Today we worked for awhile on the beginning of Act V Scene I – just the part of the scene with Ariel and Prospero alone together. It was very encouraging to see one of the women who has been reticent to participate much volunteer to be one of the first to try out the scene as Ariel. At first she was very sly and still on a bit of the “power trip” that we discussed the character having at earlier times in the play. We talked about whether or not that was working and decided that it wasn’t. “What’s Ariel’s goal here?” I asked. The group decided that the goal was to get Prospero to soften, to see the men’s suffering. The woman changed her goal, and the whole scene changed. It gave the participant playing Prospero much more to work with. We also tried slowing the scene down to give each actress more time to reach conclusions and react to one another. After another pair worked on the scene, the group decided to move to the epilogue. We talked about the parallels of what Prospero says here to their own desires in prison – that he and they are all seeking release, both emotional and physical. After the first participant read, we discussed her physicality, and someone suggested that she find a place to kneel and humble herself. I also suggested that she take her time more. She did both of these things and said that it felt better – she was beginning to find deeper meaning in the words.
Then another participant bounded up on stage, saying she just had to try it because it resonates so deeply with her. She read the piece, and we were all very moved. She said that, to her, it means that he accepts responsibility for his flaws and the wrong things he’s done, but that he’s done his time, and he’s changed, so it’s time to set him free. Everyone agreed with that.
There will be a bit of a break due to difficulties scheduling over the holidays, so the participants agreed to spend time with their scripts and brainstorm about casting not only themselves but the entire group. The next session will likely be devoted largely to casting.