The day of the performance was exhausting all the while amazing to see our work and our student’s work finally paying off. My group was the first act on stage and our students definitely got a case of the pre performance jitters. We had no idea which students were going to actually show up, but we were delighted to have Amanti, Conald, Shania, Aiyonna, and Jamiriah. Conald and Amanti have been our shining stars from the beginning of this all, they were always so attentive and eager to learn, and in turn they each played about three parts. They both got excited for the stage makeup and the three girls enjoyed all of the fun props.To our extreme surprise when Jamiriah arrived she announced to us that she finally wanted a huge part and in fact she wanted to play Viola. She was not even bothered by the fact that she would have to play a boy, she was excited. The smile on her face was all the confirmation I needed to know she was really ready for this! We went over her new lines and whenever she got stuck on a word we would try to help her but in the end I told her if she got stuck and scared she could always skip over a word because in the grand scheme of things no one would notice or care. After telling her this tie bit she seem relieved and I saw her posture relax a bit. I just wanted her to have fun out there and to feel like a success. She told me afterwards that she was really happy she stepped up to the plate, and she said talking to Olivia(Shania), was so easy because it felt like a regular conversation between the two of them. After some slight costume mishaps and a frazzled Amanti, I think the kids were super excited to take their final bows and to look out at the tons of audience members who came to see them. I wish we had put them on the steps closer to the audience because I do realize that they must have been very hard to hear. We encouraged them to project their voices, but in the end I do not think any of them felt comfortable being loud. I was hoping Jacob’s confidence on stage would rub off on them! The other acts were fun to watch, each group had a completely different set of kids that came with a different set of challenges, but it was so cool to watch all of my classmates interact with their own students. I felt that everyone had strong connections with their students and it really paid off when we successfully put on a production of Twelfth Night! In the end I do not care what went wrong because I am just so proud of each and every one of them, it has been so challenging and rewarding to be one of their directors. I am going to miss their sweet faces every Thursday, who knows maybe I will go back to Henderson for my Justice hours next semester!

Final Rehearsal!

It was an exciting and stressful afternoon during the last week of classes, but going to Henderson was an amazing break that seems to exhaust me and recharge me all at once. The start of rehearsal was rough, some of the girls lied to us and said they had to go to a cooking class and there was no cooking class so I had to track them down and bring them to the music room. Then when we asked who was coming tomorrow almost all of them said no which was great. On the bright side some of the kids, for example Conald, are just so talented and engaged. They need no direction and they just understand the weird ways in which Shakespeare wrote. Other struggle to get through their lines still such as Tyvell, but he makes such a valiant effort, he was also so excited to be dressed in his cape and crown today while rehearsing. While we couldn’t get the kids to use their bodies with the lines they were speaking, we did get them on their feet finally and directed at the person to whom they are speaking with. We got through the entire act once and it went really well. I still do not know who we will have tomorrow but I think I may have bribed one more person with the promise of food.

Last week we were unable to have a normal rehearsal since Henderson had a special Thanksgiving Potluck dinner and this week is Thanksgiving Break. My group has been using this time to brainstorm on our final paper. I am excited to finally get back to the group and run through the act with actions, props, and full character(meaning accents and whatever else they think their character needs).

On Thursday evening Page and I went to Henderson, the kids were once again on a sugar high. They were upset that we did not bring any treats for them but we explained that we also came from a full day of classes and did not have time to make something, which they seemed to understand better. We started with the “whats the word” game and each actor was able to state one word which was written on the board by a student and they formed a story sentence by sentence.The students got really invested in this game and enjoyed making silly sentences and including people in their group. We decided to give them the topic of acting for one round and they even incorporated Shakespeare into their story! Afterwards we wanted to get them acting or at least moving around on the stage. We began playing a game called Mr. Fox, to relate it to the play we made them ask Mr. Fox questions using different voices depending on the emotion/feeling we told them to convey. They even attempted british accents which was quite entertaining. They began to analyze the characters in the play and we asked them how each person would speak based on what we know about them. For example we would say, “Viola has just arrived on land for the first time in days, how do you think she feels in this moment? How would she sound?”. The kids responded well to this and even got engaged in the character analysis, they also loved the moving around part, so I definitely recommend using movement to run through lines with the kids to get them more involved. The rehearsal flew by and the kids were barely ready to go, Page and I both agreed we have never seen them smile and laugh this much and it made our day.

Henderson was on a sugar high this week. We had to raise our voices a few times when some of the 7th grade girls decided it would be funny to tip over each others chairs. It took longer than usual to get them to quiet down and the girls also did not want to play the games such as where the wind blows. I was very frustrated because usually the older girls in the group are leaders, but last week I was thankful for our precious and well-behaved 5th grade boys.The boys are the ones on good behavior, they read lines when we ask them too and they are even getting excited about staging and costumes. The group complained about needing more snacks so Page and I will be working on that for next week! Once we sat them down they finally went through the lines and Tiffany agreed to read for Viola, which was a huge success. I told her that she can even keep her crown on while she is Cesario if it makes her feel better, which she agreed with. The rest of the rehearsal proceeded as usual and we talked more about the show date and what it will entail. Before we knew it rehearsal was over and the kids ran back to the cafeteria for their closing activity.

Im back! This past thursday was extremely hard for me, I had just started coming down with what I would discover to be Strep and I was exhausted. However I was excited to go see our kids at Henderson, they truly have become a bright spot in my weekly routine. I felt that I could not miss this considering how little time we have left with them. I was so happy to get to work one on one with two of our leads, I was even able to convince our Feste to also take on the role of Sir Toby! Once he read through his lines and felt more confident he agreed with me that he could handle more, he even asked me if he could take his script home with him! I was so excited, a few other leads asked to take theirs home to practice too. At one point they looked at me frustrated and asked, “why does he talk like this” referring to Shakespeare, to which i replied, he just had to do this in his time period and it was how he mocked society. When I explained this the kids nodded and kept reading, I explained to them that I also get annoyed with this speech and its confusing nature but we just have to learn it! They read through the entire script pretty quickly this time and i was so pleased with them. Then Maren brought Halloween candy for them and we waited until the end to let them “Trick or Treat”. The kids had so much fun running around the room from me, to Page, to Maren, and back again! They definitely got too much sugar but luckily we did not have to deal with them and their sugar highs. I am excited to go back and watch their progress since they have taken their scripts home.


The past two weeks at Henderson have been hectic and fun. We finally started the reading process of the script. Although new people have been trickling in almost every time, we have easily rolled with all the punches that have been thrown at us. Viola and Olivia have changed each week since the people we casted in those positions have not been here the past two weeks. I was really happy to see the disinterested kids crack smiles as we started with some fun theater games. The more time I spend with certain kids the more excited I am to go back every week. Hearing them all attempt and succeed to read the complicated language of Shakespeare was very satisfying. It is so cool to watch them progress and even laugh at the ‘funny words’ Shakespeare uses. Last week we had a few new members who even recognized the plot because they had seen She’s The Man. It was awesome to see their faces light up with recognition. We got through the entire script once in two weeks which was a huge accomplishment for my group. Then we had each student give us ideas for the prop list and let us know what they want to see in the play. It was nice because some of the students who do not love acting got excited about the props and costumes. Some of the students are struggling with reading and some of them are super accelerated. Each time I have to explain the love triangle over and over again, which I actually enjoy because once it is fully drawn the kids all gasp at how complex this situation is. Though some people were not excited to come this past week, by the end of the hour everyone left promising to be back next week!

Sarah Jacobson

Unfortunately I was unable to go to Henderson this past time because of my fall break flight, however I heard from Maren that the kids had a positive reaction to changing spaces. We needed this change because in the main room the noise reverberates all over and it was hard to say things and have the kids listen. I drew a love triangle last time and Maren said this strategy helped the kids a lot so we will continue to draw plot points that are more difficult to understand. The kids are mostly excited about having parts in the play. I am excited to go back and see them this week, as I am also thinking about my paper on twelfth night, I am realizing new things to go over with the kids and other ways to explain plot points.


A few days ago my group and I went to Henderson. I had never seen a Higher  Achievement program firsthand so it was cool to see how they run the program. I immediately recognized some richmond students who walked in late and they were mentors for the students. While we took a group of about 12 students (with one exit and one late addition), the rest of the students worked on other specialized projects or had small mentoring groups. There were quite a few adults who also came to help and mentor, I thought the mix of college students and older adults was very cool.

We started our session by telling the kids our names and then we quickly transitioned into a fun Hop game in which I asked them questions and if they agreed they jumped towards me and if they disagreed they stayed in place. The kids got pretty riled up by this activity but it was fun to see them get excited and smile.

Next we sat in a circle, which some kids did not enjoy because apparently the floor is gross, and we had each kid tell us their name, grade, animal, and favorite ice cream flavor. It was a nice ice breaker and they seemed to  enjoy having a chance to speak to us.

We then played a charade game in which you are assigned an animal and you must act out that animal and find your partner without making a noise. They enjoyed this activity so much that we played it two more times.

We sat back down at the table and passed out scripts while Maren explained who Shakespeare was and why he is a cool guy. The plot was challenging to explain to a bunch of middle schoolers. I ended up drawing  a love triangle chart so they could visually see the craziness that takes place in Twelfth Night. A few kids seemed super excited about having big parts which was encouraging to see. Next time Maren will go alone since Page and I had already booked flights home. But I cannot wait to return and work with them.


Our initial experiences with Act 1 have been challenging, particularly because in Twelfth Night Act 1 is the longest act in the entire play. Not only do a lot of things happen during this act, but also many people have long conversations. We initially cut the script down a lot but when we timed it realized that it was still verging on 15 minutes without actions added in. We are currently cutting it down even more and removing a semi-inappropriate scene between Sir Andrew and Olivia’s maid. I think our biggest challenge will be explaining this script to the kids in a way that engages and excites them. We have planned our first improvisation game and how we are going to show the kids how silly we are and that it is ok to be silly. Hopefully we can break down the barriers between everyone and create the safe space we want to provide them.We are excited to meet them and to show them that anyone can be successful with Shakespeare.

Sarah Jacobson