Today I was accompanied by Molly McMahon, who will be filling in for me for the first two weeks of August. The women all enjoyed having her there, and I know they are going to do great work together in my absence. After warm ups, one of our Emilias requested that she perform first. Everyone was, as usual, impressed by her improvements. She is doing very well at physically expressing her attitude, and her memorization gets better and better. She got a little down on herself for stumbling on a few of the words, but someone pointed out that it’s okay if she stumbles because this should seem like it’s the first time she’s saying these things. She also needs to work on her volume, but this is improving.
Next was one of our Antonys, the one who was so tired during the last session. At first she lacked passion, stumbled over her words and stopped. She did this twice, and we encouraged her to stick with it and not be so hard on herself. Her third try hit the nail on the head. Everyone especially loved how she backed off of her anger toward the end and let her sadness come out. Someone suggested that she should exit at the end of the monologue rather than remaining onstage, and she liked that idea, so she will do it from now on.
Then our Othello performed her piece. She was a little off, and asked me to come on stage with her and give her some examples of things I have been suggesting to her. This helped her a lot. She performed again, and it was amazing. All of a sudden, things just clicked for her. The anger was there; the crazed guilt, the despair. We asked her what happened. “I could feel it more,” she said. “It just came to me.” We are all so excited about her piece!
Then we worked the Iago/Emilia/Desdemona scene with a participant standing in for Desdemona. They really committed to what they were doing, and the participants in the audience remarked that they liked the way that the stand-in was weeping – it seemed more realistic to them than the way the other participant does it, so we need to figure out how to give her the notes she needs to get there. We worked the scene more, and each time it became more believable. The relationships are clear, and the actions are motivated.
Then our Hermione worked her piece. She attacked it with so much emotion – anger, begging – that one of the other participants actually cried. “She’s hitting all the right notes,” she said. The performer said that she is still “holding onto” the lines, and I encouraged her to let go and trust that I had the script in my hand and wouldn’t let her go blank. She performed again, with even more intensity, and the same participant cried again. She said she just can’t believe how good it is. The participant playing Hermione said her challenge now is to really focus and not multi-task in her head while she’s on stage.
Then we worked the King’s monologue. The intensity was great, and she actually dropped to her knees this time, which is something she’s normally hesitant to do because it’s not totally comfortable for her. We then did an exercise to increase her physical commitment to the piece, taking her out of her head and into her body. This did a lot for her – one of the other participants said that she can hear the inner argument the character is having without even looking at the actress. The next performance of this piece was the best yet.
There are two people who have missed the last couple of sessions, and if they are not there next time, we discussed what we will do. The participants decided that rather than cut any material, they will pick up the slack. I’m glad that’s the way they want to handle things. They also talked about the power of commitment – that even on days that they don’t feel like getting out of bed or making the walk to the building, after they do, they feel better because they have followed through on their commitments, and they have a good time.