June 1, 2012

Today was a great day. Lots of discoveries. Some of the inmates had to leave early, so we decided work monologues today and get back to the scenes next week. The first participant to perform is working on Rosalind’s monologue. Her first reading was very fast, so we went through the piece and found words to emphasize or linger on. She took these notes and performed again, with great results.

Then one of the participants performing Antony’s monologue performed. She was rushing quite a bit, so we did an exercise called “dropping in,” in which I stood behind her and read the lines, which she repeated in her own way – this got her focused on herself and her feelings, rather than on a page that she was reading. Everyone loved this exercise – it really freed her up, and it sparked their interest.

As a result of this, the first participant asked if she could do hers again with the drop in exercise.  This proved to be very beneficial to her as well. She said she is becoming more confident every time she performs.

Then one of the participants working on Emilia’s monologue took her turn. She is still stumbling, so we decided to do the drop in exercise with her as well. This made her more able to speak fluidly, which helped her acting quite a bit. She is doing a really great job trying to overcome her challenge with the language.

Then our Othello took her turn. She was rushing, so I asked her to slow down. We tried doing the drop in exercise, but she already knows about half of her piece by heart and said she didn’t like it, so we stopped. She then tried to slow down, but said it didn’t feel natural to her, and she couldn’t get to the place, emotionally, to which she wanted to get. So she did it again her way, and it was great. She’s taking more risks with the emotions of the piece and showing a lot of growth.

Our other Emilia went next. She normally does this piece sitting, but I felt like it was holding her back, so I asked her to try standing and moving. She stood during this performance, but she didn’t move. I demonstrated to her different ways she could move through the space and sort of toy with Desdemona, and she tried it again, with success. She said that the movement helped her to access more of the attitude and sexiness in the piece.

Then our other Antony took her turn. Her piece is becoming very powerful, and she is stumbling less over the language. She’s also taken to pacing back and forth during her speech, which is completely appropriate and, she says, helps her not to get tripped up on the language. She said she has found this power by continuing to use substitution: channeling the feelings she has about her friend who recently committed suicide and using it to fuel Antony’s anger and sarcasm. She is doing so well. I am very proud of her.

We did a lot of chatting today – the participants are making great strides and had a lot to say!

One of them says she has noticed that when she watches TV, she is beginning to analyze the actors and the choices they make. She says it’s made TV much more interesting to her. Building on that, we talked about making personal choices with a given character, and how each individual brings something totally different to the table, based on his/her own experience.

There was so much good stuff going on that I was jotting down notes as we went so I wouldn’t forget any of it. They seemed curious about what I was doing, so I reminded them that I am keeping a blog, which I think some of them forgot about. They are very happy that I am doing this. They said that they feel that there are a lot of opportunities for personal growth and positive experiences in prison, and they don’t feel like that gets enough attention. As one of them said, “Prison is what you make of it.” They are glad that word is getting out about this program.