With most of our “newbies” back in attendance today, we jumped into some warm ups and silly games. Everyone was smiling and having a great time, loosening up together, with the exception of two participants who chose to sit out. They know that this is okay sometimes, as long as it doesn’t become a habit. We began to work together on the piece from Hamlet, reviewing what we went over during the last session when many of them were absent. One thing we discussed was whether or not one can ever truly transform into a character; what it means to tell the truth as oneself under imaginary circumstances – the circumstances of the character.
As we were working, a new participant arrived. We stopped what we were doing to orient her and answer her questions about the group. She is very enthusiastic, having done some acting before, and is eager for the new experience of working with Shakespeare.
We then returned to Hamlet. One of the participants who’s been in the group for awhile volunteered to read it to the group. She did a great job, and everyone complimented her for taking her time and not being melodramatic. One participant brought up, though, that at first she had seemed to just be reading. I asked them when they thought she had “fallen in” to the piece. They weren’t sure, but I had actually noted it when it happened – it happened on the word “nothing.” I asked them why they thought that. We decided that it was probably because, although she had an intellectual grasp on the meaning of the piece, it wasn’t until she got to a word that has the same meaning now as it did 400 years ago that she emotionally connected – and then the piece deepened greatly for her. She said she could definitely feel a difference at that point. I introduced the concept of a pre-beat – a moment before one begins a piece when one takes stock of “who am I, where am I, what am I doing, what do I want…”, etc. She did this, and her performance deepened again.
During this second reading, one of the participants who had been sitting out crept into the circle. She wanted to give feedback to this other participant – they’ve grown close in the past few months. Then she asked if she could read. She’d been feeling down anyway, and she poured her emotions into the piece, but she was very closed down in terms of her energy. I asked the group what they thought, and they said that, while it was clear that she understood and connected with the piece, they couldn’t connect to her. I asked her to try to reach out more and draw us in, get us to help her. The next time, she did.
We were then out of time, but everyone left feeling good. I’m hoping that more of our new participants will feel ready to read during the next session. They seemed really inspired by what the other two were able to do today. Our program was featured in the Detroit Metro Times this week! Check out the article here: http://metrotimes.com/arts/behind-bars-with-the-bard-1.1371708