(Originally November 2)

After getting the emails of the students from last week, we sent them an email to remind them midday on Monday. We all forgot to do so, but we figured that students would be checking their phones periodically throughout the day and would see our email. This time, on our way to John Marshall we decided to call Laura to get an attendance estimate. She told us that no students had stayed after school so we should not come to John Marshall. Taylor mentioned that we would get the email out earlier. This time we forgot and fell behind on sending out a reminder.

We turned around and discussed how to proceed following the last two unsuccessful rehearsals. It seems that there just may not be an interest from the students in participating in an extra curricular that was almost like another class. We were going to send out an email even earlier to remind students and to catch them before the weekend.

(Originally, October 26)

After having such a highly successful rehearsal last week we expected to have a huge turn out this week! This however was not the case. Rather, only one student showed up — the student that has been most actively involved in blocking, staging, and participating. Laura mentioned that she had absolutely no way to contact us so she did not tell us to turn around. Earlier on Laura mentioned that many of the students have other commitments. Half of the students have commitments and half the students return home. The student that came told us about a fellow student that returned home because she did not feel like staying late. Laura told us that we had to be far more authoritative with the students and we had to figure out an incentive for students to come. She said that we should bring snacks or send out reminders for students. It would be difficult for her to have an authoritative figure because she is too close to them. She asked us based on our experiences if there was something that would motivate us to go to an event. We mentioned either food or a more frequent reminder. We suggested that we would start emailing the students the night before to give them a sneak peek at what we would be doing week to week. Mrs. Ramsey/ Laura also gave us a set of emails for potential juniors who would interested in the Jepson Shakespeare Project. I had been the contact person for between Laura and us before so she sent the emails to me. Hopefully we will have more students if send out reminders and make the project more enticing!

(Originally Oct 19; Posted Later)

Taylor and I were back at John Marshall High School for our third rehearsal. Last week’s break gave us time to relax and plan what we want to work on. Molly was unable to attend the rehearsal because she had a mandatory commitment. We finally had our first successful rehearsal today!

We arrived to rehearsal and many of the students (who had returned from our first visit) had a name refresher. With so many new and reoccurring faces, we had forgotten many names. We started immediately with acting games to get everyone up and moving. We noticed that the rehearsals in the past included a lot of script reading and it appeared as if students were disappointed. At times they looked bored out of their minds…Yikes! I introduced a few games to the group to play. The game was the classic zip zap zop game which got competitive fairly quickly. Students were so focused that the room was practically quiet – except for when a student lost. Then the students would tease and wish the eliminated student luck in the next round. The next game we play was one that was introduced to me at choir camp. The premise of the game is that you have to ask the person next to you to marry them. You say, “Honey, will you marry me?” in a way that will make the person laugh or smile. If they do either laughing or smiling, that person is eliminated from the game. With the six of us girls and one guy, everyone actively tried to get people to laugh. Although we haven’t been there for very long, each member of the group was flexible and new ways to get the other person to laugh. They were attentive of what other people had done in the previous rounds to get others to laugh and were willing to step outside of their comfort zone.

Next we started reading through the script. We were not as active during this part of the rehearsal but we were highly collaborative. All of the students went in a circle reading a line from their scripts. We read through the first scene in act 4 and asked the students how they imagined the stage appearing. We started again from Titania’s line “Come sit thee down on this flowry bed” and students would jump in and convey what they were imagining. In this scene, the students imagined Titania lying down with Bottom laying beside her. Titania would be lovingly interacting with Bottom while the fairies running back and forth upstage would be frustrated at Bottom’s demands. Taylor and I wrote all of their ideas down in the margins of our scripts. Before we went into the hallway to block what we had just discussed, we asked the students which roles they were potentially interested in playing. Since we have had such inconsistent attendance rates, we had a difficult time assigning roles. Laura helped us and told us which of her students would be ideal for certain parts. This was extremely helpful as we ended up with a full cast (minus little worker fairies).

Taylor and I went into the hallway with the students to block out what they had suggested. The first time we ran through the blocking, I would shout and insert emotions or actions for students to incorporate. A few students had to double roles in order to satisfy the number of characters that we had. Taylor and I realized that we would likely have to be fairies in the performance – aka a childhood dream! We ran through the script a few more times with different character doubles and switched roles. They decided that they wanted a donkey head as opposed to the unicorn head we wanted… It’s alright! We were extremely impressed with their enthusiasm and participation in today’s rehearsal. We can’t wait til the next one!

We had break until Wednesday, so we were unable to meet with the students at John Marshall. We reminded Laura that we would not be seeing the students then. While on break, we each thought about how the act would be performed. I thought a lot about the props that we would need and how to incorporate a lot of humour into the practice. Wehave constantly reminded the students that this project is really dependent on what they would like to add. We have been trying to pay close attention to the details in the text for how the movements could be portrayed. We thought about how stage directions could enhance the comedy in the play. Molly, Taylor, and I thought about each character and their motivations. We brainstormed how these characters could represent their stories through inflection and stage directions. We have given a lot of thought about how we want the act to look but we also have had a lot of flexibility in order to incorporate the student’s interests. We want the project to be extremely successful and we want students to start moving around! In general, we have not assigned roles yet (because we are unsure of how many students will attend). We want to begin blocking, we hope that we will have enough students.

(Originally written September 26, 2015; Posted now)

Despite our excitement to immediately work with the students on Monday, we had to cancel due to the highly anticipated bike race through Richmond. Laura and I had been emailing back and forth in order to create and tweak plans for when we would arrive at John Marshall. Earlier on Monday, she emailed me and mentioned that school was sending all of the students home. We agreed that we would be meeting our students for the first time on Monday, September 28th!

In spite of this little mishap, we were able to accomplish a lot of work in class. Previously, Taylor, Molly, and I read and timed the act; We transformed the act onto a document and all edited together. We associate our act as the act that solves all of the major plot holes so we wanted to eliminate extraneous sections that did not help with this ideal. For example we discussed the idea of eliminating Bottom and the Mechanicals. We wanted to simply the act to make it funnier and easier on our student playing Bottom. After many revisions, agreed on including it into the cut script. This decision was made with several considerations. One was after talking to Dr. Bezio, eliminating this mechanical interaction could potentially eliminate the fluidity and continuity between the fourth and fifth acts. Another reason was the fact that we had no idea how many kids would appear. We wanted our script to be flexible so that any of the students could present.

We took the film and we are adding flourishes to make the women more prominent and powerful in the play. For example when Theseus and Hippolyta are hunting and find the young lovers, we want Theseus to use Hippolyta as an advocate. We envision the relationship as cheesy between Bottoms and Titania, with Marvin Gaye music, and as an opportunity for comedic improvisation.

 

Tomorrow is the very first day Allison, Taylor, and I will head over to meet with our gang of future fairies (and Athenians) at John Marshall High School, and I have to admit that I am a bit intimidated. There are two questions floating around in my head that are at the root of my nerves of the journey tomorrow:

  1. Will our age proximity to the high schoolers result in them respecting us less (because we could easily be their older siblings) or more, because of the chance that they mistake us for cool, older, wiser college kids?
  2. We have no idea whether the children we are working with have chosen to take part in this project, or are being forced into it as a school assignment/after school project. I think it will make a big difference whether or not this is a self-selected group with some enthusiasm, or a group that will be bored out of their minds before we can even rope them in with the Bottom’s booty jokes.

 

As for our script, our team has a pretty unique Act to wrangle in. Act IV involves every single character from the play, includes the climax, but is the shortest act. After multiple read-throughs, our approach has been to cut the second scene and focus on the first part of the Act, whole shortening some of the longer speeches. We have decided to strengthen the female roles by giving Hippolyta power over Theseus’s final decision through our staging, and by making Hermia and Helena the victors of the love pairing, rather than the men being the victors over them.

 

Tomorrow, I hope to give the kids a solid explanation of our planning and find innovative ways to keep them (or convince them to be) excited about the project.

This week in S&S, Molly, Allison and I began to discuss our ideas for Act 4 of Midsummer. Molly and I timed ourselves reading Act 4 and figured out how many kids we would need to cover the number of characters who are present (all of them). As a group, we discussed which lines could be cut or merged together. We also started brainstorming prop ideas.

Allison emailed our site contacts, Laura and Verenda, to see if there is a good time to meet with the kids at John Marshall High this coming Monday before we get started with rehearsals. We are still waiting to see if this will be possible due to the bike race in Richmond.