At our last rehearsal, we had a great turnout, but that was just about the only thing about it that was great. We tried reading and blocking scenes with the kids, but they hated it so much that it became futile. We tried playing games, but they would just run in circles and not listen to us. We even tried to just get them excited for the performance, but they all said that they didn’t want to go.
While this was frustrating to say the least, I was still optimistic, especially when Brandie said that five of them had turned in their permission slips for Friday. But, the buses unloaded the kids at Saint Joseph’s, and it was a different story.
Only two of our kids came to the show, one of whom had never been to rehearsal before. Kids from other groups volunteered to join our group to fill out a few roles, but I still knew what had to be done. I had to be in the show. I had never acted before, and had no theater experience. I thought to myself “Ok, I can do one section,” but quickly I had been drafted into the first and third sections as well.
I wasn’t necessarily nervous to be in front of people and read lines, I had a fear that I didn’t know I would experience: I didn’t want to find out that I wasn’t a good actor. Granted, I had never acted before, so I knew it wouldn’t be so bad, and I could chalk it up to just being my first time on stage.
I got up there, read my lines as well as I could, and went back to congratulate the kids on the performance. Despite the general mood of our group throughout the semester, they were so excited. They had loved their time on stage, although one of them understandably said he had a lot of trouble pronouncing the words. For myself, I came to the conclusion that I knew I would at the start of this process: I should have tried theater in high school. There is something about having a rehearsal every week and then actually having all of that culminate in one performance that really felt like an accomplishment. I hope for the two kids who actually showed up the performance that they keep that with them, and that they go on to try theater again when they’re older. They may be young, but I don’t think this is something they’ll soon forget.
After a long hiatus from rehearsal, Caroline and I finally got to go back to Henderson to work with the kids again. We met the new crop of kids who we’d be working with, and they did not disappoint. They seemingly all had theater experience, which I wasn’t aware was even an option for kids so young.
When I was their age I had only been in the required school plays, and I always had the smallest roles possible. To see kids that were motivated and excited about it was really encouraging for me.
The rehearsal went well for the most part, but we hit a bit of a snag when we were relocated from the theater to the cafeteria, where two other groups were having study hall. Quickly the kids focus was gone, as they fed off the presence of the other groups. The worst part about the cafeteria was the noise. We couldn’t hear the kids, and they couldn’t hear us.
They were fooling around, running around the stage and hiding in the curtains. I couldn’t blame them though, it’s hard to expect kids to refocus on a dime, especially when you change environments. We were able to still have a decently successful rehearsal, but this was one of the more “roll with it” experiences we have. Next week we’ll have the scripts and we’ll assign roles, and hopefully then they’ll really get into it.
Caroline and I drove over to Henderson expecting to meet with our supervisor, Brandie, and talk about how the program would work going forward. We had no expectation of starting on Monday.
But as we discussed in class, flexibility is key.
We dove right in, and although our group was smaller on Monday than it will be going forward, we still had to fill the time and get to know these kids. When we told them we were doing a play, all but one of the kids immediately started complaining. They clearly had no idea what they has signed up for, and had no intention learning how to read and perform Shakespeare. However, after a few quick theater games, this overall feeling of boredom and frustration evaporated, leading to one of the most spirited zip zap zop games I’ve ever witnessed. They were laughing and playing by the rules and getting excited about it.
We played a few more games, and the more we played the more we got into it. Every now and again we’d talk a little about the play and they started to get behind the idea. We even picked out our Caliban, as he jumped at the opportunity to play the character who was to be drunk and rolling around on stage.
As someone with no theater background, I started to wish I had done this when I was their age. A young Joe would’ve had the exact same reaction: I would’ve felt forced at first but quickly would’ve gotten behind it. I think that’s what makes programs like this so important. Based on what life as a middle schooler or elementary schooler is like, kids don’t always consider activities like theater as an option, but programs like this make them consider it going forward. I hope we get a similar reaction from the kids that are joining us next time.