This week was much more successful, even though we missed last week’s rehearsal due to the weather. Some of our scholars were actually excited to see us again, and they were more willing to participate now that they had a better idea of who we are and what the project is. We had a smaller group this week of only about 20 scholars, which was a bit more manageable. We started and finished with games, which they appreciated, though the scholars requested new games for the next rehearsal, so Julia and I will have to have something new ready for them. Once we finished our first game, the group settled down and we went around the circle, each scholar reading lines for the characters as they came up in the script. They were surprisingly calm and thoughtful readers, with some scholars volunteering for the tougher speeches or helping their friends with difficult words. We only got through a few pages, though I was very happy to see how interested they became in the project once they had scripts in their hands.

Next week, in addition to new games, we will continue to read through the scene character by character so that every scholar has a chance to read. As we go through the script, we’ve been explaining the story and other opportunities for extra sailors and stagehands here and there. Some of our scholars have already expressed interest in helping backstage, though judging by the success of the first read-through, they may change their minds in the future. Hopefully, we won’t miss any more of our rehearsals, and we can finish reading through our scene before beginning to stage things. I’m also very hopeful that their enthusiasm yesterday will carry through to the next week.

Unfortunately, due to the severe weather this week, we were not able to meet with our 25 fifth graders this Thursday. Judging by the varied reactions to the prospect of performing Shakespeare we received last week, I don’t think our group was upset by this setback in the schedule. Last week, after playing an introduction game, Julia and I attempted to introduce the plot of The Tempest as a whole, as well as our part in the show. The children were very disappointed to learn that no one dies in this play, as their only prior knowledge of Shakespeare included Romeo and Juliet. However, they were satisfied to learn that they didn’t have to perform a large part of Miranda and Ferdinand’s love story. The idea of a king, a duke, and a wizard intrigued them, so we will have to give each interested child equal opportunity to try out these bigger roles next week.

The challenge with this group is twofold, considering our large group size. While we have to entertain those who are incredibly interested in taking on the larger roles, we also have to maintain the attention of those who don’t seem to care much about the project. After the first half hour of our first meeting, our group started to warm up to us, so they finally got into the game of Zip, Zap, Zop. Using games they all enjoy and in which they can all participate seems to be the best way to keep everyone interested. Hopefully, now that we’ve completed our script, we can work in some extra sailors and fairies around the island. Some of our most dramatic kids insisted that they didn’t want a large role, though once we finished describing the plot, we had about 6 of those same kids offer to act as Prospero. Next week will be a challenge in keeping the group on track (as much as possible with 25 fifth graders) and splitting up roles in an equitable way.

On Thursday evening, Julia and I met with our project partner in order to go through the policies and expectations of Higher Achievement. We learned that we could have up to 25 fifth graders in our elective, which will probably be a challenge. That being said, I think it would be a good idea to begin our first rehearsal with an introductory game, like a name game or passing around a beach ball with get-to-know-you questions. Depending on how long this takes, we could play another game with the group, like Zip Zap Zop or Froggy Murder (a personal favorite). Following the games and introductions, we will introduce our part of the play, introduce the characters in Act I, and set expectations for the rehearsals that are in line with Higher Achievement’s expectations for the scholars. We could then ask the scholars whether they would like to audition for roles, have us decide, or just try roles out until they find a dynamic that they like. With a group of this size, hopefully some of our scholars will want to help us with staging things like the storm or Ariel’s magic. If we have time after discussing the characters, we can have some students go through some of the monologues if they like. However, with such a big group and such little time, it might be better just to end with a quick wind-down game. Overall, I am excited to meet our scholars and get started!