I was extremely content with the way our production of The Tempest went. I will admit that- at first- Bliss and I were a little bit stressed when we found out that Aaron (our Prospero), Lauren (our Ariel) and a few other students in our cast would not be performing. However, having people in our class fill in for some of the missing performers was extremely helpful, and Bliss and I were also lucky that one student in our cast (Neveah) volunteered to take on the role of Prospero last minute.

For the most part, the students were highly cooperative- they agreed to run through both acts once before the show and followed along in the script during the actual show, keeping track of when they were supposed to enter and exit scenes. The only minor incident that occurred was when the student playing Prospero left to use the bathroom towards the end of Act IV. However, thankfully, another student in the cast came to the rescue and filled in for her, and then the two smoothly transitioned back into their original roles at the beginning of Act V.

The students seemed to have a fun time with the production, and many utilized the costumes, props and makeup we provided them. I feel as though the production ran extremely smoothly, and I honestly couldn’t ask for it to have gone any better.

This week, Bliss and I led our final rehearsal at St. Joseph’s Villa. This rehearsal ended up being our best rehearsal yet, as the students were the most engaged they had ever been, and many of them seemed very excited for the show. At first, Bliss and I were slightly concerned, as when we arrived at the Villa Timone alerted us that we would not be able to practice in our usual rehearsal space, which is the chapel where the final production will take place. However, practicing in the smaller room ended up being better than practicing in the chapel, as the students were a lot more focused practicing in the smaller space. Luckily, all but three students were in attendance at this rehearsal, which also contributed to things running so smoothly.

Bliss and I started off the rehearsal by announcing the final cast list, and giving each student the props and costumes that went with their character(s) once their role(s) were announced. I think this helped get the students engaged in the rehearsal right from the start, as the students were excited to receive the props and costumes. After Bliss and I announced the final cast list and gave out the props and costumes to students, we played the question game, which seems to be the students favorite game. The students had a fun time playing this game, and almost everyone went up to play at some point. We ended the rehearsal by reading through Act V (this was our first time reading through this act). At first, Bliss and I tried to assign the students blocking, but as the readthrough went on we realized that the students weren’t really paying attention to the blocking and were starting to lose focus, so we stopped assigning blocking.

One thing Bliss and I noted during the read through was that Prospero has way too many lines, so when we went through the script to edit it one last time we cut about two pages of his lines. Overall, Bliss and I are feeling good for the production, and- as long as we get a pretty good student turn out- feel as though it could turn out pretty well.

This past week, Timone cancelled our rehearsal last minute as he was unable to attend and could not get someone to cover for him in time. While Bliss and I were disappointed that rehearsal was cancelled, we were also somewhat relieved, as rehearsals have become increasingly stressful due to lack of student interest and stage fright. At our rehearsal, Bliss and I had planned to review the revised cast list, and to conduct our first full read-through of The Tempest.

As of now we have only conducted a full read-through of Act IV, and have yet to read through Act V. As we only have one rehearsal left before the show, the students will pretty much be conducting a cold reading of the script the night of the show.

Next rehearsal, Bliss and I plan to review the revised cast list, conduct a full read-through of Acts IV and V, discuss blocking, and to review the different characters and the plot of The Tempest. Bliss and I will also be bringing props and costumes, and we will be incorporating the latter into the read through.

As the show approaches, I am nervous that very few students will attend/ go through with playing their roles during the show. However, the show must go on, and Bliss and I will do everything in our power to make do with whatever conditions present themselves the night of the show.

The final night of my Disney trip happened to align with the 20th-anniversary performance of Fantasmic. My friend and I attended this performance but had no idea at the time that it was the 20th-anniversary performance. We did, however, pick up on the fact that the overall vibe seemed to be very different from the past times we’ve seen the show, and that more people were in attendance than usual.

Once the show began (while neither of us could put our finger on exactly why) both my friend and I could tell that the show felt very different from the previous performances we had seen. For example, during the show, everyone around us was absolutely silent and fully engaged in every number, which is not usually the case for Fantasmic. After the show, we both noted that the show seemed even better than it has been the past few times we had seen it, and wondered if perhaps Disney had made recent changes to it.

A few hours after the show, I saw a post on the Disney Instagram that stated how the 20th-anniversary performance of Fantasmic had occurred earlier that night. I immediately showed the post to my friend, who responded “that makes so much sense!” I found this to be interesting, as we had both been able to detect that there was something different about this specific viewing of the show solely based on the audience’s reaction to the show that night.

When I was at Disney over fall break, I attended one of the Halloween parties. At the Halloween parties there is a parade called the Boo-To-You parade. This parade is one of the biggest things that draws people to Disney’s Halloween parties, and happens twice throughout each party. Both my friend and I love the Boo-To-You parade, so we planned our party night out so that we could see the parade twice. The first Boo-To-You parade occurs midway through the party (around 9 pm), and the second Boo-To-You parade occurs at the end of the party (right before midnight). Because the Halloween party goes so late, a lot of parents who have younger children leave after the first parade. As a result, the first parade tends to have a much younger audience than the second parade.

Thus, when watching the parade the first time my friend and I found ourselves surrounded by a very young audience- in fact- the people surrounding us predominantly consisted of parents and toddlers. As anticipated, the toddlers LOVED the parade- they would shout the names of the characters and try to high-five them as they passed by, and were singing along to the music the entire time. Overall, the excitement the younger audience had for the parade combined with the fact that I had not seen this parade since I was seven years old made the experience fun, uplifting, and nostalgic for me.

However, my friend and I had a much different (and slightly less positive) experience at the second parade. At the second parade, my friend and I were surrounded by older teenagers and college students. A lot of the older teenagers who were near us were heckling some of the characters, and others were complaining that certain sections of the parade “weren’t scary enough.” Of course, other factors likely contributed towards my experience being slightly more positive at the first parade than at the second parade besides the audience. For example, the first parade occurred earlier in the night when I was less tired, and I was more excited for the first parade than for the second one as I hadn’t seen the parade in years so everything was fairly new. However, I would say that- overall- the people I was surrounded by/ the audience did largely contribute to my overall experience at both parades.

When I was at Disney over fall break, I attended the Frozen Sing-Along. I had never been to this sing-along before, but had heard really good things about it from people who had been, and was really excited to attend. Unfortunately, the sing-along did not live up to my expectations, and I believe that a large part of this was due to the fact that the audience members were not very responsive to the two actors leading it.

The main gist of the Frozen Sing-Along is that there are two storytellers/ narrators named Eric and Aria who are the “Royal Historians of Arendale” (where the movie Frozen takes place). Eric and Aria recount the history of Arendale, placing an emphasis on the role Anna and Elsa play in the history of Arendale, and singing songs from Frozen along the way.

The audience of the sing-along was pretty diverse, and the age range of the audience members varied. However, no one in the audience (regardless of age) was very responsive to the actors- few people laughed at their jokes, and even fewer people sang along to the songs in the show. By the end of the (hour- long) sing-along show, it was clear that the actors were fairly exhausted, and I felt bad for them as they had little energy coming from the audience to work off of.

On another note, the historical nature of this sing-along actually reminded me a little bit of the song “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” from Hamilton as throughout the retelling of Arendale’s history one of the royal historians (Eric) continuously states incorrect facts about the story of Anna and Elsa. For example, he states that their parents are alive, and includes an “ice monster” (who was not actually present) in the story. The latter is representative of the way facts are left out/ misconstrued throughout history as stories are passed on through the generations.

This week was another slow-moving week when it came to making progress during rehearsal. For the second week in a row, Bliss and I were met with far fewer students than we anticipated due to sickness, dropouts and other issues. Thus, Bliss and I decided that it would be most productive to spend the rehearsal playing improv games with the students.

Overall, the rehearsal ran well. We played a few rounds of improv games we have played in the past such as Zip Zap Zop, Three-Headed Expert, and Freeze, and introduced the students to a new game called Questions Only. In Questions Only, students are given a scene and must portray two characters in the scene. However, the catch is that the two actors in the scene can only ask each other questions. Once someone makes a statement rather than a question, a new round begins, and the actor who made the statement is switched out with a new actor. The students loved this game and got really into it. Additionally, there was one student who has always been really quiet during rehearsals who excelled at this game, which was cool to see.

After rehearsal, I emailed Timone and confirmed which students have left the program and which ones are still participating. Bliss and I reworked the cast list accordingly based on Timone’s response.

Moving forward, I am worried that not many students will show up the day of the show. The students don’t seem very engaged in The Tempest- in fact- only two of them brought their scripts to rehearsal this past week. However, I hope that we can further engage them in the story of The Tempest throughout our final rehearsals leading up to the show.

This week was probably the most challenging week of rehearsals yet. When Bliss and I first arrived at St. Joseph’s Villa, we were notified by Timone (our site supervisor) that Patty (who we had cast as Prospero- or- “Prospera”) is no longer attending St. Joseph’s. Additionally, we were informed that the students we cast as Alonso and the Boatswain have had excessive absences lately and likely will not be present at the production. However, Bliss and I powered through after finding out this information and went ahead with our plan to hand out scripts and conduct a readthrough of the script. During our read through, we encountered further issues, as we discovered that the student we cast as Ferdinand (who has a lot of lines in Act IV) has massive stage fright. The student refused to read his parts, and this caused the readthrough to severely lag (we were only able to get through half of the script). Eventually, Bliss and I assigned a temporary replacement for the role, but it looks like Bliss and I will have to recast this role as well.

One thing that Bliss and I realized during our rehearsal was that we were unsure how to address the role of Stephano (the drunkard) to the students. We decided to describe him as “silly” when reviewing the roles with students, and then emailed Timone after the rehearsal to ask him what he thought we should do/ what would be the most appropriate way to describe this role to students. Timone said that to be on the safe side, we should continue to address the character of Stephano as “silly.” I would be interested to know how other people are explaining the role of Stephano to students, especially given that Bliss and I are paired with the oldest age group.

At the end of the rehearsal, Bliss and I felt very discouraged, and I am now beginning to stress about the production. However, I think I will feel better about things once Bliss and I meet tomorrow to discuss recasting.

At this weeks rehearsal, Bliss and I were slightly slammed. Bliss and I had been hoping that more students would attend this weeks rehearsal than attended the last rehearsal, as we had planned to finish up auditions, finalize the cast list, hand out scripts, and do a full read-through of the play at this weeks rehearsal. However, the second we walked into St. Joseph’s Villa we were greeted at the door by Timone (our site supervisor) who alerted us that there were only 12 students in attendance. Thus, Bliss and I followed the first part of our rehearsal plan (to hold auditions for the students who were not in attendance at the last rehearsal) and then were left to improvise the remainder of the rehearsal. Thankfully, Bliss and I had a few improvisation games up our sleeves.

For the first improv game we played, we went around in a circle and told a story, and each student was required to add a line to the story. Then, we played an improv game called Three Headed Expert. Three Headed Expert involves three participants, who all work together to answer questions related to an obscure field (for example, one of the experts in a round of Three Headed Expert we played was an expert in “dinosaur fashion”). However- unlike in the first game we played- each person can only say one word at a time. In this way, Three-Headed Expert requires that students work together and listen closely to what the student before them has said so that they can build off of what they say and create an interesting and coherent response. Finally, we played a game called Freeze. In this game, two people are in a scene together. Then, someone who is not in the scene says “freeze,” and the actors in the current scene are required to freeze in the positions they’re in. Then, the person who said “freeze” gets to tap one of the actors in the scene out and start a new scene with the remaining actor. The new scene the actor starts must be related to the position the two prior actors were frozen in. For example, there could be a scene where two people are looking up at the sky, notice a UFO, and point up at it, then someone could yell “freeze,” tap one of them out, and turn the upward pointing hand motion into a sports motion, and create a new sports-related scene. Freeze requires that students pay close attention to the scene that is taking place so that they can choose a good spot to pause the scene at. Freeze also involves a lot of creativity and requires a lot of teamwork between the two actors in the scene. Bliss and I feel as though the students enjoyed Freeze the most of the three improv games (likely because it was the most fast-paced of the three).

Next week, Bliss and I will be announcing the cast list to students, handing out scripts, doing a full read-through of the play, and answering any questions the students may have about their characters or the premise of the play. Bliss and I had a fairly easy time casting the show, with the exception of two things. First, we only had 14 students audition for 15 parts. Thus, we did not cast a Sebastian, and figured that we could reserve this role for any new actors who join. Also, Bliss and I were alerted at our rehearsal on Monday that one of the students (Chris) who Bliss and I wanted to cast as Caliban may no longer be a part of the program. Thus, we have sent our finalized cast list to our site supervisor (Timone) so that he can confirm everyone we are giving major parts to is still a part of the program before we announce the cast list at our next rehearsal.

On Monday morning, Timone texted Bliss and me last minute telling us that he was cancelling our rehearsal as he was not going to be able to attend. At first Bliss and I thought we would just reschedule the rehearsal for Friday morning. However, when we suggested this, Timone responded that although he will be at the Villa on Friday morning, he has a group going out to VCU that day. This week, Bliss and I had planned to hold a second round of auditions, as last time we held auditions (which was before Fall Break), we had many people missing and were only able to cast about half the roles (we still need an Antonio, a Gonzalo, a Sebastian, a Ferdinand, and an Alonso).

Thus, I explained just this to Timone, and suggested that (as many students will be away at VCU on Friday) we skip this week’s rehearsal and start rehearsing again on Monday. Bliss and I plan to run our second round of auditions the same way we held the first round of auditions, which was by giving students an option between reading four monologues: A Prospero monologue, a Miranda monologue, and two Caliban monologues. After we are done holding our second round of auditions and finalizing the cast list, we will conduct a read through of the script.