After most of the participants informed us that they would have to leave significantly early for a variety of reasons, we decided to do a brief warm up and then jump right into Shakespeare, since that’s what they are most enthusiastic about. The first participant to perform was the one who chose one of Othello’s monologues. She told us she had been working on it on her own. She then performed it, and she showed a remarkable improvement over the last session. She is really embracing the language and the heightened emotion of it. We all felt that she needed to go further, and one of the participants volunteered to lie across some chairs on the stage as if she were dead Desdemona. This caused the performing participant to connect even more with the piece. The third time she performed was the best and elicited cheers from the rest of the participants. She is really getting into her piece and shedding her nervousness and fears about truly connecting with it.
One of our new participants from last week chose Rosalind’s monologue to the shepherd and shepherdess from “As You Like It.” She read through it once, and then we broke it down bit by bit to glean all the meaning we could out of it, and to make sure we all knew when she was talking to each of two people. She performed again, and showed that she intellectually understood what was going on, but she was having trouble connecting to the piece and her imaginary others. She asked if two people could come onstage with her so she could talk to them. They did, and she showed a much better understanding of the piece playing off of them.
The participant who chose Romeo’s “But soft…” had a lot of trouble today. She was having difficulty accessing the energy and emotion necessary for the piece, and, even when another participant joined her onstage as Juliet, she still could not connect. She then decided to abandon that piece in favor of one that she could better relate to, possibly the piece from Hamlet that we initially explored as a group. I’m looking forward to seeing what she chooses.
Our participant with the learning disability followed her instincts this week and performed her monologue sitting down. She is progressing beautifully on her piece and clearly understands it, even when she stumbles on words. Inspired by what the others had been doing, she asked if someone could come onstage with her as Desdemona. With this added intimacy, her monologue got even better – she had more attitude and emotion, totally appropriate to the piece she has chosen. The words seemed to come more easily this time as well. When I checked in with her afterward, she told me that she is feeling much more confident with the piece and will continue to work on the words that are troubling her.
Of the other participants who performed, all are showing improvement and beginning to connect with their pieces. There is absolutely no one in this group who is taking backward steps or doing poorly. They are all fully committed and are growing into their monologues.
The participants asked if, during the showcase, they could have other people onstage with them during their monologues, the way most of them did it today. We all decided that it would be a good idea, so we’ll do it.
After most of the participants had left, those of us who were left did some breathing exercises and played a circle game that most of them knew, but that was new to me. I'm not kidding when I say I'm learning from them all the time! The game was a lot of fun and totally appropriate to the program, as it encourages quick thinking.
Everyone is still showing growth and increased confidence. They are progressing so well, and so quickly. They are a joy to work with.