Shakespeare in Prison

Empowering prisoners through Shakespeare

Session Three: Week Twenty Five

Tuesday

 

As people arrived today, one of the women shared that she’s been saying her lines wherever she happens to be, as they occur to her, and that usually people know what she’s talking about. She’s been really excited and amused by that!

We spent most of our time working on Act III Scene V today, in which Romeo leaves Juliet, Lady Capulet tells her that she must marry Paris, Capulet loses it, and both Lady Capulet and the Nurse abandon her. We have already worked the first part of the scene with the young lovers, but we took the opportunity to clarify a couple of things in the lines (and to cut some of the lines!).

We talked a bit about Lady Capulet in this scene – when she reasons with Juliet about her crying, is she really talking about herself to a certain extent? There is also a fairly abrupt shift between talk of revenge against Romeo and the coming marriage. The woman playing Lady Capulet took a moment here to take a deep breath, and we all laughed. She thought maybe she had done something wrong – but the reason we laughed was that it was so real! It was a great moment for her.

We got into the brutality of the scene – Capulet must really be terrifying for these women to abandon Juliet so quickly. We worked on some staging that will allow the woman playing Capulet to intimidate and frighten the others without actually striking them, and we worked out where Lady Capulet and the Nurse first try to intervene and then back off.

We left with this group having the goal of memorizing this scene within one week so that we can cement staging that is difficult to pull off while holding scripts. It will also provide a nice challenge and a short term goal.

 

Thursday

 

Today we got to work right away on the end of Act III Scene I, the “fight scene.” The woman playing Benvolio, who is rather new to the group, had questions about his motivations here: is he snitching? Setting the record straight? Something else?

We had a great opportunity to work on this, since our Prince was present as well. Her greatest challenge is nervousness which makes her smile at inappropriate moments on stage. With her working toward the Prince’s anger at what has happened and desire to be just, and Benvolio working toward telling a story that would be honest and still not get him in hot water, we made a lot of progress. Everyone needs to work on slowing down their deliveries, but the scene is more or less working.

We then spent some time learning basic fencing with our foam swords. This was a lot of fun, with some of the women being more natural at it than others. Still, the vibe was one of encouragement, and we’ll keep working at it.

Following this, we worked on the opening scene of the play. The women are having a difficult time accessing the “tough guy” attitudes of the characters, and we will have to keep building on what we did today, which merely began to crack it.

The women mentioned that, while they are working on memorizing their lines, they wish they had more time together to work. We are looking into the possibility of adding one meeting per week through the end of the session – this would also enable us to make up lost time from when the weather prevented us from getting to the facility this winter.

 

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Session Three: Week Twenty Four

Tuesday

 

Written by Matthew

 

We covered three scenes of Act IV today, working quickly through dialogue and Juliet’s soliloquy.

There was a significant delay getting in. When I walked into the space, the women were just finishing warmups, and were ready to go.

Juliet and Lady Capulet wanted very badly to check some numbers off our list of unrehearsed scenes. We realized last week that we had not rehearsed most of Act IV, so that seemed a logical place to start. Beginning with Act IV, scene ii, we ran through the night of Juliet’s apparent death. The scenes almost run together, as she seemingly acquiesces to her father’s wishes, contemplates her future, and drinks the potion that puts her to sleep.

We spent a lot of time working on the tone for Juliet’s soliloquy, in which she worries about the consequences of taking the potion. The speech begins with concrete fears—will she know where she is? Will she be alone?—and ends with fantastical fears of her relatives rising like zombies from the grave to tear at her body. Juliet initially wanted to cut the speech down, but realized after inspecting the lines that it really needed to be full-length.

The morning after Juliet takes the potion, the nurse and her parents find her. The hardest thing for the women to do was to specify their reactions to the sight. Instead of reflexively wailing and running about, the women in the audience encouraged our characters to develop a reaction specific to their persona. Lady Capulet withdraws. Capulet worries about the public consequences. The nurse runs to find medical supplies and blankets and pillows—anything to help.

Though our work today was short, we tackled a large section of text, and took a step closer to completing our first-round rehearsals of the play.

 

Thursday

 

Written by Sarah

 

We began the rehearsal with a further discussion of costumes props and set design.  The first decision was that our backdrop would be painted black with gold lettering.  We decided the words on the backdrop will come from our “word storm”.  So we word-stormed…  The ensemble called out words which Romeo and I wrote on the chalk board.  The words and phrases included lines from the play, and themes and ideas that resonate for them.  Some words and phrases from our word storm…

Courage

Rebellion

Saucy Boy

Love

Passion

Tragedy

Happiness

Family

Peace

Death

Holy Matrimony

Sweet Sorrow

Loyalty

Anger

Evil

Blood

Marriage

Strife

Romance

Enemies

Rage

Beauty

Misguided

Star Crossed Lovers

Feud

Fight

Defiance

Discouraged

Unity

Young Love

Religion

Friends

Wedding

Secrets

Trust

Pain

Destiny

Verona

Betrayal

Romeo

Juliet

Death

Mutiny

Minister

Montague

Capulet

One moment can change a life

Love at first sight

Banished

Til Death do us part

Senseless

Love sick

Two houses both alike…

After our word storm we returned to costume ideas.  It was decided that the Montagues’ color will be green, the Capulets’ purple, and all others will be gold. Our Juliet also volunteered to create a props list and be in charge of props.

After adding some costume elements to the wish list we warmed up our voices and bodies and our sense of ensemble and play. We did stretches, tongue twisters, and Theater games.

Then we got down to script work.  Being without our Friar Lawrence, the ensemble has cast a new actress in the role.  We worked on Act II Scene IV with Romeo and our new Friar.  We also worked briefly on the wedding scene with Romeo, Juliet, and the Friar.  The ensemble had strong ideas of how the scenes should play (being used to the actress who had been in the role).  They gave a lot of direction but were also wonderfully supportive of the new actress and quite sincerely encouraged her to “make the role her own.”

This week we worked hard on OBJECTIVES.  The ensemble worked together to figure out what people wanted from each other in the scene.  When the actors started playing their objectives (in other words – worked to get what they want) we all noted how beautifully the scene grew.  The whole ensemble is thrilled with where the scene is now and so proud of the actors for the hard work they did.  They were effusive in their praise for their cast members.  As we reflected at the end of rehearsal, I asked the cast to commit to deciding on their objectives for their roles in each scene they play.

 

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Shakespeare in Prison in the Huffington Post!

We are so thrilled to be featured in the Huffington Post! Check out this fabulous article. And, if you are so moved, please support the program through our Indiegogo campaign, live through May 24.

Session Three: Week Twenty Three

Tuesday

 

Written by Matthew

 

Tonight we had low turnout, but the women who showed up were ready to go!

We even had a couple of new members, who had come into the group after spending a long time on the waiting list. They jumped right into our exercises and seemed to enjoy time on the stage. They were a natural fit for the program.

We began with an energetic warm-up—including a round of Dr. Know-It-All in which our newest members readily participated—then decided that the best thing to do was rehearse a scene we hadn’t looked at before.

The scene we chose was Act I, scene iv, origin of Mercutio’s baffling “Queen Mab” speech. The chemistry of Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio was fun and energizing for all. In the scene, they are making their way to the Capulets’ party. Benvolio and Mercutio played up their excitement, which allowed Romeo to drag his feet comically.

A woman commented while we worked that the first two acts of the play really are a comedy, which helped inform our choices in this early scene. There is no hint yet of the devastating fate that awaits our characters. In the spirit of comedy, Romeo played up his heartsick moaning, while Mercutio experimented with several ways of delivering his big speech.

After we tried several ideas—most of which simply ended with Mercutio pacing frantically on stage while the other two watched—we decided that Mercutio should deliver the speech to the audience. Not only to the audience, in fact, but in the audience.

This day, we solidified the relationship between Mercutio, Benvolio, and Romeo. The women had some time to enjoy the friendship before it gets tarnished by death and despair.

 

Thursday

 

Written by Sarah

 

We started our day with a good physical, vocal, and focus warm-up.  We added a new vocal/improv warm up into our mix that integrates voice, body, and improv.  The ensemble responded really well to it and helped out when I forgot the lines!  As always, showing empathy and patience and team work…

We settled into a discussion of costumes where almost everyone had a strong sense of what they should wear to support their work in their role.  Our Tybalt has requested a belt as she is a fighter and will need a place to hold her sword.  Our Lady Montague has requested a crown to allow her to enter into the regal mindset.  Romeo wants preppy khakis or dress pants to help her feel Romeo’s privilege.  The women are still thinking about whether the back drop wants to be representational and show Verona or whether they would like it to be a collage of words that convey the themes of their Romeo and Juliet.

After our costume and set discussion we worked on the Crypt death scene with Paris, Romeo, Juliet and Friar Lawrence.  At first Romeo and Juliet were working very hard to make themselves FEEL the scene.  They kept saying, “I need to be more emotional.”  It was clear that it was not clicking for them.  We stopped and we asked them not to “act” it.  We asked them to forget about what they thought they should feel.  We asked them to focus instead on what they WANT and WHERE they are in the scene.  Juliet and Romeo know their characters and the scenes well and, of course, knew what they wanted.  They could imagine how being in the crypt with dead loved ones affected them as teenagers.

We promised them that Shakespeare’s language will do all the “emotion” work for you as long as you know what you want and where you are.  We asked them to just say the words and try to get what they want.  We were hoping they would trust that the scene would play that way.  They dove in with great courage and TRUST and very simply played the scene while trying to get what they wanted.  And all the emotion was there.  They played the scene so beautifully and simply and it was heartbreaking and true.

One of the most valuable gifts that acting bestows is trust.  Trusting your cast mates to be there for you if you mess up.  Trusting your audience will respect you and go on a journey with you.  And most importantly, trusting yourself – trusting that you are enough and what is true in you is enough and you do not have to make yourself feel something to act, the feeling will happen if you listen to and work with and open your heart to another person.

 

 

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A special post… join the crowd(funding)! Live now!

If you’ve been following this blog, you know the impact that Shakespeare in Prison has had on its participants since it began in February of 2012. You know the challenges we’ve faced and the triumphs we’ve had.

What you may not know is that this program has received only a fraction of the funding it needs to be sustainable and has been operating largely on a volunteer basis and out of the pockets of its facilitators. This is not a model that can power Shakespeare in Prison into the future or allow it to develop and expand.

 Now we are asking for your help. Now is the time when you can show your support of this impactful program and give us a major boost as we redouble our efforts to secure institutional funding in the future. With your vote of confidence, we know that this program can achieve a long-lasting impact.

Please join the cause here. We’ve got great perks to sweeten the deal! And if you’d like to show your support but are light on funds yourself, please share the campaign.

Thank you for your support!

Session Three: Week Twenty Two

Tuesday

We had a couple of new members in the group today, and after welcoming them and warming up, we got right down to work to throw them into the mix and see how they did!

After reviewing our casting, we discovered a few holes which we began to fill. One woman is being released prior to our performances, but she is a wonderful member of the team and has been getting a lot out of the program, so she is going to stay, contribute to discussions, and sub for people when they aren’t there.

The woman playing Tybalt came to me to express her trepidation about playing such an “angry” character – that he reminds her of how she used to be. I reassured her that she does not have to do anything with which she’s not comfortable, but that perhaps if we approach Tybalt differently, she might bring great perspective and empathy to a much-maligned character, without having to relive anything from her past. I mentioned that anger is a symptom of a problem, and not the problem itself, so perhaps we should dig deeper and find what’s at the root of Tybalt’s attitude. She seemed to like this change of approach, and she’s going to think about it to see if she can get more comfortable with the character.

Our Benvolio has left the group, but one of our new members seemed to have a good personality for the part, so we asked if she would like to give it a whirl. We read through the first scene between Romeo and Benvolio, which she thought she didn’t understand but actually did, for the most part. The women put it on its feet, and it went pretty well, although we missed the playfulness and the friendship. These two women are friends outside of the group, and they joked that they have a similar friendship, but in reverse. One said, “Let’s do it again, and I’ll be you this time.” So they “were each other,” and it was much warmer and more fluid. Everyone really enjoyed it, and our new member is excited about playing Benvolio.

We then worked the “party scene” with all speaking characters on stage (we’ll plug in the other guests soon). We tried some different things, with Capulet pretending to play basketball throughout (as a way to help her be more physical and less feminine). The woman playing Romeo also did something very interesting physically, as she leaned with one arm against the wall while talking to Juliet. This made her interpretation seem more “smooth” than what we’re used to… but we liked it.

The group seems reinvigorated by the energy brought about by near full attendance and two new, enthusiastic members. Let’s hope we can sustain it for awhile, even through the unknown challenges we will almost certainly face as we head “down the stretch” – our performances will be at the end of June.

 

Thursday

 

After warming up and playing several high energy games that got us all laughing and on our toes, we had a brief discussion about our scenic and costume needs. These will be nailed down within the next two weeks so that we have enough time to gather and prepare everything for the performances.

We then decided that the best use of our time right now, with several brand new members and a few others who haven’t been in the group for very long, was to read through the whole play (which has many new cuts and is eleven pages shorter!) to assess what still needs to be done and make sure that the “newbies” have read it through. We got nearly half way through and discovered that there isn’t much we haven’t covered at all – it’s mostly group scenes, which have been challenging because of fluctuating attendance.

The woman playing Capulet noted that there is a major shift in the language from the first to the second part of the play. Many of the characters speak in even rhythms, and even rhyming couplets, early on, but things get more messy the deeper in we get. We discussed how this reflects the mood of the play in general – things are more or less status quo in the beginning, even when they are tense – but then things begin to go haywire with the death of Mercutio, and the language reflects that. It was an astute observation.

Session Three: Weeks Twenty and Twenty-one

Week 20: Tuesday

Written by Matthew.

 

We turned our attention to Romeo and Friar Lawrence today.

The women had already warmed up by the time we got to them, and they were ready to go.  We were fortunate to have more than one facilitator present, as all the core members of the group were present, but we needed to spend some time sorting out an interpersonal issue while simultaneously rehearsing.  While Frannie worked through the issue with two women—both core members, both important to the group—the rest of us worked on Act 2, Scene 3.

In the scene, Romeo bounces up to Friar Lawrence in the morning after having fallen in love with Juliet.  He teases his mentor briefly before launching into a declaration of love and intent to marry the daughter of his enemy.  Friar Lawrence at first admonishes Romeo, but ends up beginning to hatch his plan to bring peace to the families.

After talking through the scene, Romeo and Friar Lawrence determined for themselves where the “walls” and “windows” of the Friar’s backyard were.   The scene felt stiff on the first run, but the breakthrough came when a woman suggested that the Friar remain gardening on his knees while Romeo flits around him.  This created the right sort of tension, and allowed the Friar to dramatically rise to his feet in surprise when Romeo expresses his desire to marry Juliet.

We spent most of our time finding the right tone for the scene.  Romeo is both excited and bubbly and also frustrated by the Friar’s soberness.  He is impatient, but also taunting.  After several runs, we finally began to hit the right chord.  Romeo’s effusiveness causes the Friar to be even slower and more deliberate than he usually is, which in turn causes Romeo to taunt his elderly mentor.

When we had worked the scene sufficiently, the group gathered to talk about the problem of absences.  It can be hard to sort the women who are choosing not to attend from those who have no choice.  The core group expressed some frustration at this, since it cuts down the number of scenes that we can rehearse.

The group is ready for new members, and needs them to fill out the meetings.

 

Week 21: Tuesday

 

We spent some time today discussing possible performance times based on the participants’ work schedules and other mandatory conflicts. We hope to have these solidified soon.

We then realized that one of our newer members had not yet chosen a part. She had never been on stage before and wanted something “smaller,” so the group suggested she give Friar John a try. We read through Act V Scene ii to make sure that she and Friar Laurence understood it, and then we put it on its feet. The group applauded Friar John for being confident and showing she understood the text her first time ever performing, and then we began to dig deeper. “What is the mood in this scene?” one of the women asked. We looked for clues in the text – Friar John’s not understanding the import of the letter, Friar Laurence’s extreme urgency and frantic thinking of “Plan B.” We went through it again, and it improved, but the Friars were still not satisfied. We did an exercise in which they put their scripts down and improvised through the scene in their own words until they’d managed to hit all the main points and get a better feel for the atmosphere. When they performed again with their scripts, the scene was much closer to being what they want it to be.

The woman playing Friar John felt much better about performing after this and will consider taking on an additional minor role. The group was very excited about her willingness to commit so quickly.

Since we have recast the role of Tybalt, we returned to the section of Act I Scene v that is between him and Capulet. We worked on clarifying what the characters want: Tybalt wants to fight Romeo, and Capulet wants to stop him from ruining the party. The woman playing Capulet mentioned that her interpretation is that Capulet dislikes Tybalt because of his affair with Lady Capulet.  We tried to make things more physical, asking Capulet, for example, to imagine a rubber ball inside of her that she can bounce off of people (I swear, this is a real acting technique!), and Tybalt to experiment with different animal images like bulldogs and roosters.

We disbanded hoping to add new members to the group very soon and get to work on scenes that involve more people, since we have covered nearly all of the two and three person scenes at this point.

 

Week 21: Thursday

 

Attendance was light today, so we devoted the time to figuring out some of our technical needs.

We had originally discussed building soft flats that would act as scenery, but the more we talked, the more complicated this seemed to get. One of the women came up with an idea to draw and/or paint images that could be displayed on easels on either side of the stage to set each scene. This would eliminate the need for complicated set changes, as one person could simply remove a picture during each scene change. It would also eliminate the need to build a platform to use as the balcony, as the auditorium has a stage that is a bit elevated, and a picture will help us communicate what might be too complex for us to build in a set. The woman who came up with this idea will be its “designer,” figuring out what we need for each scene and delegating to our more artistically-inclined members what they are in charge of drawing or painting.

We then began to brainstorm ideas for a backdrop to set the tone. This backdrop would be made up of soft flats and would provide not only something more interesting to look at than the back wall, but a potential way to get from one side of the stage to the other without being seen (this was an issue when we did The Tempest). We decided to leave it there and continue to brainstorm with the larger group.

We also did a bit of thinking about costumes, mainly what colors they should be, and possible music to use.

Although there weren’t many of us there today, we got a lot accomplished. With the group’s input and permission, I’ve also made a number of cuts to our script that we’ll begin working with next week, and we hope to bring in more people on Tuesday. There was some frustration expressed that the performance might not be all we had hoped it would be, and I encouraged everyone present to let go of their expectations, accept that it will not be perfect, but that whatever this turns out to be, we will work as a team and it will be ours. As one woman put it after we performed The Tempest, “That was a difficult process, but if it hadn’t been hard, I don’t think I would appreciate this as much.”

Session Three: Weeks Eighteen and Nineteen

Week 18: Thursday

 

After welcoming a few new members to the group and warming up together, we moved forward in the script with Act III Scene iv, in which Capulet sets a date for Juliet’s wedding with Paris. Although it is a brief scene, we delved pretty deep into the characters here, beginning with determining how everyone feels about the situation. The women have envisioned this scene possibly taking place in Capulet’s office, sort of a “Godfather” setting.

We determined that Paris is uncomfortable with the situation and tries to leave, but Capulet doesn’t let him. We played with different ways of Capulet making Paris stay in the room, really “manhandling” him by subtly blocking his exit and keeping him in his chair with a “fatherly” hand on the shoulder. We talked about the need for Capulet to be bombastic not just when he’s happy at the party, but in all situations, at least at this point. We also discovered that the more justified movement the scene had, the better it worked.

We also worked a bit on Act III Scene iii, in which Friar Laurence tells Romeo that he has been banished. At first it was a bit rushed, so we stopped the scene and talked about how we all have a tendency to led bad news sink in a bit before reacting to it. With this, the woman playing Romeo, took her time processing what the Friar told her, and the result was a beautiful, slow scene in which we all understood exactly what she was saying because she began to allow herself to “fall in” to it, or “feel it,” as the women often say. The woman playing the Friar listened and reacted truthfully as well, and we were all moved. That being said, there are cues in the text that tell us that this quiet interpretation will not work in performance, since Friar Laurence calls Romeo a “mad man,” and Romeo talks about tearing his hair and throwing himself on the ground. We’ll be working toward an emotional build in the scene, beginning with this woman’s interpretation and developing it further. But she clearly empathizes with Romeo and has a natural gift for performing this text; we are all excited to be part of her development.

 

Week 18: Thursday canceled due to bad road conditions. We can’t wait for this winter to end!

 

Week 19: Tuesday

 

Written by Matthew

 

Tuesday was a bit of a challenge, but the group made it work for us.  Most of our participants went to a Black History month event scheduled at the same time as our group.  The event also took place in the prison’s auditorium, so we met in one of the classrooms in the programs building.  We began with about eight women present, including two new members.

We talked briefly with the new members about the group and warmed up.  The few core members who were present really wanted to dive into a scene, so we looked at the opening if Act III, scene i.  In this scene, Mercutio and Tybalt begin the altercation that will eventually end in both their deaths.

The women decided that the pacing of the scene was key to establishing tension, so they wanted to read over the lines several times sitting before trying to stumble through on their feet.  They worked out several options for the tone and pacing—fast and staccato or building slowly—before getting up to walk through it.

As soon as they were on their feet, the women understood that where and how they moved in this scene was as important as the lines they were saying.  So much of being threatening or playful is about being threatening or playful with your body.  The Tybalt’s lines, delivered with an ironic twist, mean something very different from his lines delivered earnestly.  The women were keen to try a short section many times in as many ways as they could think.

We tried an exercise in which Tybalt and Mercutio circled each other, sizing each other up like animals, while Benvolio stood in the background.  After a dozen or more experiments, Tybalt and Mercutio began to hit a stride that worked for them.

Unfortunately, we had to go at this moment.  Our participants had other appointments to go to, and it was getting late.  We closed the meeting and headed home.

 

Week 19: Thursday

 

Today was unfortunately very brief, as all programming was cut short about 45 minutes into our meeting and all inmates were required to return to their units. We did manage to warm up as a group and do some improvisation, re-emphasizing the importance of participation. The group also has decided to set the performance in a somewhat neutral place in terms of scenery, so we can begin gathering materials for that now. We will pick back up with Romeo and Juliet next week.

Session Three: Week Seventeen

Tuesday

Written by Matthew

 

Today, we discovered the Capulet family dynamic.

We began with some silly warm ups to loosen everyone up and get us thinking on our feet. The group seemed to be suffering from the February blues, and a few high-energy games got us moving and laughing.

The group wanted to dive into a scene. We had the nuclear Capulet family present—father, mother, Juliet, and nurse—so we decided to work on Act III scene v. In this scene, Juliet and Romeo awake after spending their first night together. After Romeo leaves, Juliet is confronted with the news that she must marry Paris.

We read through the first part of the scene several times until Romeo and Juliet were comfortable with the rise and fall of their conversation. Once we had played around with some movement and a few different tones of voice, Romeo and Juliet dropped their scripts and partnered with actors who were not on stage. The partners shadowed the two actors and read the words, one line at a time, to them. Romeo and Juliet repeated the lines, which allowed them to use their hands and eyes. Freed from the script, the actors found unexpected moments of intimacy in their dialogue, and also found moments of youthful miscommunication.

When we continued, Juliet was confronted first by her mother then by her father. The cold, combative tone that Capulet and Lady Capulet found in their readings contrasted with Romeo and Juliet’s warm banter. In particular, Capulet wanted to find the emotional arc of her vitriolic monologue.

The biggest question that the actors wrestled with during this scene was about the relationship between Lady Capulet and Capulet. At times, Capulet and his wife seem to gang up on their daughter. At times, Lady Capulet seems to be protective. After running through the dialogue a few times, we settled on the idea that the Capulet marriage is a partnership; any hesitation on Lady Capulet’s part is half-hearted.

In the final minutes of our meeting, the women discussed the challenge of maintaining a consistent emotional tone for each character. We closed by recapping the decisions of the day, and we went back to our homes and units.

 

 Thursday

 

We began today by welcoming and orienting two new members of the group. They are both very excited to be there and immediately volunteered to participate, improvise and read.

We began to read through Act V Scene I, since one of our new members is interested in playing Balthasar, but then two more new people showed up! So we stopped, welcomed and oriented them as well.

With the little time we had left, we decided to play some games and do some improv. This was a lot of fun – no one held back, and everyone was creative and open to “saying yes,” which is the most important thing in improv.

We are very happy to have some fresh energy in the group and look forward to possibly welcoming more people next week.

Session Three: Week Sixteen

Tuesday

 

After our warm up, the women playing Mercutio and Capulet informed the group that they have decided to trade roles. They are much more comfortable now and enthusiastic about the change.

In discussing our game plan for the day, one of the women mentioned that she was concerned about the prologue, specifically that the audience won’t understand it. After discussing a few different ways of dealing with this, a woman who has been in the group for a very long time was suddenly inspired and began detailing a really interesting concept in which the entire ensemble participated. The entire group turned the reins over to her, making suggestions when she got stuck momentarily but more or less following her directions. This turned out beautifully – we all worked together, and the staging of the prologue thus far (we got through about half) is poetic and helpful to telling the story.

We then worked Juliet’s monologue just before she takes the sleeping potion, as the woman playing that part was curious about where we can make cuts. After reading through it and talking about it, she realized that she really loves this monologue and doesn’t want to cut it after all. We worked through it a few times, guiding her as she strengthened her imagery and began to let the language overtake her. Her voice slowed and grew more powerful. She began to “feel the part.”

This was a very positive day, during which the feeling of the ensemble strengthening was palpable.

 

Thursday

 

The group began something really great during the two weeks when I couldn’t be there, which is that now when we warm up, each person leads the group through one stretch or exercise, instead of warm ups resting on one person. We also took the time today to kick back and play a very silly, fun game to keep us on our toes.

The woman playing the Nurse then took the stage to work on her monologue in Juliet’s bedchamber. She has already memorized the first half of it and absolutely has the sense of the second half. We worked with her to further incorporate the bond with Juliet, the heart and attitude of the piece, and the humor. The more we encouraged her to let it all hang out and have fun, the more hilarious she was to watch. And the woman playing Juliet reacted in priceless ways – clearly with affection, but rolling her eyes. These two women are friends outside the group, and their bond enhances what they do together on stage.

We then worked a bit on Act I Scene I, making some judicious cuts and working at finding the hatred these characters have for one another; finding a justification within the characters for their violence.  The women are a bit hesitant to be quite as hostile toward one another as the text demands, which is something we’ll work toward. As long as we all know we’re in a safe space in our group, we should be able to go wherever we need to go on stage.

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