Week 10 was a big one – on Thursday we had our final meeting with our students at St.Joseph’s Villa and on Friday was the final performance, also at St.Joseph’s villa.

We went into our final rehearsal a bit apprehensive knowing that the show was coming up the next day and that we had never made it through a full script read through. Because of this we walking into rehearsal on Thursday ready to be efficient and get through what we knew we needed to. Prior to the meeting Lexi, Matt, and I had established how many lines each character had in our act and did our best to assign the students we had in the past to roles that we thought would be fitting for them. We based these assignments primarily off of factors of enthusiasm, projection, and reading speed. Luckily none of our students was particularly dead set on a character, so we knew we had the freedom to move some assignments around in order to make the final production go as smoothly as possible.

We had 7 students show up on Thursday and the first thing we asked all of them was whether or not they would be at the performance the next day and they all said YES! This was very exciting for us because up until that moment we really had no idea who we could expect to show up on Friday. We spent much of our time on Thursday going through Scene 4 as it was the one scene we had never gotten to during past rehearsals. Luckily, Matt brought the prop swords along to rehearsal which got the students especially excited about this scene and we had a great run-through. We felt great leaving St.Joseph’s on Thursday, but were worried about one little issue – we had never gotten through the entire act, let alone more than 2 scenes in less than an hour. Yikes. That being said, we trusted Dr.Bezio’s words from the day before that she “wasn’t worried” and hoped for the best.

Immediately upon our arrival on Friday (final production day), Lexi and I gathered the scripts that Dr.Bezio had printed for us as well as the extra copies we brought along and made a personal script for each student. All of the students aside from KT were only playing one part, so we highlighted that character’s lines throughout the script and gave each student the script that belonged with their assigned character. We were able to stay relatively consistent with the character assignments from rehearsals, but had to move a few students around with the hopes of keeping our act within the right amount of time. All of the students seemed content with their roles, especially Charles who got to play drunk Sir Toby Belch. Christina was slightly frustrated with us that we had switched her role, but she got over it quickly and took her new assignment with stride. Rufus also showed a bit of resistance around being Malvolio, especially when we were suiting him up in his cross-gartered yellow “stockings,” but he too was able to overcome his frustrations.

We were lucky enough to have a solid amount of time with our students before the production, so ACT IV, who shared the same students, teamed up with us and we worked together to organize the students, their costumes, and their scripts and explain to them what would be occurring over the next few hours. We decided to do a read through prior to the performance and unfortunately only got through our act because it took so long, but I think this read through definitely made our students feel a lot more comfortable with the material before going on stage.

And then all of the sudden… it was 6:00 – show time! We gathered the scripts and rounded the students up before heading to the audience to watch Acts I and II perform. Unfortunately due to the acoustics in the church and the shy, quiet nature of many of the students it was close to impossible to hear what was being said. Dr.Bezio suggested that going forward, all acts should be performed in front of the stage rather than on it, a fact which we prepared our students for.

40 minutes later and it was time for our act. Jayvon, who had never shown us much emotion up until that point, expressed that he was nervous, Christina couldn’t sit down out of excitement, Dale locked himself in the bathroom less than a minute before he was supposed to go on stage, and Rufus’s cross-garters wouldn’t stay up – but otherwise the performance went down without a hitch. It was so fun and rewarding getting to see our students on stage performing what they had been practicing for weeks. They were so much more excited and confident than they had been in rehearsals and many of them really came to life on stage. The majority of our students have a tough time reading and speaking, so to see them power through a whole performance was really incredible. It was also very special to see a lot of their families and friends in the audience, they were all clearly very proud of the students and impressed by what they were witnessing.

Overall I think it was a great success and I do believe that in one way or another we had an impact on the students that we worked with throughout the semester. It would have been nice if each and every one of them could have made it to the production either to perform or to watch, but I couldn’t be happier with how the final 7 students took control and put on a show.

This week was a little bit overwhelming compared to past weeks because we had ten students show up to class. We found it a bit difficult to keep the students focused because only a few of them could be on stage at one time. We also struggled with character assignments because some of the students had already established a connection with one of the characters from past rehearsals, and a few of the students’ choices overlapped with each other. We managed to work it out though, treating the rehearsal as a sort of audition for the parts, and assigning different students to the same character in different scenes. This not only solved the problem of students fighting over a character, but also allowed Lexi, Matt, and I to get a better sense of who we should assign to each role for the final production.
Despite having so many students in attendance, the rehearsal was very productive and we got through the majority of ACT III. Lexi, Matt, and I continued to mark changes as we went so that we can bring the students finalized scripts the next time we meet. These finalized scripts will hopefully be without any of the words that caused many of the students trouble and will make for an easier transition into the final performance.
Our next meeting is (terrifyingly) the day before the final production, so as we left we encouraged the students to practice as much as possible. I suggested that the students who felt shy, and struggled with projecting, should stand in front of their mirrors at home and practice.
Hopefully next week will be another productive one during which we can get a good sense of who will be at the final production, what roles they will be playing, and how much help from Matt, Lexi, and I they will need.

It was great being back at St.Joseph’s this week! We worked with three students I had never met before and one student who was at the last session I attended. When we walked in, one of the students (Rufus) was playing the piano. He was very talented and told us what his favorite songs to play are. It was clear that he was excited that we were interested and that he was proud of his skills. Lexi, Matt, and I commented that it would be great if he could play the piano either at some point during the performance or as the audience entered the venue.

All four students had also worked with the Monday group (ACT IV) so they were familiar with the plot and the characters. This was very helpful because we were able to jump right into physically acting out ACT III. Matt and I worked with Cristina and Rufus on the Viola and Olivia exchange in Scene I, while Lexi worked with Dale and Charles on Scene II. It was nice to have such a small group and be able to split up like this because we were able to give the students very personal attention. Cristina and Dale struggled a bit with reading through the lines, so as we went through I circled all the words they had a hard time with. In class yesterday, Lexi and I went through the script and attempted to change some of the words that they were struggling with to make it more approachable.

The only issue we really ran into was Cristina calling Dale – who had the most trouble with the script – slow and stupid. Dale didn’t take her comments personally and was able to keep his sense of humor – even saying “excuse me” after every time he mentioned his character (Sir Toby Belch). This provided us all with quite a bit of entertainment, and hopefully we can utilize Dales sense of humor when assigning him a role in the final production.

Overall, it was a productive hour, and I think we all learned a lot about what our roles are going to be in the final production. Some of the students will not need our help at all but others may need more guidance and direction during the performance. It is a little bit difficult working with different kids each week because the work feels inconsistent and progress isn’t very visible, but hopefully we will have a great showing for the final performance. At least we know the students are enthusiastic and willing to roll with the punches!

On Thursday (11/10), we had a new mix of students again.  We had two returning students and two new students.  The new students participate in the Act IV group, and so they were familiar to the structure of rehearsals.  We have had one consistent student attend all of our rehearsals throughout the project.  It has been exciting to watch him throughout each stage of the production.  The spontaneity of attendance has also added an element of excitement to the project.

We are lucky to hold our rehearsals in the space where the performance will actually occur in December.  This week we began blocking our scenes and had the students practice on the Chapel stage.  We improvised parts, and all of the students were flexible and open to playing different roles.  We emphasized where the students will stand on the stage while performing, encouraged them to face the audience, and suggested that they try to project their voices. 

Some students are stronger readers than others, but they can all get through their lines.  We had to occasionally remind certain students to be patient while other students might be struggling to read their lines.  We emphasized that it was okay for them to feel as though the lines are difficult, but that they will become easier to read with practice.  While some students are self-sufficient on stage, others need a little coaching as to when to read their parts.  We might have to be on stage with them while they are performing to help them through the scenes, but we will continue to try to get them more comfortable reading and following along with the script independently.

My favorite part of rehearsal this week was when a new student, Dale, added some needed comedy into the scene.  Dale was reading Toby’s part, and before every line he would read Toby’s full name, “Sir Toby Belch,” followed by an “Excuse me.”

Most of our students had a homecoming flag football game scheduled during the same time as our session this week so unfortunately St.Joseph’s had to cancel again. Hopefully next week we will be back on and can get started on some actual stage direction with the students to start preparing them for the final performance which is quickly approaching.

I was unable to attend this week due to prior travel arrangements again. I am disappointed that I have had to miss two important sessions, but luckily Matt and Lexi have kept me up to date when I have had to miss. They reported back that, as planned, they did a read through of the script with the students that showed up – this time five new students showed up along with three of the students from the past session. They explained that they had to improvise for role assignments because of the change in students attending but that they had a really great, productive session. They said that during the read through everyone read the lines very well which sounds very promising for our progress with the group going forward. Knowing that the students are able and willing to tackle the tough Shakespeare language is great and I can’t wait to be in attendance for the next session.

Due to the students being on a college tour that took longer than expected, this session was unfortunately cancelled. While it is a bummer not to begin the process of rehearsing with the students, we look forward to getting started on this process the next time we meet with them. For the next meeting we plan to have our script as finalized as possible so that we can do a read through with the students in the parts that they requested. We are all hoping this goes well so that for the next class we can do read throughs while actually going through some of the physical acting involved in ACT III.

This week was my first week actually working with the students at St.Josephs and it was great! We met with five students, four who Lexi and Matt told me had attended the last session, and one new one. We did a quick round of introductions so that I could get familiar with the group. They all seemed very enthusiastic and willing to be there which was very promising and encouraging. They wanted to play some of the theater warm-up games that they had played the previous week, and with the Monday group, so we started off with a couple rounds of games before getting down to business. Lexi, Matt, and I hoped to get the students a little bit more familiar with the play so that we could start reading lines the next time we met with them. To do this, we discussed the plot of the play as a whole, answering their questions as we went along, and then delved more into the details of ACT III. We then went over all of the characters involved in ACT III and as we described them, the students immediately started exclaiming “I want to be that one” when they heard a description they liked. Luckily, it worked out well, and all of the students were excited about different parts than their classmates. Most of them were even willing to play two parts, which likely will need to happen as ACT III has so many characters. After resolving the characters, the students naturally wanted to go back to games so we ended up playing ZIP-ZAP-ZOP and a couple rounds of 7-UP to round out the session.

Overall it was both a fun and productive session and I’m looking forward to the weeks ahead when we will begin to actually rehearse ACT III with the students. Hopefully in the upcoming weeks we will consistently have most of the same students, so that they can get comfortable with their roles before the big performance.

On Thursday (10/27), we had a super productive rehearsal! We had to think on our feet a little bit because we had about four new kids join us, and a couple of kids from our past rehearsals did not attend this week.  However, after we started off rehearsal with a fun and active game of Zip, Zap, Zop, the new group felt comfortable and ready to work together.  Matt and I split the group in half to practice reading lines from various scenes.  Due to the unpredictability of which students will attend each week, we realize that no roles will be completely set in stone, and we will have to be ready to improvise a little bit each time.  The kids that I worked with were very eager to read parts, and they had no problem reading the Shakespeare, aside from the occasional difficult word.  As we read through a scene together, we would pause at certain parts to explain what exactly was happening in the scene, so it didn’t feel like they were reading complete gibberish.  Next week, we can hopefully incorporate some stage blocking as we continue to practice reading lines!

We did not meet with our group this Thursday (10/20) because the kids had an off campus field trip, and they would not be returning in time for our rehearsal.  Since we have encountered a few scheduling conflicts in the past, we are not surprised by this kind of news anymore.  We have learned to be very adaptable when conflicts arise, and we plan our next rehearsal accordingly.  Next week, we definitely will have the group start working with the script and getting used to reading Shakespeare.