It seems like every week of success is followed by a week of regression. I blame a lot of the difficulties to the change of setting. We were moved to a small, smelly, classroom that was clearly lacking on room for the kids to move around. From the get-go, they were distracted and it took them about 15 minutes to even start the Act. Every time one of the kids began their lines, they were immediately interrupted by other kids. Nia was particularly distracting this week…but she was certainly not the only one responsible for our trouble. I was attempting to help them with their acting but the constant disruptions were aggravating and I started to give up. We did all we could to finish the Act, let them run off, and left.

I’m begging next week will be back in a conducive room for our purposes but I doubt it. One can only hope that the kids are in a decent mood to actually work with us all. This week was very tiring…next week has got to be better as we are almost at showtime.

We’re getting closer! Unlike our last effort in bringing them all together, the kids were willing to run through the whole Act together! All of the kids were present (physically and mentally) and seemed engaged with their words. It’s exciting to see the progress they have made since our first couple weeks. Kniko, a regular troublemaker, was very active this week and promised us he would be coming to the show. After a couple weeks of hearing them tell us how they’re not coming, it was nice to hear that from the “ringleader.”

I really think the kids are starting to respect us because whenever they strayed away from the task, they responded to us when we told them to focus. When I leave all the boys come over to give me high fives and handshakes. I think they like seeing us every week and they’ve definitely grown on me too. As nice and respectful as they have been to us, they were relentless with the program director this week. It is nice to no longer be on the receiving end of that criticism. Lastly, two or three relationships have formed between the kids because of this group. It is quite funny to see myself as a matchmaker!

After last week’s speed bump, Lydia and I decided to break them up into two groups again. Once again, I took the Fairies and Lydia took the Athenians. My group had great success! I was focusing a lot on blocking and acting rather than just reading through. Oberon and Puck responded very well to this and, because they are friends, acting together with excitement. They were certainly distracted but when I encouraged them to read their lines, they did. Puck had clearly picked up the Shakespearean English after reading through it multiple times and was helping the others with their words. It’s very rewarding to see the kids step up and read/act their lines.

Lydia’s group did not have as much success…Iyonna (Hermia) was in a terrible mood that distracted everyone from achieving their goals. The brothers who play Demetrius and Lysander seemed excited to work on their parts, but were held back by Iyonna. I’m sure she’ll be ready to go next week because she is our best actress and reader. It’s interesting to see how she has developed into a leader of the kids based on her acting/reading abilities. We’ll see how next goes…

After last week’s success, Lydia and I decided the kids were ready to come together and begin acting out the Act. Well, that wasn’t quite what happened. When they are all together, they are very distracted and loud to the point that Lydia and I cannot achieve much. That being said, we successfully did our first run through and some of the boys that didn’t read at all in the first two weeks were reading large roles! I am  confident in the Athenian’s acting, but I am a little nervous about Oberon and Puck. Our Oberon frequently says how he isn’t going to come to the show and barely cooperates (even though he did a great job last week). Our Puck hasn’t shown up in two weeks…

I think we are going to separate the kids between the Athenians and the Fairies again this week so we can go over lines more and begin blocking and actual acting. Hopefully in doing so we will be able to run through the script twice before going to play basketball. As far as my personal relationship is concerned, I can tell boys look up to me, even if they won’t admit it. They love playing sports with me after our read through and they respond to my “demands” significantly more so than the first few weeks. I am hoping to leverage this trust to get them to actually begin to act, rather than just read.

This week was nearly perfection! We finally had a breakthrough with the kids because they came ready and excited to read through their roles. They also seemed very happy to see us, which was crucial for the relationship I have been trying to build with them. A lot of the success during read-throughs was as a result of us splitting the group in two, Athenians and Fairies. I worked with the fairies and was happy to see them succeed with reading and ask questions where they were needed. I was even able to describe what was going on in certain scenes without any disruption. We completed the read-through in under 30 minutes!

Lydia and I continued our reward leadership style from last week and let them all play outside for the next 30 minutes. I played football and frisbee with the boys and they loved running around with me. I keep coming back to the development of this relationship because I think that is the most significant part of this work. As significant as the actual play is, these kids want to be with someone who cares about them and has fun with them. This week was extremely encouraging for our long term success. I’m looking forward to the next meeting.

 

Oh my goodness this week was smoother. After last week I came to Youth Life dejected and apprehensive, but thankfully that was all quelled…for now. I think a large part of this was assigning roles to each of the kids. They seemed excited to be able to call a character their own and really start to embody their role. I am confident they will fall in love with their characters as time goes by. The process by which Lydia and I assigned roles was based on reading levels, but also working hard to keep the siblings out of the Athenian roles. All of the girls accepted their roles without any challenge, but it was rather hard to assign fairy roles to the boys. I had to speak with one boy, in particular, to encourage him that Oberon and Puck were strong men and not, as he called it, “Tinkerbells.” I even went so far as to show him a google image of Oberon from the movie we saw for class.

I think another one of our successes this week was bribing the kids with free time if they finish the reading early enough. In addition to running through the script quickly for the purpose of getting to free time quickly, the kids even quieted each other. After getting through the script, we took them into the playroom and I played basketball with the guys. This week was important for developing a relationship with the boys so they will trust me when I tell them to read the script in a certain, maybe embarrassing, manner.

This week was very rough for Lydia and I. It was the first time we attempted to have the kids read through the script and we figured it would take an hour or less to do so…we were wrong. The kids were in complete chaos with the addition of a couple more students. They were unable and unwilling to read the Shakespearean English, they showed us no respect, and there was even a fight that nearly broke out between two individuals. We did our best to show support when they struggled and gave up, but it was clear the boys, in particular, had no desire to read. On the other hand, the girls were able to read the language better than the boys.

As rough as this week was, there were a few positives. While I was outside the classroom cooling down a fight, I heard one of the girls yelling the Fairy song with a great deal of drama and excitement. I can certainly see the potential to be successful, especially with the girls, but it will depend on their focus. As a result, Lydia and I have decided to cut the script significantly. Hopefully in doing so the kids will maintain their focus long enough to get through the reading in a capable manner.

Lydia and I have decided to meet up and start brainstorming various styles of leadership that may be more successful in these circumstances. I hope next week we will have more control over the kids.

This past Thursday Lydia and I met with our group and advisor, Corinne. We began the rehearsal with general introductions so Lydia and I could get to know who these kids were and what their interests are. There were 7 kids present out of the total 10 and they all knew each other very well. Considering their age group (11-13), it was clear that they would challenge us with sass and disrespect but I am confident in my abilities to keep them on task. This isn’t to say they aren’t very excited to put on a play — they were already trying to cast themselves!

Another accomplishment from this past week was describing the very confusing plot summary of Midsummer Night’s Dream. Lydia and I harped on the four Athenians and their twisting relationships, as that is the main premise of our Act (II). The girls were very excited at the idea of a love story…the guys not so much. They were careful to maintain a macho attitude by holding a football and talking about their girlfriends from this past summer. That being said, I am sure they will be happy to tap into the personalities of the characters.

Finally, we played an improv game of charades which was very difficult as the boys only wanted to make football references.

Overall, I may be overly optimistic about the abilities of my group but I am looking forward to getting to know each of them better and reading through the Act our next time there.

 

This past week my partner, Lydia, and I worked on cutting Act II of Midsummer Night’s Dream for the purpose of making the act quicker and more readable for the children of the Youth Life program. We are looking forward to meeting the kids and getting to know their personalities a bit before casting them in their respective roles. Hopefully we will have approximately 8 kids because there are 8 actors within our act, but if we have more than we can always cast them as fairies.

 

The premise of our act is based around the love flower and the trick that Oberon and Puck play on Titania and the Athenian youths. I’m specifically looking forward to seeing how excited the kids may be to jump into their roles. Also, I’m interested to see how well the kids will grasp the various themes.