During warm ups, one of the participants confessed that she was thinking about quitting the group. I asked her why, and she said it was because of her stage fright – she didn’t think she could get up in front of people outside of the group and speak Shakespeare. I asked her if it was getting up in front of people freaking her out, or if it was the Shakespeare, or both. She said it was mainly the Shakespeare. Since we’re doing a variety of scenes and monologues, I asked her if she would like to narrate so that we could keep her in the group. I pointed out that being onstage speaking lines that are NOT Shakespeare might help her get over her fears, and that she might be okay doing Shakespeare next time around. She agreed to do that and seemed very relieved. She also offered to be a stand in for absent people, since she doesn’t mind doing Shakespeare in front of us and could keep in practice that way. What a great idea. I’m so glad we’ve found a way to make her more comfortable. First we worked Macbeth/Lady Macbeth with the previously mentioned participant standing in for Lady Macbeth. The scene went very well – afterward I jokingly said that I didn’t know what the substitute was so worried about – she did very well. She smiled at that. The participant playing Macbeth said she was a little confused about how she should play the part and asked me to come onstage and show her what I meant about what she should be doing. I did this, and she said she understood it better. The next time through the scene she definitely improved. But then she said she wanted a “more dramatic” scene and said she would talk to her scene partner about choosing another one. Fine by me.
Then this same participant wanted to work her monologue, so we did. She had been teasing me that she would be trying something new with the piece, and she did – she became more emotional than ever before when addressing dead Desdemona and tearing at her clothes in anguish. It was incredible. The only thing was that, in her focus on this aspect of the monologue, the previous part of it was lacking some of the fire with which she has been performing it. We are going to work on combining the two feelings.
Then we worked a comic scene from Romeo and Juliet with the Nurse and a stand-in for Juliet. The first reading was a little stiff, so we went through the piece finding words and phrases that were difficult and figuring out what they meant. I also suggested more movement. The second read was better, but still stiff. I showed them what I meant by “movement,” since having me physicalize these things seems to help them more than me just saying it. I also showed the Nurse what I meant about being more dramatic and teasing. The third and fourth reads improved dramatically. I am hoping that the participant who was absent today, who still needs a scene, will be okay playing Juliet in this scene, since the one playing the Nurse is very attached to it.
One of the participants asked if it would be all right to do just her monologue and not a scene. I said that was absolutely fine – we’ll just have to find someone to take over her part in her scene. She said she would think about it a little more and let us know for sure on Tuesday.
Then the participants began talking about how much they enjoy the program, and someone said something really remarkable: that the class makes her forget she’s in prison for two hours. Another said that she feels relieved and happy as soon as she walks in the door for the program. Everyone agreed. I am so touched by this. What incredible sentiments. If I have anything to do with experiences like this, it makes all of the time and work I spend on this program completely worth it.