It is with great sadness that I write this final blog post because I really do feel bad for our children and all the children that wanted to act this evening. I am disappointed that we will not be able to see all of the parts of the play come together. I am also sad that last night was our last volunteering session and we left the children so excited for tonight.
With that being said, I think tonight would have been a great experience. Based of off last night’s rehearsal, a few of our children were really acting out their lines. Our Macbeth and Banquo actually entered the scene pretending they were on horseback, without us even asking. I think it would have been adorable to see those two actors build off of each other and use their British accents to entertain us all. One thing that was a concern last night and would have been a minor problem today was that one of the children told us that our Lady Macbeth would not be returning to Higher Achievement. We were sad to hear that news, but I am sure that another young lady would’ve stepped up today. One thing that still needed a little work after last night’s performance, which we had hoped to improve today in the final production, was our transition between scenes. It was a bit difficult to get the children to pay attention to exactly when they should enter and exit the scene. I think with a little more practice and nerves this evening they would have nailed it.
It is sad to think about how we will not be seeing our little actors again. It makes me especially sad because it seems like they were finally starting to really appreciate the material and they were having fun! The first few practices were like pulling teeth to get the children to read lines, but last night, as I imagine tonight would have gone, children were laughing and acting out their lines. We were also laughing with them. It was nice to see the culmination of our hard work in our mini-dress rehearsal last night and I know that tonight would have been even more fulfilling. I am glad that I was able to have an impact on children who are at a vulnerable time in their lives. We were able to help them learn how to read Shakespeare! That is a huge feat for a 5th grader. Even though the show did not go on tonight, we still made a positive impact on these children’s lives and I am so thankful for that. Some children even asked if we were coming back next semester to be mentors and I think that says it all. I know we enjoyed teaching them and they enjoyed learning something that was entirely unfamiliar to them. This was a valuable experience and it was great to get to know children in the Richmond area and it was even better watching them grow throughout the semester.
I hope that everyone has a wonderful winter break!
We did a mini dress rehearsal today with our kids and it went very smoothly. In the beginning we sat them all down in the “audience” section that we made in the classroom and explained to them that we needed them all to pay attention and be quiet while their fellow actors were acting. We then took the actors behind a whiteboard prior to each scene they were in so it could seem like they were entering onto the “stage”. We also enticed those who were not acting in those particular scenes to be a quiet part of the audience and if they were they would receive candy at the end of rehearsal. This enticement really worked. Our children were quiet and respectful. Some even expressed how they would like more lines and more parts tomorrow if some of their classmates do not show up!
I think overall it was a great last rehearsal. We used props and many of our students seemed excited about the show tomorrow. Even girls who we had trouble with in the past seemed excited because these girls had said how they didn’t want to go or how they thought it was a waste of time, but tonight they were asking for more lines and making sure that they were good to go for tomorrow night. Many students said how their family members were going to come and that their teachers were coming as well. I think we are going to have a good group tomorrow with a great audience. I am excited to see how it turns out!
Break a leg everyone!
We jumped right into rehearsing this week because the kids were starting to get apprehensive that the show was in just one week! Luckily, we have one more rehearsal the day before the show and we plan like running that as it is a dress rehearsal. We tried to do that at this rehearsal, but it was hard to keep everyone focusing on who was acting, especially when it was like only Macbeth and Lady Macbeth acting out their lines. I think that next time we will all sit on the ground together in a wide open space and literally run our part of the play.
As far as our rehearsal went, the children are really starting the grasp their lines. We have 2 or 3 girls who still give us attitude and we have to repeatedly ask them to keep standing and not sit down while they are in a scene and others are talking. As far as we know, we will only be missing one girl for the final performance. Also, today we brought the cauldron and witch props to rehearsal and that really got the children excited because I do not think they realized that they would have a few props.
At the end of the rehearsal, we asked if any of the students had questions about the performance next week and they had a ton. For example the questions were as follows; Will the bus be picking us up at our school? Can our parents come? Will you be providing clothing? Should we dress up? How big will the audience be? How long will the show be? We answered all of these questions to the best of our abilities, but I think at our last rehearsal we need to allow time for any additional last minute questions or concerns from the children.
We are excited for next Friday!
Unfortunately our rehearsal was cancelled this week because the Higher Achievement site was having a Thanksgiving celebration. However, with this cancellation it quickly made me realize that we only have two more rehearsals with our children and we have a ton of work to do! We have finally nailed down a script that should keep us within our time constraints. We found it most helpful to limit the longer parts for the children because that is where even our best readers were really struggling. So for a rule of thumb we made no one’s lines at a given time longer than 5 lines unless it was crucial to the plot.
With not having rehearsal this week, it also made me realize that we really need to start getting the children to act with some props. I think that they will not only enjoy that practice, but that it will be beneficial for the show. I know that our witches are excited to have hats and be working with a cauldron. In a previous rehearsal me and the 6 witches rehearsed Act 1 Scene 1 around a round table and we acted out throwing stuff onto the round table as if it were a cauldron, but I think they would really love to actually do it. I am hoping for next rehearsal that we can bring a few props, but that it won’t be too distracting for them.
Our kids have been doing really well with their lines and we are lucky to have students that have been consistently showing up. We only know of one girl so far that cannot make the show. She has had a small part from the beginning of casting so that will not serve as a challenge come show day. Our time with the children has gone so fast, but I think our final 2 rehearsals will even more enjoyable once we see the kids really get into their lines. I can’t wait to see them perform at the final show!
Tonight was another great rehearsal night! We decided to start off with the fan favorite bull frog game. Our children always seem to love that game because it is mindless and silly. After our brief came we dove right into the script. Our goal today was to get the children standing up and actually acting out their parts instead of reading in a circle with monotone voices.
We split up into groups based on the scene we were acting out, which I think worked really well, but I was also in charge of the smaller groups that only had 5-6 actors. I went over the first scene with all 6 of our witches and they were absolutely loving it. They enjoyed acting how they would throw things into the cauldron and they also liked practicing their entrances to the lightning and thunder noises. We went over Act I Scene I quite a few times and we practiced our best witch voices. I found that my group responded better when I joined them in the acting. After this, we broke up into different groups in order to practice other scenes. I was given a new group to practice Act I Scene II. This group was a little harder to herd together, but we got on a role eventually. I think the hardest part of having everyone standing up and acting is that those without lines or with few lines are either distracting other actors or not paying attention. I think for next class in order to minimize that problem I think we might have to emphasize respect and listening to your classmates. We just have a few girls who think they are “too good” to listen to their classmates so that makes it difficult at times, but those girls are better when they are broken out of their cliques.
We had a great rehearsal today! We started off with playing charades where we let the children choose what categories of things they were going to act out. I think that went over really well and it was a game that directly related to them acting. We have a few children in our group who are very against participating and acting in front of their peers, but we did our best to make them contribute in some sense.
After our game of charades, we handed out the revised script. We found during our last rehearsal that our part was entirely too long because we have a few children who struggled to read the longer parts. Our new version of our part is a much smoother read and I think the kept the children more interested. We read in a big group again, but we emphasized that when they had a part to speak that they must stand up and act out their lines. I would say that 3 of our 11 participants today actually acted the lines, but that is a good start. I was glad to see every child standing and reading their lines loudly, that is a good first step. We adding 3 witches to our scenes so now our witch count is up to 6 because pretty much every girl wanted to be a witch.We did have an interesting interaction between our stellar Macbeth and our Lady Macbeth. Our child who plays Macbeth did not want to say, “My dearest love” to our Lady Macbeth, everyone giggled and our Macbeth seemed somewhat embarrassed. We did not end up making him read that line because it was not essential to the plot of the play, but we did see how immature our group was. I am hoping that by the end of our time that our Macbeth will not think that that line is such a big deal. Finally, our Macbeth and Banquo are super into it and they really gain momentum off of each other with British accents and all. I really hope they end up making it to the performance.
Today went so well! We started off with a new improvisation game called Space Jump. The kids absolutely loved it. I would highly recommend it for any of the kids groups that you volunteer with! The point of the game is to get all of the kids to think of how they would act in certain scenarios on the fly. The way it works is that one kid goes into the middle of the circle and you give them a scenario like “you are on a farm”. Then, that one kid must act however they want that has to do with a farm. In our farm scenario, our first actor acting as one of the farm animals. Then we yell “Space Jump” for the actor in the middle to freeze and we add another actor to the mix and now they must both interact with each other in the same farm scenario. You do this up to 4 actors in the middle. We did a farm scenario, beach scenario, and a few others.
After this we gave all of the kids their parts, which went much smoother than I thought. Every kid seemed like they were happy with their parts. We do have 6 witches since we have many girls who wanted to do evil witch cackling, but it worked well since we just double upped for each witch. Our kid who was cast as Macbeth is actually so perfect for the part! He was talking in a British accent from the start and it was absolutely great! He was so into it. All of the kids even thought he was really good at reading his lines from the start. The rest of the kids are going to take a little coaching in order to act their lines instead of just read them. I think it will be a challenge, but I think next week we will really emphasize acting out the lines instead of just reading them. It was a great read-through working as an entire group with their assigned parts.
We also noticed that our script needs to be cut a lot still because we do have some slow readers. This shouldn’t be a problem, but I do want to keep some of the longer parts because those kids do enjoy them. Next week we will hopefully do more acting! (and maybe we will all be witches in celebration of Halloween!)
Tonight was successful, we got through more of the script, but I am a bit concerned that we need to cut more of our script. We broke up into the same small groups, which was nice because I’m finally getting to know the kids and how well they read. I did have one girl in my group who was super enthusiastic, but unfortunately she was struggling to read. She really wants a big part, but I think she will be happy with one of the witches part.
After finishing the first read-through I had my group of students tell me what parts they would prefer. Two of my children really wanted big parts and they were already acting the lines during the read through. I think they will make a great Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. In addition to that, they both also want to be witches. It is clear that the witch parts are the most popular, so I think that we are going to have many witches. I had my students give me their best witch impression again and they really love that. Both girls and boys really love those parts.
Finally, I think for the next week we will tentatively make our cast list. We are not going to do that with the kids. We are going to come to the next session with the list so that it is calm and that kids will not be fighting over parts. All in all, they were really well-behaved, which makes it very easy to teach them. The only tough times we have are when the kids first get into the room they are very restless, but it is getting much better since then, now that they know us and they know they have fun.
Today went very well! We had a few newcomers this week so our number went up from 15 students to about 18. We started off with the Bull Frog game, which was an instant success. The kids loved to act their death and it was quite comical to watch for sure. I think it worked well to do that game in the beginning because when we get the children they seem very wound up.
For the second half of our time, we started to read through the script in small groups. We broke up into groups of 4-6 students and did popcorn reading by switching every time a new character talks. In my group, there were 3 students who instantly acted out the lines when they read them. We definitely have some very enthusiastic witches in the making! The one other child in my group struggled to read, let alone read Shakespeare. I did my best to help her sound out the more difficult words, but she made it clear to me that she did not want to read in front of people. I did find though that she enjoyed that the rest of the group was very loud and acting out their parts. She was laughing and enjoying the read-along so I was happy to see that she was not totally discouraged. Also, while I was going through my script with the children I would stop them and have them try to explain to me what was going on in the play. I think we need to do that a little more as a whole group so that they understand how to act out those lines. There were a few times where my children were very close to the plot points and other times where they were way off or did not understand. The more we stop and study the more they will understand I hope.
After we read through the first 3 scenes of our part, I noticed that the students were starting to get tired so we went back to Act I Scene 1 and had each of them read the first two lines of the First Witch and I told them to give me their best witch impression of those lines. They went on to come up with 3 or 4 different kinds of witches they could be; old lady who sick and talking to their grandkids, a young witch with a screechy voice, a young with with a soft creepy voice, etc. It was really cool to see them act out just two lines because they were really creative. I think it is important to have them act out small parts while reading through the script for the first time so that they remember that this about acting as well as about reading.
We weren’t exactly sure what to expect when we walked into Boushall Middle School, but we were quickly greeted by the Higher Achievement folks. They certainly have a ton of kids on their hands. We arrived prior to the kids, but as soon as our group arrived we branched off from the larger Higher Achievement group. We were given a large art room with plenty of tables and room to move around, which will come in handy later in the semester.
We started off by going through the kids names by playing the name game where you have to say an adjective with your name that starts with the same letter as your name. This was a bit difficult for the kids to pay attention to since there were 17 of us trying to listen. That number includes us 3 mentors. The kids were a bit restless from this icebreaker so we moved onto a game called lumberjack where kids act as trees and the others act like lumberjacks by chopping down the trees. This game served its purpose of getting the kids up off of their feet, but I didn’t think the kids could be occupied by it for long.
The best part of our first session was when we decided to divide our group into three smaller groups to watch the Macbeth cartoon and discuss the big plot points of the play and of our particular part. My small group consisted of three girls who were on the more quiet side and one boy. They were silent while watching the video and they comprehended much more than I thought they would’ve. I asked them a few questions like, “Who is the main character?”, “What do the witches tell Macbeth?”, “What does Lady Macbeth do to Macbeth?”, etc. They were able to answer each question! I thought that working in smaller groups was much easier for our purposes of learning the basics of the play. I even had 3 of my 4 kids volunteer to have main character roles. The other child wanted to be a witch. After this, they asked me to read through Act I Scene 1 of the play, which they sat quietly and seemed to enjoy.
All in all, I think that in the future we will do things in small groups when we want the children to understand the lines in which they are reading. I think this attention helps those in our group who are more quiet, but do want parts in the play.