read lines during the performance. We also mentioned that some students would share a role due to the big size of the group and the minimal characters listed in Act II. At this point, it was time to wrap up, so we handed out candy and told the students to get excited for next week!

This week we were unable to meet with our groups due to Fall Break plans. Aleeza, Caroline, and I were curious if whether or not our group would be hurt or unaffected by this cancellation, because the first meeting did not go very well, so we were worried we would lose the group’s focus.

Over the weekend, Aleeza, Caroline, and I planned our next meeting with the group. We plan to introduce the theatre preparation game titled, “Zip, Zap, Zop,” discuss the plot of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, go over what Act II entails, and, if we have time, assign roles.