After physical and vocal warm ups, we moved on to a quick game to wake up our bodies. After that, I introduced the idea of forming a Trust Circle, in which one person in the center of the circle allows herself to be passed within the circle as she moves off balance, but the participants did not feel comfortable doing it. I asked them if they thought they might want to at a later date, and they said yes. I appreciate that even though they don’t want to do it now, they are willing to consider it in the future. It shows that commitment and willingness to take risks that I so admire in them. We then played a couple of games to explore team work and focus. The team work aspect is working very well, although focus appears to be a bit of an issue. We will keep doing exercises and games to increase that skill.
We moved on to work on monologues. Each participant has chosen the one she likes the best, and they all chose very solid pieces.
The first to go delivered “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…” from Julius Caesar. When she finished, we all applauded, but she was down on herself because she felt that what she had been doing was “fake.” I assured her that that is a normal feeling to have when first working on a new piece, and that if she can “fake it till she makes it” she will soon hit on the truth of the piece. We then broke down the monologue phrase by phrase to glean more meaning – when what Antony says is sarcastic, and when it is not. This made her feel much better and more confident. She performed the piece again, and it was much improved. We then asked her to imagine that she was speaking to a large crowd, with Caesar’s corpse right in front of her, and she improved again. She appeared to feel better than after the first performance, which is great.
The second participant did “To be or not to be…” from Hamlet. At first her interpretation was very presentational, but when we broke the piece down, it began to hit home for her. We discussed being torn between wanting to live and ending it all, and she remarked that she has felt that way in the past and can really relate to it. Once we’d gone through the whole piece, she performed it again. It was better, but she was going way too fast, which a few other participants remarked on. I pointed out to her that there is a lot of punctuation in the piece, which indicates a lot of time for thoughts to fly in. She was struck by this idea and asked if she could perform the piece sitting on the floor. Of course she could! This time she took her time, slouched with her elbow on her knee and her cheek on her hand, and she completely wowed us with the depth and honesty of her interpretation. We all felt the despair and the pain, and we were all moved.
A third participant chose a piece from Othello. This piece is one in which Othello has just discovered that Desdemona, whom he killed, was innocent, and he contemplates the value of his life and the likelihood that he will go to hell. This participant’s first reading was little more than that – a reading. When we broke the piece down, she began to understand it better, and her second reading was more intense and aggressive. She is timid about the closing line, which concludes with “O! O!” I explained to everyone that these O’s indicate an open sound, not necessarily "oh" - in this case, sounds of grief. I made some of these sounds myself as an example. This participant then performed her piece again, with more energy, commitment, and grief – until she got to the end, when she backed off of the emotion. I asked her if she thought she could get past her nervousness, and she assured me that, with practice, she can.
The last participant to read chose the King’s speech in Hamlet in which he wonders if he can ever repent enough for his crimes, and if he’ll ever be forgiven, even through prayer. Her reading showed a general understanding of the material, and when we broke it down she said it helped – but she also said she did not want to go again. Of course I didn’t make her do it.
The level of dedication and commitment these women are showing is awe inspiring, especially considering none of them have acting experience and most of them have no past knowledge of Shakespeare. I am inspired by their courage and am really looking forward to working with them as they continue to grow.