For the Jepson Shakespeare Project, Devani, Mel and I will be working with a group of students from Higher Achievement and will be performing Act 1 of the play. As the opening act of the production, we realize it is important how we set the tone of the rest of the play and as far as editing our play, it is crucial that we don’t cut major parts that will be referred to again later on in the play. When we were editing Act 1, we focused on cutting the nonessential lines and keeping the main ones that give the overall gist of what’s happening. We also tried to keep lines that would be easier for the kids to interpret as they are reading out their lines. The more condensed and clear their lines all, we feel the more fun they will have acting them out on stage. While I am excited to work with the kids, I am nervous to see how everything goes! It will definitely be a challenge to make them excited about reading Shakespeare. I am hoping we incorporate a lot of the theater games we have been discussing in class to make things more fun. Then we can take the time to walk them through the language in the play. After making the initial round of cuts for our play, we read it aloud and it was a little under 15 minutes. Since each act is typically around 20 minutes, we’re leaving this wiggle room for more possible edits and also to see how long it will take when the kids are reading the lines.

After finishing reading the play and watching the movie version, I’m so excited to start working with these kids! Melissa, Kit, and I will be working with Higher Achievement on Act 1. We have emailed the coordinators about a time to introduce the elective to the kids, but we have not finalized a date yet. Hopefully we will be working with them by next week! We have cut our Act down significantly by taking out lines that were wordy, unimportant, or we knew the children would not enjoy acting out. When we read it through as a group it was a little over 10 minutes, but we may have to cut the script down more when the children start actually performing it. We kept a lot of the funnier lines that are at the end of the Act because we thought the children would especially enjoy them. My hope for this project is to actually help the children better understand literature, drama, and the essence behind Shakespeare’s play. While I don’t know too much about theater, I really hope that this experience will help me (and the children) learn more about the history and theater of Shakespeare. In the past I’ve worked with Youth Life as a mentor and tutor in an academic setting, so I’m excited to broaden my experiences outside the classroom in a different type of environment!

We are act 1 for the play. We have considerably chopped down our act of the play. We have read through the lines in our act and it was about 12 minutes long running through without any stage acting or having children read through. We feel this is a good starting point for us since the students will have to learn to read the lines and include any onstage activity. We tried to keep the more important or famous parts of the play and exclude the parts we thought the kids wouldn’t need or understand.

We plan on trying to sell our elective this coming Friday. We have some concerns that the students may not be as interested as we would like but we will try our best to encourage them to try acting in the play. Hopefully they will learn more academically as well as socially from their experience. By next week we should have more concrete information on the interests of the students and how we feel the act will come along.

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 Oliver and I spent our work days in class editing out script. We have Act II, which we are really excited about. It includes all the best characters and many roles for fairies if we have extra kids. I also think it will allow some fun acting and stage direction. While cutting down our script we tried to keep several things in mind. One, we wanted it to makes sense to audiences who know Shakespeare AND the kids. The plot will remain in tact, but we decided much of the superfluous, flowery digressions had to go. Two, we wanted to maintain the original rhyme scheme to the best of our ability. And three, we wanted it to be appropriate. This involved cutting some lines we felt would be “awkward” to explain. As a result Helena’s Spaniel piece has been nicked. Oliver and I managed to bring Act II down to ten full pages, which we are happy with for the moment. We may continue to edit once we do a read through with our lovely Youth Life kids. We also may try to tie in some current pop culture, and at the suggestion of Dr. Bezio, let the kids replace the fairy song with a song of their choice. I’m excited for what is to come and will be meeting with our site advisor and having our first practice!

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.

This past week my partner, Lydia, and I worked on cutting Act II of Midsummer Night’s Dream for the purpose of making the act quicker and more readable for the children of the Youth Life program. We are looking forward to meeting the kids and getting to know their personalities a bit before casting them in their respective roles. Hopefully we will have approximately 8 kids because there are 8 actors within our act, but if we have more than we can always cast them as fairies.

 

The premise of our act is based around the love flower and the trick that Oberon and Puck play on Titania and the Athenian youths. I’m specifically looking forward to seeing how excited the kids may be to jump into their roles. Also, I’m interested to see how well the kids will grasp the various themes.

My group will be working with CHAT (Churchill Activity and Tutoring) a christian based organization that strives to provide opportunities to underprivileged children in the Richmond area. In preparation of meeting our group in the next few weeks we have begun to cut our script and jot down preliminary thoughts regarding staging. We have read carefully though about half of our scene, cutting repetitive lines. Our group has also discussed the major themes Shakespeare sought to convey in the last scene of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the ways in which we can preserve his vision of the play, while keeping it an appropriate length for our production. We will continue to work towards a final version of our script over the next week or so and look forward to meeting our group!

As a class, LDST 368 – Leadership on Stage and Screen will be putting on a low-budget production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, working with several Jepson Community Partners throughout the semester.

This blog will chronicle the production process from forming groups to cutting the script to casting, rehearsing, and performing the production. It is an informal record of our thoughts, feelings, and observations throughout the process.

This blog is beginning in the Fall semester of 2015, with the fourth show of the Jepson Shakespeare Project. Previous productions include The Tempest (Fall 2012), The Merchant of Venice (Fall 2013), and The Winter’s Tale (Spring 2015).