Act V’s performance on Friday went well. All five of our students showed up: Janiyah, Tamiya, Adrian, Marcus, and Khalil. Having Marcus back definitely helped because we only needed a few Richmond students for the performance. Khalil being there was a surprise since last week the kids told us that he had quit. We were still glad to have him back, though we hoped his troublemaker tendencies would not make an appearance. We were able to read through a bit of our act, though the students got distracted towards the end by the audience filling up. We decided that would be a good opportunity to break for a snack, and then to get the students into their stage makeup. Adrian went through two makeup mustaches and two stick-on mustaches before he decided on one he liked. Even backstage up until the last minute, he was still trying to choose his facial hair. Janiyah was excited to have “girly” makeup for Olivia, while Tamiya chose a mustache to get into character as Cesario. Marcus was given a beard and absolutely loved it. When we asked Khalil if he wanted a beard or mustache, he pointed to his face and said something along the lines of, “I’m a man, I already have facial hair.” We divvied up the props, which was harder than expected. Khalil and Adrian fought over one gold necklace with a dollar sign on it. Khalil emerged the victor and, to ease Adrian’s hurt feelings, we let him wear a crown. He was hesitant at first, but once we convinced him that dukes were royalty and would certainly wear crowns, he felt better. We also had to deal with the issue of the students knowing their cues of when to come on and off stage. This was a problem throughout our rehearsals because they would get tired of standing or would not be paying attention and would go sit down. We told them to sit in the benches on stage if they really needed a break. When the girls started panicking about the audience, I reminded them that everyone was there to support them and knew they would do a great job. I pointed out to them that a group of my sorority sisters had come to the performance and that if I could read my lines in front of them, they could do it in front of everyone.
We got our students seated to watch the first three acts before we had to go backstage and get ready. It was obvious that our kids were nervous, especially about the size of the audience. They kept looking back at certain points to see the number of people there or to tell us about their nerves. When it was finally time for us to go backstage, the excitement and nerves were at an all time high. Since TJ, AJ, and I all had to be on stage at some point during the act, we told the kids that if they got nervous or had trouble, they could just look to us for help. We also tried to get them to understand that messing up a line was not going to end in disaster. We walked out on stage to introduce ourselves and our characters, and Khalil turned to me and whispered, “Who am I playing again?” I reminded him that he was Antonio and Sir Toby Belch, and, if I’m being completely honest, was very nervous for the performance. Thankfully, it turned out about as well as we expected it to. Though the students would wander off stage because they didn’t have any upcoming lines and it was hard to hear them at times, I’m really proud of how they performed.
When it was time for “Juju on that Beat,” I thought that we were in the clear. The kids loved doing the dance and would often ask to spend more of rehearsal time doing it. But during the performance, they seemed scared to be on stage and not willing to commit to the dance. Khalil showed off some of his moves but he too seemed frightened. As soon as the song ended, they became new people and ran off stage yelling and laughing about how happy they were to be done. As we started packing up, Adrian came around and thanked all of us for teaching him this semester. And in what came as a surprise for me, Khalil came around and expressed his gratitude to each of us for working with him and thanked us for introducing him to theater. Though I didn’t expect to be, I really am sad that we won’t be getting in the car and going to YouthLife on Thursday. It feels a bit like the end of a summer at camp, where you are in one part excited for what is to come, but sad about what you are leaving behind. I am especially grateful to TJ and AJ for all of their help during this process, and to Corinne at YouthLife and Dr. Bezio. Regardless of the times I just wanted to yell at the kids to listen to us or to walk out of rehearsal and not come back, I really am proud of each and every one of our students for their progress this semester. Though there were definitely days I was stressed beyond belief, I can say with certainty that this project taught me a lot and that I was glad to be a part of it.