July 13, 2012

Today the first participant to perform was one of our Antonys. She decided to try it without her script right off the bat, and only needed help with lines twice, which is fantastic. She is still rushing, which is her main problem, but as she becomes more comfortable without the script in her hand, this will go away. One of the other participants volunteered that the more she rehearses without the script, the easier it is for her to take it slowly and find places to pause, because she isn’t as worried about remembering the next line. We then worked the Iago/Emilia/Desdemona scene with a substitute participant for Emilia. Our main issue with the first performance was that Desdemona was just too quiet, so we encouraged her to find more power and increase her volume. We also noted that when they touch each other in the scene, they do so tentatively and briefly. I asked them to imagine what they would do in their real lives here – if they would probably let their hands linger on another person’s shoulder when trying to comfort her. They incorporated these directions in their subsequent performance and did much better. Then one of the other participants noted that when they are not speaking, they are not altogether active in listening, so we tried it again with more focus on that, and the scene improved again.

Then we worked the Nurse/Juliet scene with me standing in for the Nurse, per Juliet’s request. Although I am still hesitant to get on stage and give my interpretation of these characters, because I want the women to make discoveries themselves, Juliet found that acting with me opened her eyes more to the character because what I was doing gave her different motivation than what the other participant is doing. I remarked that this participant will be able to give her more when she is not so focused on reading, but everyone still wants me to get up and do their scenes with them from time to time. They said that it gives them an example of what to do, which is sometimes easier to interpret than simply listening to what I say. It gives them ideas and reinforces the idea that they can be completely different people on stage than they are in their lives. Even though I am reluctant to do this, I can see that it does help them, so I will continue to do it whenever they ask me to.

Next was the Duke Frederick/Rosalind/Celia scene. The first feedback that came out of the scene was how well we can understand the participant playing Emilia, who has a speech impediment. There’s been a great improvement there. Rosalind was still having trouble keeping her body open to the audience, and, before I could say anything, Emilia said, “Well, this won’t be a problem if we stand on a diagonal,” and adjusted her scene partner. She then adjusted Duke Frederick’s blocking as well, again without my help. This fixed it. I remarked again, as I did last week, that this participant’s insights really clue us in to the fact that she is a director! She truly understands what needs to happen on stage, without having any formal training. It’s great. We also worked on increasing the fire in the characters and keeping focus during the scene.

We then worked Hermione’s monologue, since she hasn’t done it in awhile. She is now completely memorized and only paused once or twice to get a line. Again, the participant who is becoming a director gave her amazing feedback – she loves her gestures and physicality, and that she is using her whole body to get her point across. I did notice that her eyes were going all over the place, and I reminded her to find one focus point for her husband and only let her eyes roam when she’s talking to the other people at the trial. She tried it this way and it worked much better. She remarked that the piece has become very natural to her because she has developed a deep personal connection to it. That’s what I’d hoped for. I’m so glad it’s working.