Okay, so half of this blog is going to be focused on our final meeting at St. Joseph’s Villa (which was somewhat upsettingly similar to our first meeting) while the second half of the blog is going to focus on how I imagine the performance would have gone had it happened.  When I say that our final meeting was unfortunately similar to our first, it simply has to do with the fact that we had no idea who would be showing up.  At any given point, throughout the entire semester, we could have lost a Macbeth, a Lady MacDuff, or gained seven people, none of whom would return the next week.  It got really difficult to manage casting as students often returned after a few weeks of absences hoping that they would return to the role they left.  This usually wasn’t the case as we were constantly filling roles.  The students seemed to get upset but I will say I think that throughout this semester the issue of casting actually taught the students an interesting lesson about responsibility and accountability.  With the help of Timone giving the kids a hard time about being fickle toward something they had committed to, the kids really started learning about the importance of sticking to their word, or at least they understood that the consequences for not sticking to their word (losing their part) were legitimate.

As far as our last rehearsal went, well, it was a bit of a dud.  I will say that overall it was a resounding success because for the first time we were able to sit down at the table and have people sit down, stand up, come, go and speak in the general vicinity of when they were supposed to.  Also, we finished our part of the play without any major speed bumps, so I can’t complain.  For these reasons, I was really proud of the kids and I think, despite some of their unwillingness to show it, they were proud of themselves.  The reason I say it was a dud, though, is that there were some people there we hadn’t seen in weeks, and some that we had been seeing weren’t there.  It kind of set us back a few weeks, but with the help of some of our student leaders such as Deandre and Kristina, everybody stayed on track.

One thing that I will say about the final rehearsal, and every other rehearsal for that matter, is that it was fun.  And to be honest, in a scenario like this, I’m not sure if there’s anything of higher importance.  First of all, it keeps the students coming back and it keeps them from being miserable in your presence, but they also pay closer attention to the material than even they realize.  Week in and week out, we kept the energy level high despite the rotating cast of characters.  Because of this, students didn’t really get discouraged and even in times of struggle, everybody was able to make jokes and we were able to keep a positive attitude about the performance.  At a certain point, the kids aren’t going to be worried about the material.  They just want to enjoy themselves.  In my opinion, it was our job to make sure that happened as well.  Of course we were there to teach the students, and I think they gleaned some important lessons from Shakespeare.  But at the same time, we are just 21 year old kids who don’t have the right to demand too much out of anybody, and for that reason we found it was important to be friendly and energetic with the students.  I guess I had the mindset that if I wasn’t going to teach them lessons about Macbeth, I could teach them a few things about overcoming anxieties and finishing something you started.  If I had a mark in that sense, this was well worth it.

Now, I’d like to make a short note about how I think the performance would have gone.  To be honest, I think it depends on your standards.  If you want a visceral, persuasive performance of Macbeth you would have been in the wrong place.  But if you wanted to see a group of young students overcome their fears and complete something they put a lot of time into, then I think this would have been a resounding success.  Regardless of who was going to show up, I know that the kids would have given it their best shot, because those who were there never quit while they were there.  A few students definitely would have stood out, as a few of the memorized a couple of their lines.  But for the most part, the play would have consisted of rigid, scared kids looking at their lines and speaking too quietly.  The important part is that after the play you would have been looking at a group of kids who were proud of themselves, and I would have been proud of them too.

I think this week was one of our stronger weeks thus far.  First of all, this was the first time that we were able to have a (fairly) smooth run-through of our entire scene.  Certain students, namely Kristina and Tristan (who unfortunately will no longer be attending), come with a ton of enthusiasm every single week.  I’ve learned that these students are essential not only because it of the direct benefit of having students that are passionate in the material, but they also provide an example for other students.  For example, when the class gets off track, I can make a somewhat off-hand comment praising Kristina for her dedication and focus, which seems to bring the competitive spirits of other students out.

I also want to take the time to thank Timone, who in the last few weeks has been incredibly helpful.  Our greatest struggle throughout the semester has been maintaining the students’ interest in the material not only on a minute-to-minute basis, but also on a week-to-week basis.  It is really difficult to keep students in attendance every week and to convince them to come back after weeks that are not all that encouraging.  Timone has been instrumental in bringing these students without a natural enthusiasm for the material back to us.  This week, for example, Timone scolded a collection of about three students who have been coming to a few sessions here or there, missing them when it is convenient.  Timone was not upset with their lack of attendance, but with their lack of transparency, as they were not honest with Timone in their reasons for missing.  This conversation inspired those students to rejoin our rehearsals as one even apologized for their inconsistent attendance.  With these kids, trust is massive.  I have no authority over them and I am in no position to suggest how they should or should not spend their time.  Thankfully, they do trust Timone, and for this reasons he has played an instrumental part in rehearsals.

Finally, I just want to comment on how excited I am about the upcoming production.  Primarily, I am excited to see the manifestation of a steadily growing interest in the material throughout the semester.  It is a really rewarding process when you start teaching a class with no appreciation for the subject, only to find a few weeks later that their interest is growing, and that you may be the reason why.  I think that literature, particularly in play form, is being lost in our generation and to be honest, it makes me really sad some days.  I find a certain amount of solace in the fact that I was able to instill, even if in the most minute way, some love for literature back into the world.

Finally, I took a small breath of relief as I left St. Joseph’s Villa this past week.  At last, it seemed as if a (relatively) fully-casted show is going to be possible in the future.  Thankfully, our main roles are being held down by students with intense enthusiasm for their roles.  This week, Kristina asked for a copy of one of the scripts so that she could take it home and practice, and this request was repeated by a few more students.  At this point, it is not only a base interest in the material that I am excited about, but there is actually some growing personal investment in these students.

In my opinion, a large part of this growing interest lies in our commitment to helping the students understand the content of the play.  It would be easy for us, and not so easy for the students, to hand them a packet, have them stand at the end of the stage, and read a series of words from which they can draw little to no meaning.  Now, it seems as though the students are beginning to understand how their characters, and more specifically, their lines, contribute to the arc of the play and the kind of “morale of the story.”

It seems as if our students have reverted from previously wishing for a roaring 20’s approach to our costume and have become growingly interested in the garb of the actual time.  Again, I think this is the product of a growing interest in the play itself, and the students are beginning to feel less and less of a need to PRODUCE something entertaining during this process. Rather, they are becoming entertained by the genuine content of the play.

In writing this, I fear that I am only speaking on account of a few students.  Some students are certainly farther along than others and in my opinion, these last few weeks ought to be focused on some of the students out on the fringe.  We have clearly piqued the interest of a few young men and women whom we have let run free with their enthusiasm.  In the meantime, I’m worried we may have neglected quieter voices.  For this reason, I hope that we create not only a sense of enthusiasm going into next week’s performance, but also a sense of teamwork and harmony.

While we are still moving forward at a pretty good pace, finally up and off of the reading table and getting into some actual scenes, we are battling some inconsistency in who shows up each week.  Thankfully, our Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are there every week, so we don’t have to work around any main characters missing.  Still, though, we seem to have somewhat of a rotating cast of supporting characters.  It isn’t difficult from the standpoint of putting on an interesting production, I think that will happen no matter what.  It becomes difficult when members of the group who don’t show up every week, of which there are quite a few, seem to want to fall back into their normal roles upon return.  So, we’ve sort of ended up with a few of our students unintentionally jockeying for a few of the supporting roles.  Hopefully, through attendance, this problem will figure itself out.  I’m planning to talk to Timone about whether or not he has any inclinations about the future participation of the group members.  If there comes a time when it looks like everybody will be showing up consistently, then we can do some final casting.  I guess for now we’ll just have to work with whoever comes on that given day and hope the students enjoy themselves.

I will say that it is really interesting to see this come together so quickly, and it is especially enjoyable due to the genuine interest that certain students have taken in the subject throughout the process.  Students that I anticipated being terribly uninterested have shown increased investment pretty much every week and I think that can be attributed to our letting the students kind of dictate their own path.  Now, it seems as if the students just want to get up there and act each week, which works for us, because we can finally start figuring out some of the mechanics of this thing.  I can’t wait to see what is going to come out of these last few weeks.

Though this wasn’t the most tangibly productive week we’ve had at the Villa, I feel like we got a lot done in ways other than casting and line-reading.  Most importantly, it seems that every week we return to the Villa and the kids have a bit more genuine interest in the subject than the week prior.  I’m not sure if that is a matter of their comfort with us, or the material, or both, but I now feel like we are getting some well-thought out answers to the questions we ask.

This past week, we took a break from line-reading, which it seemed the kids needed, and talked more about the sort of setting and mood we’d like to aim for with this play.  As I assumed, the kids were fairly bored by a historical look at Scottish royalty.  Instead, they wanted to modernize their play and roles a bit, instead opting for a roaring 20s, possibly mafia-esque sort of vibe.  They seem interested in dressing well, representing a different kind of royalty that could’ve been seen in the early 20th-century United States.

I think this will be the first week that we are able to get this thing off the ground, finally moving toward the stage and starting to set up the physical layout of the scene.  Our casting is complete and (I think) the kids now have a firm grasp of the play’s plot, so hopefully we can start to make some real progress as far as putting on a production goes.

As I seem to say in every blog post, this week was a huge improvement on the last few.  I’m learning that the relationships the students have with us is much more important than the relationship the students have with the material.  At first, I wondered if the students’ apprehension was fueled by disinterest in Macbeth, but have grown to realize that the apprehension is simply a product of not being comfortable around us.  Now that we’ve begun to forge somewhat personal relationships with these students, they seem considerably more interested.  I try to make a comment about something personal to each student throughout our sessions, and I think them knowing that I have individual interest in each one of them is really important.

Hopefully, this was the final week of casting.  We’ve been having trouble finding a Macbeth, as our Macbeth’s have either been kicked off of the company or grown uncomfortable with the amount of potential lines.  Thankfully, an awesome and enthusiastic young man named Deandre decided to join us this week.  When he came in, I could feel his enthusiasm for the project and almost immediately knew that he genuinely wanted to be there.  With that, I asked Deandre how he felt about the play and acting in general.  He responded by telling me he doesn’t have much familiarity with Shakespeare or on-stage acting, but he is excited about the project.  So I asked, “Would you be comfortable with a lot of lines, maybe as a main character?”  Deandre responded extremely gratefully by saying, “If you’ll allow me,” as a smile stretched across his face.  With that, we sort of finalized our casting.

Now, and I think this is something the students are actually looking forward to, we get to employ some of our more creative urges.  When leaving we announced that we would be talking about props the next week and everybody kind of lit up.  They’re really eager to have their own input, their own fingerprints, on the production and I am really eager to see how they want to construct some of this.  Its become clear that we aren’t going to make progress if the other mentors and I decide what we are going to do and how we are going to do it.  For that reason, I am really looking forward to seeing what these kids and their imaginations have in mind.  Tomorrow should be an interesting day!

This week was extremely productive and definitely felt like a bit of a breakthrough in comparison to the previous two weeks at St. Joseph’s Villa (I missed last week.)  Before this week, the students seemed a bit abrasive, both to us mentors and to the material itself.  I think a lot of the improvements revolve around us mentors beginning to learn how to best communicate with the students at the Villa.

Thankfully, as we found our grove in addressing the group of students, a few more students trickled into the room.  So instead of having two or three students, as we did in weeks prior, our number grew to about six.  At this point, we were really able to dive into the script and better engage the students in particular roles.  Through asking about preferred amount of lines and explaining the characters, the students worked out the roles pretty easily. Certain students wanted more involved roles with certain characters and others just wanted to be a part of the production.

Finally, after kind of explaining the plot and explaining the roles, laying out the character assignments fairly loosely, we began to read the script.  I was really surprised that we got started this early and it was awesome to see that the students were actually curious about the play, asking questions when confused by Shakespeare’s language.  Essentially, we did a read-through of the scene we are working on, stopping about halfway through.  At the end of every page, we would sort of stop and explain where we are in the story to the students.  This proved really helpful as it kept students engaged and interested as opposed to drifting attention as they grew more confused.

I think next week the play might really start to take form. With certain roles laid out pretty clearly, and us already diving into the script, I think we might be able to get into the details of the play.  I hope the students are as excited about each week as we are.


This week proved to be a lot more productive than last.  I would imagine a huge factor in that is the level of comfort in our students.  Last week it seemed as though they were warming up to us and the idea of their acting in a play as a whole, which is something I can absolutely appreciate.

I feel like our ability to effectively and comfortably communicate with our students saw a huge improvement between the first and second weeks.  It became immediately apparent that we would not be teaching the students Macbeth.  Instead, we’d be teaching them a really interesting tale about greed that is filled with “magic,” British royalty and action.  What I mean is that we’ve realized how important it is going to be to frame everything we do in a way that we think will interest or excite out students.

This week we added another very enthusiastic student, though we are waiting for a few more.  We’ve sort of rewarded those who have been committed from the beginning with the opportunity to choose roles before the others.  Framing the roles in a fun and interesting way is as important as our framing of the action in the story.  More than being interested with the plot and themes of the entire play, the students really only need to be interested in the role they are playing.  It seems as though they started to recognize this as a possible opportunity for expression and some freedom and they are growing more excited.  I am looking forward to what this upcoming week, and our newly added students, will have in store.

Week one at St. Joseph’s Villa basically entailed everything we had expected.  First we arrived at St. Joseph’s Villa to meet Timone, a familiar face who had given us a tour of the campus a week prior.  Timone let us know that we’d be meeting a few participants for the first time.  He also mentioned that though we’d only be meeting three last Thursday, that more would be jumping on board and there was the potential for ten participants.

After meeting up with Timone we made our way over to the Chapel, outside of which we met our first three participants.  Though the conversation was a little scarce at first, our group soon fell into comfort and began to make conversation with the three young men we had just met.  After a little getting to know one another, we moved into the plot of the play and finally, a little bit of casting. One of the young men took a liking to the evil side of things, sending him in the direction of the witches, while others wanted to be more benevolent characters such as Banquo.  Hopefully next week we’ll get the chance to meet some new participants and hopefully move forward with the casting!