February 28, 2012

We began with physical and vocal warm ups, and a few exercises to fully engage our bodies. Everyone is becoming more comfortable moving through space, maintaining balance and taking risks. We then moved right on to Shakespeare, per their request. Some of them had memorized the “What a piece of work is a man” piece and were eager to perform it. Others were not memorized but were still eager.

The first participant to perform showed improvement over last week but is still struggling to make her thoughts appear to be spontaneous. We encouraged her to keep trying and suggested that she focus more on her character's objective. Her second performance was stronger.

The second participant to go was the one who, last week, interpreted the piece as being full of anger and frustration. In memorizing, she backed off of the emotion somewhat, and we all encouraged her to take her time with the language and go deeper into her feelings. She improved a little, but it is apparent that she will need more time with whatever piece she chooses to perform in order to integrate the acting with the memorization.

Two other participants, one reading and one memorized, gave very deep and emotional performances of the piece. Everyone enjoyed these immensely and commented on how spontaneous the performances seemed. They were excited about the emotional commitment these two showed and how it illuminated the true meaning of the words.

Finally, our participant who was concerned about her learning disability volunteered to perform. She was fantastic. Not only did she not stumble over many of the words, which was her fear, but the way she expressed herself during the performance was completely appropriate and, I think for some, unexpected. Everyone not only clapped but cheered, had good things to say about it, and she visibly became taller and more confident with each compliment. She then performed again with more fluidity and confidence. This is huge for her as she was so intimidated by the language at first.

Each time someone takes an emotional risk like these three did, the group becomes stronger and trusts each other more. I'm so excited to see the ensemble taking shape like this.

I then handed out packets of the monologues from which they will choose to be part of the final performance. We began reading these to each other, one person at a time. At first some of them seemed intimidated by the language – many of these pieces are more complex than what we’ve been using. But as we read more, they realized that the gists of the pieces are actually fairly easy to understand. They were able to grasp most of what was going on in each piece without any help from me. And the more they read, the more enthusiastic they became. They are very excited about the new material.

Checking in at the end, the participants had some suggestions for how to proceed with the program. They would like to keep the focus on Shakespeare as opposed to exercises - they enjoy the exercises and understand their importance, but they don't want them to be the focus. They want to do more working with one another so everyone can get to know people whom they don't already know from their units. They want to do some improvisation to "get out of their shells," and they want to get better at accepting change through their acting.

I will abide by all of these suggestions in order to make sure that they are getting what they want out of this program. I am learning more from them every week and feel very positive about the group and what they will accomplish. This program is already my favorite part of each week.