November 27, 2012

The group decided they wanted to explore the characters of Miranda and Ferdinand today. One of them suggested that we begin with Act III Scene I, in which the two profess their love for one another. The first read gave the participants a deeper understanding of the characters and the scene immediately. The one playing Ferdinand realized that he is a “fool in love.” The participant who played Miranda said that she was too, and we talked about how silly this scene with these “stupid teenagers” is. One participant said that she realized that Miranda goes into this scene with a plan to get Ferdinand to marry her and needs his assurance that he really loves her. We decided to read it again with this group, and I encouraged them to go further, and for the two playing the teenagers to make themselves younger. This time the participant playing Miranda became very, very “cute” – something another participant said she didn’t realize she could do. Everyone was very impressed by the change. The participant playing Ferdinand said this reading made her more aware of Ferdinand’s “princely qualities” – that he’s not just a normal teenager, but carries himself with a lot of confidence, and maybe that’s part of what blows Miranda away.

We switched up the parts then, and it was during this reading that the women made a huge discovery. They’d been wondering at what point in the play Prospero shifts from a desire for revenge to that for forgiveness, and what makes him change. They think they have found it in this scene, and the first thing that tipped them off is the difference between the two speeches he makes. One participant remembered what we discussed regarding punctuation, and noted the exclamation points in his last speech of the scene. She said that meant he was excited, and she said it seemed different to her from what had gone before. They discussed that he puts Ferdinand through a trial, partly because he wants to hold him hostage to torment Alonso – and perhaps seeing his daughter fall in love, and Ferdinand behave so honorably, begins to change his mind about what he really wants. “It sets the tone for everything he does after this,” said one. “Love is more important than revenge, and this is where he gets that,” said another.

We talked about how different actors might play Prospero in this scene – how there could be many interpretations, even amongst actors who agree that this is a huge moment for the character. “Shakespeare brings the actor or actress out of you,” said one. She was amazed at how differently people can play one character, and still be “right.”

Nearly everyone left today feeling especially enthused because of their breakthrough with Prospero. They want to focus exclusively on him in the next session. I am ecstatic that they are so excited about a discovery they made as a group, putting a scene on its feet and then discussing it, and with really no input from me. They are taking ownership of the material, working as a team, and enjoying putting together the pieces of the puzzle.