May 25, 2012

After warm ups, the participants elected to begin scene work. One of them has already chosen four scenes in which she is interested. We began with a scene from Othello in which Desdemona begs Iago for help after being abused by Othello, and Emilia nearly loses it on Iago, she’s so angry about what he’s done to Desdemona in his plot to drive Othello mad with jealousy. At first the participant who chose the scene was reading for Emilia, because her monologue is Emilia’s. She then was called out of the class, so another participant took her place. We read it a couple of times seated, and then the three of them got up on stage. I told them to just move however they felt like they should the first time through. This resulted in minimal movement and one of them repeatedly turning her back to the audience. I showed her how not to do that, and then I encouraged them to try different types of movement; i.e., Emilia advancing on Iago in her anger.

These three participants made remarkable strides in this scene, which they ran through on their feet four times. Each time the scene became more and more intense as the inmates committed more fully to the material. They were invigorated by it, and I think they will want to stick with this scene.

Another participant stayed toward the back of the room while they worked at first, and then she moved down to sit next to me. She told me that she had just graduated from college, and I congratulated her. This is a huge accomplishment for her, as she has been in prison since she was seventeen. She then confided in me that she is feeling shaky about her monologue – she feels that she is a good actress, but that she is having a hard time with Shakespeare. I asked her what was bothering her, and she pointed to a few lines and phrases in the monologue. I said, “Let’s just cut them.” She said, “You can do that?” I told her that as long as the monologue or scene still makes sense, we can cut whatever we like – that most stagings of Shakespeare’s plays have cuts in them. So she made her cuts and then delivered the monologue. She was so good that I was compelled to shout out, “yes!” as she read. I asked her if she felt better, and she said she did. She then performed two more times, which is unusual for her and clearly shows her gain in confidence. I am very proud of her.

There was fairly low attendance today, so we didn't get as much done as I had hoped, but we've got a good amount of time to get everything figured out, so I'm not too worried about it. I'm really enjoying seeing these women gain confidence and grow as people, not just as actors. I'm looking forward to doing more scene work with them.