Today we decided to take a break from scene work and focus on a couple of monologues. The first one we decided to work was Ariel’s “You are three men of sin…” monologue. We haven’t seen the participant playing Ariel on stage nearly enough, and she was game, so we began work on this. She read it through out loud once, and I asked her what she had gotten out of it. “I don’t get it,” she said. I reassured her that that was fine, not to understand every word, but did she get anything out of it? Finally she said, “Is she pretty much saying that this will be the worst thing ever.” “Yes!” I said. “So you did get something out of it!” We then broke it down, bit by bit, so that she could understand the details. We also talked about what’s going on with the character here – she (the participant is playing Ariel as female) is very complex. She has a desire to be free and a dedication to Prospero, which motivates her to do her job well, but we feel that she may be on a bit of a power trip, too. Some of the participants drew a parallel to their own experience – there are times in prison when they have felt empowered, but they usually have not. They get upset when they have to do things they don’t agree with, but the love for their families drives them to comply with all of the restrictions. This is a very good parallel to draw when working on Ariel. One of them also pointed out that even with the purest motives, it is possible to get carried away when in a position of power.
We then moved on to Prospero’s “Ye elves…” monologue, in which he decides to give up his powers. This gets to the crux of Prospero’s transformation, so I asked them what makes him give it all up? Our discussion led to his physically giving up the books, which have been the most important thing to him – they led to his downfall, but they also have brought him significant power since he’s been on the island. But what they believe is that he’s discovered that what really matters is not in the books, and it’s not revenge – it’s forgiveness and love. He’s learned that by watching Ferdinand and Miranda, and through his interactions with Ariel. The group discovered here a parallel to someone with a substance addiction – the addiction becomes a part of the addict, and an important one. Here, Prospero is addicted to power, but he realizes he must give it up – and it’s not easy. One of the participants said, “It’s a death.” And she’s absolutely right – Shakespeare is very specific about Prospero’s feelings that this is a death, as he “buries” his staff and “drowns” his book.
Everyone was really struck by the discoveries that we made today, especially that last one. Things clearly began clicking into place for the women playing those characters, and everyone else was very engaged in the conversation.