“But that’s all one, our play is done” – Feste (Act V, Scene I, Line 339)

Well, we did it.

For real this time.

Even though this whole process was a never ending mix of fun and exhausting, I am really happy with how our first and final performance came together.

We got St. Joseph’s Villa early enough to figure out everything from where the props would be stored to how to simulate a shipwreck, and even though we still were not sure who was going to show up even three hours before curtain, we actually had a great turn out.

Of our original consistent cast of actors, only Orsino was not able to come, so we, like the rest of the acts, casted Jacob as our fill in.

We were all set to have one of the three of us play Viola as well, but then one of our troupe members, who had until that day sworn she would only be a crew member, volunteered to take the part.

Although the actual performance was a joy to watch and direct, I’d say my favorite memories of the day came from interacting with our cast right before the show started.

Seeing our youngest boy in his makeup beard is a visual I’ll treasure always and having the entire cast want to color in more of the ship was pretty sweet too.

If I had to pick a favorite though I would say it was when after warning our two boys that any sword fighting with their fake swords would lead to a swift removal of said prop pieces, I went ahead and later said “screw it” and told them they could act one out as long as they went to the back of the church.

It was really interesting seeing our often times “too cool for school” cast admit to being terrified of going on stage between acts, but they all went out there regardless, and they all seemed to have a fun time if nothing else.

If I could change one thing, it would just have been to have them act below the stairs leading up to the “stage” so that the volume could have possibly been better, but otherwise I’m satisfied with how it all went.

There were times when I was skeptical over whether we’d be over to pull this off, and there were definitely times when I wondered if they would even notice if we didn’t show up one day, but that being said, I am really happy I was able to have this experience and see so much of what we learned in class in real, live scenarios.

I know I’ll have more to say in my parts of the final paper, but I guess if I had to say anything to any future participants in the program, it would be to just take a deep breath and try to deal with whatever comes your way.

Whether it’s random additions to your cast on a weekly basis or rowdy middle schoolers, trying to pull this all off will feel like a impossible task at times, but I promise the final production is worth it.

This week we had our last rehearsal with our kids. They seemed super excited to get back to rehearsals and greeted us right when we walked in the door. We had one of our girls, who came almost every week, casted as Viola but when we got to the site we learned that she had moved to “the south side” of town.

At the start of rehearsal a lot of the girls told us they had a cooking class for five minutes and would be at rehearsal when they were done. We found out that they actually did not have a cooking class and instead went somewhere to get brownies. Once they returned and we had our entire group, we had an extremely productive rehearsal.

We started by play a quick game that they all like called “Mr. Fox” then went straight into rehearsals. We asked all of them what parts they still wanted to play and asked if they wanted to have extras. Luckily Jamirah, who never really seemed as though she wanted to be at rehearsal, wanted a bigger role and decided to take on the role of Viola. We went through the entire act with them, asking them to act according to how they thought their character would act. We also brought them props to use and try on before the actual play. I think that this made them even more excited about the play, knowing they could wear crowns and tiaras. They did a much better job running through the scripts than I thought they would and did not have much trouble with the words. Tyvell, who played Duke Orsino, was my one concern because when he didn’t know any of the words he would jumble them all together or make up words. None of the kids made fun of him and it didn’t seem to bother him when he did this which I was happy about. Reading through the act took the majority of the rehearsal time so when we were done we asked the kids who had their permission slips in so we could get a possible number of how many we would have during the play. We sent them home with posters of play and could see how excited they were about it.

 

“And we’ll strive to please you every day.” – Feste (Act V, Scene I, Line 340)

Well, we did it.

Sort of.

I mean, the actual performance is tomorrow, but today was our last rehearsal.

And you know what? It went really well.

There were some hiccups of course.

We’re still not entirely clear on who all is actually going to be there tomorrow, and we were only able to run through the blocking once, but we got to see the whole act in action tonight and all of the students really loved their costumes.

I think the most important thing tomorrow will be to make sure we have all the props ready to go and will make sure to mark up the student’s scripts with any stage directions they may need.

We would have done it tonight except again we’re still not entirely sure who is coming tomorrow.

Despite the uncertainty, we decided that it was still worth running the play, that way the students who do show up have the experience, and the ones who won’t will at least have the memory.

We gave away most of the posters as well and a couple of the kids even kept their name tags.

I’m not sure what our act is going to look like tomorrow, but if nothing else tonight felt like a win, and whether I’m doing props backstage or playing six different roles tomorrow tonight, I suspect the performance is going to feel like a win too.

“Telling them I know my place, as I would they should do theirs” – Malvolio (Act 2, Scene 5, Lines 52-53)

So yes, we didn’t actually meet with our group on this day, seeing how it was a holiday and all.

I did however get a phone call from our site manager.

To begin, this wasn’t actually on Thanksgiving, it was the day before.

But that’s only important so when I start by explaining that I got the call in the middle of eating lunch in my favorite sushi restaurant you don’t think I’m some sort of freak who eats sushi for Thanksgiving.

No offense.

Anyway, so I’m in the middle of lunch when my phone rings, and it was reflex more than anything that caused me to pick up my phone in the middle of a restaurant for an unknown number.

Turns out it was good that I did though since the caller turned out to be our site supervisor.

Although she framed it as a “just checking in call” and did in fact ask specifically about one of our students, it was ultimately a “are you planning on volunteering again with us next semester” call.

I did my best to explain how the class worked, it being a volunteer component specific to a class and all that, but ultimately pulled the “but you can always get more information from my own supervisor though” card.

Sorry Dr. Soderlund.

What made me bring it up, and by extension blog about it, was two things. 1, I am REALLY skeptical about whether we’ll be getting any permission slips back for our students, although our site supervisor did say she sent them home, and 2, I feel really guilty that I’m not going back next semester.

Not enough to actually go back though, so maybe I don’t feel as guilty as I good, but despite the struggles with the project, I have really enjoyed working with our students and hope that they are able to find another activity next semester.

I’m not really sure to do with a type of guilt that makes you feel bad, but not bad enough to actually do anything about it though.

I wonder if there’s a Shakespeare play for that.

“Being skill-less in these parts, which to a stranger, unguided and unfriended, often prove rough and unhospitable”   – Antonio (Act 3, Scene 3, Lines 9-11)

So full disclosure, I was not actually at this rehearsal due to a travel conflict.

However, both of my amazing partners were able to be there and filled me in on what I missed.

Since we were getting closer and closer to performance day or P-Day if you will, we knew we needed to start working on blocking with the troupe.

However, since that can come off a little dull, the group also played a number of theater games to help make the day more entertaining.

Apparently they were very popular and focused largely on helping our students work on adding emotion into their voices when they read their lines.

So while perhaps not as much actual blocking was done as expected, it was clearly still a productive and enjoyable day for all those involved.

However, at the time I should have been posting this blog, we were under the impression that we had one more rehearsal before Thanksgiving Break, then of course the last one before P-Day.

Instead, Higher Achievement was hosting an early Thanksgiving party for their students and families, so we only have one more rehearsal before the final production.

And honestly, I’m not even that worried about it.

Have I suddenly reached a perfect state of zen that allows me to cycle through my worries in a rational and calm manner?

Of course not.

But we’ve reached the time of the year where I’m basically only 15% of a person.

I’m kidding. Mostly. I am serious about not being too worried about the performance though.

Despite their occasional large bursts of energy, we have a good group, and I think tomorrow will be more than enough to walk them through the basic blocking we need to make sure they can do onstage.

I am slightly worried about how many students we will actually have show up though.

Guess we’re just going to have to wait and see.

Who knows, maybe my final blog post will be about me explaining how I played five different Shakespeare characters in one night.

“Well, God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents.” – Feste (Act 1, Scene 5 Lines 13-14)

Yeah, so this is a little late.

Do I have legitimate excuse? No.

But what I do have is a pretty good recollection of how this rehearsal went.

Well, the bright side was that we managed to get the students we were dragging their heals on actually being on stage to all take parts, and we actually had one or two students with smaller roles, like our captain, who also agreed to have another part.

But that all came after we finally had to raise our voice for them to sit down and settle in for the evening.

Look, I was a middle-schooler too once, so I know that Shakespeare rehearsal isn’t going to be what people feel like doing, but for whatever reason that night we couldn’t even get our students to stop falling out of their chairs and running around the room.

We’ve tried to make it a pretty fun and open environment, but sometimes you just have to be the bad guy to get their attention back on what they needed to do.

We did try to start with some movement games at least, which is usually enough to help them settle down on their own, but for whatever reason that wasn’t enough for this rehearsal.

The good news is that everything was fine once we got them settled in, and we took the time to explain that we were sorry we had to yell before we even tried to have them go through the script.

We got through a whole reading, and I think we have a very strong group for Act 1.

I unfortunately will not be at the next rehearsal since I will be out of town, but it’s crazy to think that we only have a few weeks left until opening (and closing) night.

This week, Sarah and I decided to play games with the kids that would get the more excited about the play. We did not want spend another session reading through the script and wanted to give them a break from sitting and quietly listening, waiting for their chance to read. The first game we played with them was one that allowed them to use their improvisation skills. We all stood in a circle and each person had to say one word to create a story. While the stories never made sense at all, the kids really liked this game and had to focus on what was said before them so that they could supply a word that a least made marginal sense. We played this game a few more times before moving onto one called “Grandma.” For this game, one person stood at one side of the room while the rest stood on the other side. Grandma had her back to the group and while she was facing away from them they had to try to sneak up to her before she turned around and they had to freeze on the spot. If they were caught moving, they had to go back to where they started. The last game we played with them was by far my favorite. It is called “Mr. Fox” and is very similar to the “Grandma” game. The group of kids had to ask Mr. Fox what time it was and when  they were given a time they had to take that many steps closer to Mr. Fox. When Mr. Fox said midnight he turned around and chased them back to the start, if they got tagged they were out. The kids had to ask Mr. Fox “Mr. Fox, Mr. Fox what time is it?” so Sarah and I told them different emotions that they had to ask the sentence in. For example, we used sad, happy, angry, depressed, distressed, sleepy, etc. We also had them say it in ways they thought the characters in the play would.

Both Sarah and I really liked this game because it was a great break from reading the scripts while still paying attention to the play. I absolutely loved seeing the smiles on their faces while they played this game and am looking forward to what we do with them next week!

This week, the kids were a lot more obnoxious that they usually are. A few of the girls in our group like to be rough with one another while a few of the others just sit in chairs in the corner like this is the last thing they want to be doing. It is really difficult for me to see this because I want the kids to have fun with this play and not feel like it is just another chore on there list of things they have to do for the day. Our goal for the next session is to play more games with the kids and be more interactive instead of just sitting and reading through the script. Hopefully they will get a little more out of it this way!

This week the kids started acting up, more than they usually do. I think we had this coming because nothing went wrong for the weeks leading up to this one. One of the problems we ran into is that we ran out of games to play with them because some of them are just not interested at all in the games we decide to play with them; they seem to think they are too cool for those games. Another issue we ran into is that the handful of girls who are in our group are in seventh grade and act rather immaturely during practice. They like to be loud and boisterous and run around and hit each other. Surprisingly, the boys we have in our group are so well-behaved and absolutely adorable. This shocked me because I went into this project thinking that we would run into more problems with the boys than with the girls. Once we got their attention we decided to run through the script with all of the kids, and not break into multiple groups, because we had such a small group that day. It went really well and we found that some of the boys wanted to take on multiple parts. I was really happy when some of the kids asked if they could take their scripts home to practice. Even though it feels like it has taken a few weeks for them to get excited about this I think they are finally realizing how cool it is that they are putting on a Shakespeare play!

Our third week with the kids went really well. We decided to split into multiple groups so that there was a limited amount of time when the kids are sitting around doing nothing. We had one group of kids rehearse their lines while the other group worked on the set. We have found that we have a rather large group of kids who do not want to speak in the play at all and would rather work on the set and costumes. It was hard at first to work towards what they wanted but we ended up finding a way to let them work on the set and costumes. We had them design what they wanted the ship to look like and Maren showed them the stage at the Henderson location so that they had an idea of what they were working with.

On the fourth week, we worked again in the smaller groups. This week we had a huge group of kids, much larger than we usually get. I think they needed a place for some of the kids so they just gave them to us. Fortunately, the majority of the kids had an interest in the play and wanted to have a part in it. It was hard to adjust to the large number of kids but I think we managed it well. At the end of our time with the kids we did “trick or treating” and Maren, Sarah and myself spread out in the room and allowed the kids to trick or treat for candy we gave them.