May 1, 2012

Today a few of the participants had to leave early, so we did a very quick warm up and then dove right in. The first participant to perform is doing Othello’s monologue over Dedemona’s body. She again lost some of the energy that she gained last week, but when she performed a second time we all felt the desperation and despair of the character. She actually knelt beside the body this time and made herself much more vulnerable at the end of the monologue. She says she is still getting over her stage fright, and we all reminded her that this group is there to support her and cheer her on. She felt better about the monologue by the time she sat down.

The next participant is one of the two performing Antony’s monologue from Julius Caesar. She still showed a solid intellectual understanding of the piece but lacked the passion necessary to make it really work. We talked about the character’s grief, frustration and anger with the crowd for turning on Caesar. This hit home for her and made it much more personal, and her subsequent readings gained a lot of power. She is beginning to feel very good about her piece.

Then the other participant performing that piece took her turn. She went through the piece very quickly, and the group encouraged her to slow down and measure out her words. She did so, and she improved. I then reminded her that the crowd does not necessarily listen to what she’s saying, and she needs to paint pictures with her words to win them over. This time her piece had much more impact. She was smiling as she exited the stage.

The next participant to perform was the one working on “What a piece of work is a man.” Her first performance was not up to snuff, for her or for us. She said she did not feel she had done well with it. I pointed out to her that she hadn’t done it as if she were talking to another person and encouraged her to find a focus point and talk to that, asking for help. She did this, and she improved, but she still did not feel good about her work. I did an exercise with her in which the entire body expands and then contracts, and I asked her to remember how that contraction felt as she performed. I asked her to be as physical as possible with the piece, even if she wouldn’t necessarily perform it that way. This time she took flight. Her passion was right on target, she had a focus point for the most part, and she took her time with the language. She felt much better after that performance.

The participant working on Hermione’s monologue was next. She maintained a lot of her anger while remaining regal, but after she performed she asked if there should be more sadness in the piece. I said that her instincts were absolutely correct – this woman has just given birth, and is weak, and she’s just lost her husband, two sons and her honor, and she may be executed. Of course there is sadness there! She performed the piece again with these conflicting emotions, and it was very powerful.

The next participant to perform is working on Rosalind’s monologue from As You Like It. She is doing better distinguishing between the two people to whom she is talking, and she is getting better at hurling the insults. She’s not quite there yet, though. I reminded her that her character is the daughter of a duke and thinks of herself as higher than the people to whom she is talking. This time the participant added in some haughtiness, and it was great. She was not feeling well today, so she declined to perform again. We’ll see how she does next week.

Last week’s new participant chose Jaques’ “All the world’s a stage” monologue from As You Like It. We broke it down phrase by phrase and went over the words she didn’t know. She then performed the piece, acting out the various stages described in the monologue, and it was very funny. Toward the end she ran out of steam, but since this was her first time performing, that’s understandable. She is excited to keep studying the piece and to perform it next week.

Then we began work on a new monologue with the participant who requested something more funny than what I had initially provided. She is now working on Phebe’s monologue from As You Like It. We broke it down, and she said she really liked it. She then performed it once and showed a good understanding of the language and tone of the piece. We will continue to work toward finding the comedy in it.

We had one new participant today who said she loved Shakespeare in high school and is very excited to dive in. She participated in discussions about the performances and seemed very eager to get to work.

At the end of the session, I told the women what good work they had done and how much I enjoy spending time with them. “Oh, don’t give us a big head,” said one of them. Then another said, “No! We’ve spent enough time in our lives getting torn down. I like being built up.” It really touched me that this program can do that for them. They are all doing a bang-up job, so it is easy for me to build them up with all the sincerity in the world.

I'd like to note that there are twelve women currently in this group, and to save space in this blog I am not recounting all of the work that we do each session - the entries would be very long. I feel like they're long already. If there are any participants that I am leaving out about whom you'd like an update, just comment below and I'll fill you in.