July 10, 2012

Today the women decided that they want to start working their scenes and monologues in the order in which they’ll be performing, so we’re going to approach our days that way from now on. We began by working with our narrator, since she hasn’t been able to get on stage and work her stuff yet. She wanted to run all of her material at once, rather than in between other peoples’ pieces. She did this, and she did a pretty good job, but she was shifting from side to side and not looking up at all. The other participants commented on this, and she said that she could feel herself doing it, and it’s because she is so nervous on stage. I talked to her about planting her feet, imagining them growing roots into the ground to keep her literally “rooted” to one place. We also asked her to try to look up more, which will obviously become easier the more familiar she gets with the material. She tried it again and improved quite a bit. She says she will work more on her own so that she can continue to become more comfortable on stage.

Next we worked one of our Antonys. This is the one who consistently rushes through the piece, and she did it again today. She knew it, too. One of the participants suggested that, rather than walking on stage and then beginning, she should begin as she is walking. She tried it that way and liked it a lot better. Then I teasingly reminded her about how much better she’s done when she puts down her script and just calls for lines she can’t remember, and she smiled and agreed to try it that way. The piece really took off. She is now more enthusiastic about memorizing the lines, since she feels so much better performing without that script.

Then the participant performing the drop in exercise with Rosalind’s monologue worked. She has chosen another participant with whom to do the exercise, and they spent some time working out the pauses they will take throughout the piece. When they performed, it became obvious that they were not pausing enough, as the phrases were so long that the one performing was losing steam in between them. They sat down and re-worked it, and did much better. Rosalind still wasn’t satisfied, though, so she is going to break it down more on her own and bring what she wants to do to the next session.

Next was the participant playing the King from Hamlet. Once again, she rushes through the first half of the piece and then really falls into the second half – it’s very powerful once she gets there. We talked about why that happens – why she’s not connecting as much with the first half. She said she just likes the language better toward the end – it’s more powerful. She’s also got that part of the piece closer to being memorized. I suggested that she focus more between classes on the first part, and that, once she’s memorized (or mostly there), we can do a really great exercise to get her energy moving more forward and with more power, in which she will push against my hands as I either hold my ground, push back, or retreat. This has always worked very well when I’ve either seen it done or put it into practice with other actors, so I have no doubt it will work equally well with her.

Then one of our Emilias went, with the other Emilia sitting in as Desdemona. They have decided to be each other’s Desdemona, which I think is great. This one’s first delivery was very quiet, which we asked her to work more on. The other participants love the movement she is incorporating into the piece. Her volume increased the next time, just by her being more aware of it. I then gave her an image to work with to help her with her lustiness and attitude, and that worked very well. She’s going to do a great job in performance.

Then the other Emilia performed. The reason she has the first Emilia playing her Desdemona is so that she can mouth her lines to her if she forgets, which is a great strategy, and her increased comfort definitely showed in her performance. She literally blew us away. She delivered those lines with the least stuttering yet, showing a great understanding of the material, driving home her points, and even incorporating new movement into the piece, exactly where it made sense to do so. The applause from the other participants was loud and long, and they even cheered. We all expressed how proud we are of her, and she beamed. She performed it twice more, gaining confidence each time. The improvement is more than remarkable – it is astonishing.

We then worked the Duke Frederick/Rosalind/Celia scene since they were all present. The participant playing Duke Frederick is nearly memorized, which is fantastic and has definitely motivated the other two to work on memorizing theirs. We continued to discuss physicality and the need for Rosalind and Celia to have more “spunkiness” than what the participants were playing. They incorporated both of these directions into their next performance. But we needed to raise the stakes. I asked Duke Frederick to imagine herself as someone with a lot of power over other people, and for the other two to imagine themselves standing up to someone in their own lives who has power over them. This is obviously not difficult for any of them to do. With these “what ifs” firmly in place, the scene gained a lot of energy and passion.

The women continue to make great strides every day. They are getting more and more excited to perform, and I am getting more and more excited for them to do it!