As should be apparent from the previous posts, our show was canceled. The first snow of the season always sends Virginia into a fit of panic. This snow was somewhat serious for what we usually receive, and I praise the school system for its caution in preserving the safety of the students. Even so, I was disappointed to hear that our performance had been canceled. I responded by ignoring it. I have not looked at this project for the last five days, only choosing now to reengage with it.
I have no idea what our performance would have been like. Unlike other groups, we were unable to review permission slips to see who would have attended. If anything, the last practice before the canceled performance left us in a situation where our most reliable actors would probably be missing. In all likelihood, our performance would have been a disappointment and a disaster, with me, Jimmy, Luke, Grant, Professor Bezio, and Timone on stage, filling in for those who were absent. Even so, a good number of students at St. Joseph’s put in a great deal of effort. Spurred on by Timone, we saw actual improvement over the course of the semester. Deandre, who was to play MacBeth, performed admirably well at the final practice. He would have likely been absent, but he engaged in the practice and in our project.
My biggest regret is that last practice before the canceled performance. Due to the amount we needed to improve and the limited time we had, we moved from one thing to another with little time for pleasantries. We were unable to stay an extra thirty minutes. When leaving, I did not take the time to tell the students how much I appreciated what they had done over the course of the semester. In my sheltered college lifestyle, I had not checked the weather or even recognized the chance for the play to be canceled.
Maybe, if all hope of a Spring performance falls through, I will have to visit the Villa again.
This week’s practice was one of the worst we’ve had to date. At a time when we need all the time we can get, desperately preparing for the final performance, Timone did not arrive to unlock the chapel until 12:40, leaving us with only 20 minutes to practice. I wish I could have stayed, like Timone offered, but I had to run to Chemistry lab. This timeslot has always been bad for us, causing us to arrive 10 minutes late. We have been surviving on 50 minutes practices every week and it has been OK. But a 20 minute practice is barely time to do anything.
We learned that Christina, our most enthusiastic actor who plays the roles of Lady MacBeth and Lady MacDuff, is having “behavioral problems.” She was unable to attend this practice and may be unable to attend tomorrow’s performance.
We learned that Deandre, our MacBeth, may be being pulled from the performance by his mother for God knows what reason. This week, he made incredible progress in putting emotion and character into his lines. His skill as an actor doubled in these scarce 20 minutes. I hope that we have him tomorrow.
I worry about props. I worry about casting. I worry that in the end, its going to be Jimmy sitting at MacBeth’s place at the table, Grant and Luke as the witches, and myself as Lady MacBeth. I will be happier when all of this is over.
That being said, if everyone shows up, I am going to be ecstatic. Worst case scenario is not truly horrible and I am excited to see our actors perform. I hope that they will have the chance to enjoy this performance.
This whole project has been less of an emotional roller-coaster and more of a gradual slide into resigned stress. I am not going to forget this one.
This week’s lesson made me very concerned. The practice began with only Nicole and Christina in the chapel. Our final performance being staged by the four of us and Professor Bezio is beginning to look more and more likely.
All of these practices are just exaggerations of the practice before. In each practice, the actors show up a little bit later. In each practice, a group of actors leaves and an old group returns. When we finally finish re-re-re-recasting, we begin to practice and read over lines. This part of the practice is always welcome. Each time we read over the lines, the actors are better able to perform. It seems that we are making truly meaningful progress.
I just wish that we had more time.
There is a new pattern to meetings at the Villa. We begin at 12:10, and only Christina and Timone are present. While Timone hunts down and retrieves the other actors, we desperately begin recasting for the crew we have that day. We have seen our most excited actors disappear never to return. This week, even the always-present Kurntz was absent. I’m beginning to worry about the status of the final production. I know that if everyone arrives, we will be able to have something happen. If nobody arrives, nothing will happen, and that will be OK too. My concern is: what do we do if 3 actors show up. Will we desperately cast Professor Bezio, as well as ourselves, in as many roles as possible? It is a question that will be answered on the 8th and I cannot say that I am excited to see that answer.
My other concern is with the overall quality of our production. Progress has been achingly slow in every regard. After the return from Thanksgiving break, the mad scramble to end the semester is going to put a lot of strain on our final weeks. I am beginning to look forward to the 9th more than I look forward to the 8th.
I will remain positive. I am certain that our actors will do their best and that we will be safe in the completion of our project. I just wish that I could be a little more proud of what we were able to achieve.
This week, we finally began acting on stage. We were able to proceed through both the feast scene and the witches scene, which make up the majority of the production. After many weeks of reading through lines, casting, and discussing the play, it is pleasant to see the actors up on stage. Progress is incredibly shaky. Talia is confident and intelligent, but her voice is difficult to understand. Deandre continually reads off the stage instructions. Christina has difficulties with pronunciation and, unlike our other actors, stops in the middle of her lines to ask about each word. Derek is torn between wanting to participate and wanting to stay out of the way. I am sure that as we run through these scenes again and again, these problems will gradually disappear, but they are very present right now.
Our main problem is with casting. Our actors are incredibly inconsistent in their attendance. Kurntz, Deandre, and Christina are always present, but people continually show up and disappear. When new actors arrive, they always seem so excited to be participating. However, when the next week comes, we are left with an empty chair and a need to recast. I worry that we will be continually switching and combining roles until the day of the concert. As I said above, each of our actors has an individual problem that can only be addressed through repetition and practice. As much as Christina tries, no amount of scolding will stop Deandre from reading some of the stage directions. These are problems that can be addressed through run-throughs and practice, but I worry that our time is now very short. December is coming quickly. We will put on our best performance.
This week was uneventful at the Villa. We were in a stance between line-reading at the table and actually acting out the play on stage due to the absence of several of our actors. Because of this awkwardness, the meeting last Thursday was more of a conversation than a rehearsal.
The main topic of conversation was the prop-list. We wanted to talk with our actors about the time period they would like for our performance to represent. We had brought this up weeks ago, but the knowledge that our actors now have of the plot helped them make a decision. After throwing around ideas, we settled on the 1920’s “Jazz Age”. The actors would dress in suits to show their status as “royalty” or “nobility”. I think that this is a great idea, our actors will appear as professionals with a unique idea.
After this discussion of the time period, the actors brought up ideas on how to get our hands on some cheap suits. One of the actors, Deandre, was exceptionally well dressed in a blazer. His friend across the table mentioned a nearby thrift shop that he had found excellent suits in. In addition to this idea, I know that the Villa has an area where clothes are made available for students: it may be a valuable resource in gathering costume materials. I have yet to speak to Professor Bezio about these ideas on costuming.
An uneventful week at the Villa, overall, but I am excited to see what we can achieve with this new framework.
Last Thursday, I watched my schedule spontaneously combust. The gentlemen from my group were kind enough to go to the Villa without me. I appreciate this, and I quickly recovered. In any case, I was not present at our meeting with the Villa last week. Thus, I did not get to meet Mr. Deandre or speak to any of the other promising actors. I was not there, and it is not my place to speak of what they did. However, I am happy to share my thoughts on the planning end of the production.
Putting together the prop-list has not been a hassle. Obviously, we had not placed any of our ideas on the document until the work time in class today (Wednesday, November the first). From the third week we spent at the Villa, the prop-list has been an ongoing discussion. Among the suggestions from our actors, we have had a range of ideas. For example, one actor voiced the opinion that Banquo’s ghost should be dressed “like Danny Phantom”. Our coordinator, organizer, and living legend Timone Brown has asked us to provide him with a prop-list. He knows that we are operating within a budget and has decided that the Villa would be willing to pay to provide props for its own students.
In the same vein, Jimmy and I were speaking with Professor Bezio today regarding the topic of dry ice. Dry ice is the safest smoke-producing substance that could be used for the production. The use of dry ice would add to the visual effects of the eerie witches and the frothing, boiling cauldron in our section of the play. However, touching dry ice can lead to near-instant second degree freezing burns due to the sublimation of the carbon dioxide. We worry that not only could the dry ice set off the smoke detectors, it could horribly injure our actors if handled improperly. The actor who is most enthusiastic about being a witch (or warlock) is Kurntz. Kurntz is inquisitive and deeply interested in science, I worry that he would try to handle the dry ice if allowed to. Another danger is the smoke detectors. Dry ice smoke falls to the floor, so particulate or heat sensitive detectors on the ceiling will not sound an alarm. However, low-to-the-ground particulate detectors will sound the alarm. We will have to speak with Timone at our next meeting about the specifics of the use of dry ice within the chapel, as the chapel will host the final production.
We will likely continue the prop-list discussion with our actors in tomorrow’s meeting. I look forward to hearing their ideas!
This week was a surprise. I printed out enough copies of the first scene to have one for each student, as well as a copy for us. My plan was to begin rehearsing the first scene and to get each of our actors more accustomed to speaking and to their parts. However, the Villa never fails to be exciting.
This week, when we arrived, Ms. Talia was not in attendance. However, five new students had joined our ranks! Timone Brown is a force of nature when it comes to getting students to participate. My own talent with names never fails to astound me, and I have proceeded to forget almost all of their names. I hope that this will not make me look like a fool when we return to the Villa tomorrow.
These new people are exceptionally good at speaking! The noteworthy Mr. Jeremiah, who began by saying that he was not interested in any lines whatsoever, proved to be the most capable actor we have seen yet. We hope to see him become MacBeth, but it remains to be seen if he will even attend the next rehearsal. Of those who have stuck with us through multiple sessions, we still have Mr. Kurntz, Mr. Derek, and Ms. Christina.
I realized this week that I am not prepared to deal with special needs students. While speaking to Kurntz, Jimmy made a slightly confusing statement. Kurntz proceed to make it a major issue, demanding that Jimmy apologize and remember to “maintain his grammar”. My immediate response, which I buried, was to call out Kurntz and provoke an argument. Jimmy masterfully disarmed the situation: it is clear that his prior experience with special needs children makes him a very valuable member of our group. I was silent, but I was glad that Jimmy was able to easily deal with a situation that, while minor, was something I fixated on.
At the rehearsal before last, Mr. Justin Long was not in attendance. We did not know why he was not in attendance, but his presence was missed. This week, Justin Long was still not in attendance. We learned that Justin has not shown up to class at St. Joseph’s in two weeks. Justin will no longer be able to participate in the Jepson Shakespeare Project. He was helpful and communicative and he will be missed.
Even so, the role of MacBeth has a new heir. New to the group, Ms. Talia has decided that she is interested in the role of MacBeth! This is ultimately good news, as no other students have expressed interest in the part. However, I have concerns regarding Talia’s ability to speak. When she does speak, she has difficulties with pronunciation. It is often difficult to tell what she is trying to say. Despite this, I feel confident that she has chosen such a great role with the knowledge that it is a role with many lines. If she wants to read them, it should be easier for her to learn to speak them boldly and legibly.
This marks what I believe is our policy on assigning roles: to each what they want (plus a little more on the side). Each student has a role which they feel calls out to them, for example, Ms. Christine decided this week that she would be happy to play the part of Lady MacBeth. In addition to this role, each student must play a number of side parts in order to have a complete set. We have informed the students of this, saying that all of them (beyond Talia as MacBeth) will play some role in the witch scene and will often have to step in as a messenger.
This seems to be the final number of students for our time at St. Joseph’s. It will be a struggle to build the script around that number, but it should be possible. One of the script-cutting notes we discovered on Thursday was that there are entire sections of scenes, like parts of the banquet scene, that mean little to our students. We are able to cut these scenes more easily. We also realized that we need to do a lot more cutting: the reading speed of our actors is very slow and will likely prevent us from having the number of lines we would desire.
Work at the Villa is not without trouble, but is mostly forging onward to success.
Over in the Villa, we are running low on volunteers. We are one of the smaller student groups, just the four of us. Even so, we match our actors 1:1, if they all attend. Despite our low numbers, I am not afraid of the final product being lackluster. I can easily see this group of students succeeding. Among the actors, there are varying levels of both talent and enthusiasm. Even so, I am certain that each of these students is very much interested in participating. Their interest makes our jobs so much easier.
Due to the small size of our group, I am able to discuss the students specifically:
Kurntz is a gentleman interested in playing a warlock. The role fits him, his height allows him to loom over the other actors in an ominous way that I think he will be able to use to great effect. He is prone to starting side conversations with the members of our group, but has had some truly insightful moments. After a viewing of the video summary of MacBeth, he began a discussion of what he saw as the central theme: that power corrupts and must be used responsibly.
Justin Long is the most personable of the group. He is quick to start a conversation (even if it often gets him off topic). He is enthusiastic and excited to perform. He has expressed interest in playing the role of MacBeth. I look forward to seeing him again, he could not join us this week.
Derek is a man of few words. However, he fully participates. He seems to be a genuinely kind person. He has expressed interest in playing the role of Banquo.
Christine is the newest addition to our crew. She joined this week and has proven to be experienced and professional. We would like her to play Lady MacBeth, but she is hesitant to accept the role. Next rehearsal, we will have a script to provide her with so that she can choose a role that she will enjoy.
Ultimately, even in those people who have claimed roles, everyone is going to have to perform multiple roles. With such a small group, we cannot afford to have one person be just a witch or just a murderer. It will be a challenge to model the script such that only 4 actors are needed.