This week we were in the choir room. They were a bit distracted by some costumes hanging on the wall and the piano in the corner. We played museum again and zip zap zop. I said if they were good I would play a song or two on the piano for them. They requested the “Peanuts song.” Which I happily obliged. We got them to go through the cast list and work on their characters. We got them to read through their scenes fully. However, they had a lot of energy this week and it was all I could do to keep them from bouncing off the walls. I think they have been coming down from the hype of Halloween. At least, I hope that was it. We really need to figure out how to contain their energy. Also, Alan pulled Colby and I to the side afterward and told us that they completed the reading testing of our 5th graders to figure out what grade level they are at. The person who walked out last week because the reading was difficult was labeled at 1st grade reading level. Two others were at a 2nd grade level and one or two were at 3rd grade reading level. This will be difficult for us especially in terms of teaching them and coaching them on Shakespeare. Hopefully we can work it one on one with them, but I am concerned that there are too many of them and not enough of us. Not to mention, I’m not sure how to translate Shakespeare to a first grade reading level. We have already determined that we need to shorten our script, but I’m not sure how to edit Shakespeare’s language so that is more easily understandable.

This week was ok, it went better than expected. They really enjoyed the museum game I suggested. “Museum” is a theatre game in which everyone strikes a pose while one person is the guard. The guard walks around the area and the “statues” (people” have to switch poses behind their back without getting caught. If the person gets caught then they’re out. They really enjoy this game because it lets them move around. This week we were in a room called the “we the people” room. It is decorated with murals of historic moments. This room has a better layout than the band room. Also, there were no instruments which were a plus. In addition, we finally got them to sit down and read the scripts. We split them up into two groups. I got my group to go through lines and work on accents. Some children in Aleeza’s group had issues with reading and would give up and walk out. Hopefully though, we can work one on one with them so that their lines will be easier.

I was unable to attend rehearsal this week due to a prior commitment for my journalism class. From what Caroline and Aleeza told me, they arrived to T.C. Boushall and our students had decided that it would be a day full of bullying. Because the kids failed to stop bickering until later in the evening, Caroline and Aleeza were forced to begin the session later than they have hoped. On a lighter note, however, the group was able to begin reading through the script and enjoyed playing a game called “Museum.” At our next rehearsal, we plan to continue reading through the script, allowing the students to become more comfortable with their lines.

Unfortunately I did not get to go to rehearsal this week because I went to Charleston, SC for my cousin’s wedding. I spoke with Aleeza and Colby and they said rehearsal was hectic/a mess but they were able to talk with the kids and ask what characters the wanted. There were 14 kids last time. Initially they only had 7 but 7 more were added during the hour which disrupted the session. They were unable to focus unfortunately though. We have decided to cut down the script because, given their lack of focus, we could not imagine them reading/reciting a 20 page script. Also, the boys have decided that they would like swords. Between this week and next week we hope to have a proper set and cast list. We have decided to spilt the large group into 3 smaller groups by characters and scenes which Colby, Aleeza, and I will each lead. Also, Aleeza told me that we received a calendar for the remaining rehearsals and we only have 2 rehearsals left before the final production.

This week was a bit more hectic than the last. Caroline was unable to join us, so Aleeza and I directed the rehearsal. We rehearsed in the band room, as we always do, and the students insisted on constantly messing with the instruments, an act that they all know that they are forbidden to do. When they all settled down, Aleeza and I thought we would try skipping the theater game because we didn’t want to rile them all up for no reason. This was our first mistake. We jumped right into assigning roles and told the students to raise their hand if a role/character sounded like something they would be interested in. They were allowed to raise their hands as many times as they wanted for as many roles/characters as they wanted. We wrote down each student’s name next to the part that he or she was interested in. On our workday in class on Wednesday, we will distribute the roles accordingly.

Explaining each character and revealing how many lines they had took up a good bit of rehearsal time, and the group lost focus. Therefore, Aleeza and I decided to end rehearsal with “Zip, Zap, Zop” because the students had been so fond of the game the week prior. Many of the boys refused to participate and, even though we threatened to tell Mr. Allen (the head director of the after-school program) they said they “didn’t care.” As we attempted to play Zip, Zap, Zop, many of the students ran across the room, chasing each other around, fighting, hitting each other. Every now and then, some student that was standing in front of the door and scream, “Mr. Allen is coming!” and everyone would run back to the game and act as if they had been participating the entire time. I felt badly for the few students that were in fact interested in playing “Zip, Zap, Zop,” because they consistently voiced their frustration with their peers that weren’t letting us go through one round smoothly without disruption.

At the end of rehearsal, Aleeza and I stayed late to speak with Mr. Allen about what tactics we could use to get everyone to focus and participate. He told us about green feathers: tokens that the students use towards raffles and other fun activities through the after-school program that result in prizes. Mr. Allen said that we could bribe the students with green feathers in order to get them to participate. He also recommended writing a visual agenda for rehearsal up on the blackboard in the band room before the start of each rehearsal. Many of the students are visual learners, and seeing what needs to get done between 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. may entice them to cooperate. Fingers crossed that Mr. Allen’s advice will work at our next rehearsal.

This week went way better. We started off the session with two rounds of zip zap zop. Then we were able to get them to actually sit down and actually look at the scripts. It was amazing! We talked about the different characters and the setting. The kids decided they wanted it to be set in modern day England. However, they wanted to do various accents so it will be a UN conference style where everyone will be from around the world. In terms of characters, all of the kids initially wanted to be the clown/the fool. In the end two of them said they wanted to be Viola and Duke Orsino, so there is hope and we will not have an all clown cast potentially. We didn’t get to look over the script much, I worry that we spend too much time teaching/learning new games to play, however they do enjoy them. Unfortunately next week I will not be at practice because I have to go to Charleston for my cousin’s wedding. However I do know that we plan to go over character descriptions and help them choose parts.

This meeting with the students was a lot better than our first visit, but was still a bit wild. We were sent to the band room, a room filled many expensive instruments. One of the directors of the “after-school” grilled into Aleeza, Caroline, and I’s brains how expensive the instruments were and that they were not to be touched. In order to prevent this, the director recommended that we do not allow the students on the third tier (the floors of the room are essentially set up in rows, with the instruments on the third tier). Two of the students constantly disobeyed and stood on the third tier solely for attention. One of these students also refused to participate in Zip, Zap, Zop because it was “stupid.” This game is how we begun rehearsal. All of the students absolutely loved it, and had a lot of fun participating. When the first round was over, they begged to play again, and their smiles made it hard to refuse. For the second round, the student that decided to sit out felt left out and chose to play with us. After we completed the game, we went over the plot of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night because we had a few new faces joining us that evening, and also wanted to remind the other students in case they had forgotten. As we explained different characters within the play, some students shouted out what characters they wanted to be, a lot of them were interested in being the clown. We handed out the scripts for them to look over while also explaining that next week we would assign roles based on how often one would want to read lines during the performance. We also mentioned that some students would share a role due to the big size of the group and the minimal characters listed in Act II. At this point, it was time to wrap up, so we handed out candy and told the students to get excited for next week!

This week we were unable to meet with our groups due to Fall Break plans. Aleeza, Caroline, and I were curious if whether or not our group would be hurt or unaffected by this cancellation, because the first meeting did not go very well, so we were worried we would lose the group’s focus.

Over the weekend, Aleeza, Caroline, and I planned our next meeting with the group. We plan to introduce the theatre preparation game titled, “Zip, Zap, Zop,” discuss the plot of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, go over what Act II entails, and, if we have time, assign roles.

This week we did not meet with our group as we had fall break. A part of me wishes we had met because I am unsure how this is going to go going forward. They enjoy the improv games, which is great, however once we get them going on those it is difficult to reign them in. I wonder if we should use the improv games as a reward. I don’t think candy is the answer considering they usually are already hyped up for some reason, I wish I had their energy. I think we will try to have them read lines while running, or have them run around for 10 or so minutes so that they can get it out of their systems. Also, this week we saw 1776 as a class. I know what you’re thinking, where is she going with this, but believe me, I have a point. In regards to 1776 I think it was interesting how much the geography impacted he performance. I wonder how the geography or social/cultural climate will affect ours. Although we already have a prop list, I hope that next class we can choose a setting (time and place) and consequently be able to get a costume list started.

This week we finally met with the group. Of course naturally, things didn’t go as planned. We wanted to talk about the play, Shakespeare, and learn everyone’s names. This did not happen. We did get everyone to sit down and introduce themselves and say an animal that started with their first initial. Most of the kids, the boys particularly lied about their names and spent the duration laughing and crawling around on the floor. The girls were more honest, my favorite part was when a girl, Blanca, introduced herself and she said her animal was a banana. I couldn’t help but laugh. All of the girl are so sweet. I spent most of the time wrangling the boys though. They really liked leaving to go to the bathroom and hiding. I was very much reminded of why I do not and will never have 12 kids. Although I love kids, it was extremely overwhelming. Aleeza and I went and she tried to keep the session organized while I tried to contain the children so that they would pay attention to what she was saying. We did get to talk a little about Shakespeare and Twelfth Night, but they really liked playing hitch-hiker more, which I was thrilled about. It had always been my favorite theater game growing up, so I’m really glad that they took a liking to it. I’m not sure how to approach this going forward. Last working class we figured out what props we would need already. But I am not sure how we will cast the parts and get the children to actually read the script. Professor Bezio suggested that since they enjoy running around, perhaps we should have them read the script while running. I’m not sure if that will work, but I’m certainly open to giving that a try. If anything it will at least tire them out and get them to mellow out a bit.