I have been working in theater for the past 12 years (directing for 9), and in that time I have worked with numerous groups of peers and students of all ages. During those experiences a few habits of each group emerged that made the rehearsal process challenging. Yet, with the students at HVSS the challenges never matched normal group tendencies.
Earlier this year we took a vote in the theater co-op for which play we wanted to perform; each had it's own challenges in terms of sets to build, characters to perform and staging to memorize. Clue was chosen by a landslide, I knew it was going to be one of the most complex shows I had ever worked on. The number of scene changes and props alone were impossible to keep track of, not to mention the fact that most of the actors are on stage 90 percent of the time and Mr. Wadesworth alone has nearly 400 lines.
But we forged ahead, step by step, and I found that even with this challenging piece, many of the normal challenges for this age range of students were not appearing. This group of students was responsible for themselves, got to rehearsal on time, and wanted to be there, putting in the work. They were happy to be playing characters and saying their lines. Because doing this show is part of their school work, during school hours, we could rehearse when they were fresh and full of energy.
We moved through the rehearsals more swiftly than I anticipated, which left us with time to play and explore character work (another place I have previously noticed challenges with most students - willingness to try something new). With a few rare exceptions, the cast was always ready to try whatever new game and voice or movement I asked of them, making for a more dynamic and energetic show. They were so open to play and explore that all I had to do was suggest a path and they would run down it full speed. I was able to conduct rehearsals the same way I do with college students. I often forgot I was working with kids who would be in middle school. I treated them and asked of them the same focus I would from a professional environment.
In fact, this is a show I would have been hesitant about doing with adults because of the complicated transitions, important comedic timing and stamina to be on stage for so long. Yet this group of what would be middle-schoolers (plus a 6 year old) pulled it off beautifully. I could not be more impressed.