February 21, 2012

We began today with physical and vocal warm ups. We did several very physical exercises, and participants discussed their developing awareness of their bodies in space and the importance of focus and energy. They feel that they are on the way! I asked the group if they would rather do more games/exercises or delve into Shakespeare, and they unanimously wanted to move on, so we did. We divided into partners to work on “What a piece of work is a man.” Since there was an odd number, I worked with one of the prisoners. She had written the monologue out for herself and has clearly been working on it all week – every day, as she later confirmed. She was very focused on the emotion of the piece and said she could identify with the despair in it because she has experienced it herself.

One of the participants spoke up and expressed that no one should be laughing at or not committing to the exercises and games. She said that the only way the group could reach its full potential is for everyone to fully commit. We talked about the importance of not laughing at one another, supporting each other and committing even to the silliest exercises because they all have a purpose. We discussed that we need to truly be able to trust each other, as some of the material we will be working with could bring up some of our own emotions, and we all need to be able to feel safe and supported when those emotions arise.

We had one new participant this week who volunteered to read the piece in front of the class first. She gave a very good reading but was hesitant to commit to the emotion of the piece, which we all agreed would get easier the more we worked. Everyone else read the piece as well, and everyone had a slightly different interpretation. Most of them focused on Hamlet’s depression and search for answers, but one in particular had a very different interpretation. She viewed the piece as being full of anger and frustration, and she performed it forcefully with those emotions. Everyone agreed that this interpretation worked just as well as the others. We discussed how we could all interpret a given piece differently, and it wouldn’t necessarily mean that any of us were “wrong.”

Everyone then demanded that I perform the piece again, so I did. They all were very excited by my interpretation and we discussed it. They remarked on how I expressed conflicting emotions and gave time for new thoughts to fly in rather than rushing through the piece. They also commented on my lingering on some words and not others, so we talked about truly embracing the language and how it communicates emotion.

I then asked if anyone would like to perform again, and the first participant said that she did. Her interpretation, after watching everyone else, was much deeper, and she committed fully to the emotions she was experiencing. We discussed her growth.

I then checked in with everyone to see how we’re doing. Everyone is enjoying themselves, which is great. Some of them are still feeling nervous getting up in front of everyone, but they agree that that is getting better. They decided to memorize the piece they’ve been working on for next week to see what it’s like to act without a script in hand. They decided that after next week we should start working on other material. We will work on monologues first and then move on to scene work.