As we were waiting for people to arrive today, one of the participants shared with me that, as a result of being in this group, she is enjoying television and movies in a different way – she is becoming more analytical of the actors, and she’s really enjoying that. She likes trying to figure out how they make the choices they do, and what she would do in those situations. We began by working on Act II Scene I, since our Gonzalo has been absent when we’ve worked it before. That participant is very intuitive about where she should move and when, which is great. We did have to stop and figure out to whom each person is talking at certain points, but most of the participants are gaining skill at finding these clues in the text, so each pause takes less time. One really wonderful moment was when the participant playing Alonso delivered her lines, “You cram these words into my ear…” She connected very deeply to what she was saying, so much so that the entire group stopped and applauded her, with several people even saying, “Wow.” I asked her what caused the change, since this is the first time we’ve bought what she has done in this scene, and she said, “I just really put myself into the character for the first time.” It was really inspiring.
We then spent some time talking about Trinculo and Stephano, since we have a new participant who has stepped into the role of Stephano, and we want to get her caught up. The participant playing Trinculo had an idea that, at first, she was afraid to say, but we encouraged her to open up. She believes that Trinculo has a crush on Stephano but is hiding it; she wants to play with being very “fruity” when Stephano isn’t around, and then trying to be more macho when he is. She feels that this “crush” will motivate Trinculo’s jealousy of and behavior toward Caliban. No one in the group has a problem with this interpretation, so we are going to play with it.
The women playing these roles then moved on to talking about the characters’ drunkenness, and how stupid it makes them – how unable to achieve their goals. They volunteered that their own experiences with substance abuse illuminate how these characters operate. I made very clear that if they ever feel uncomfortable portraying characters who abuse substances, they are absolutely free to call a hold and take a break, and even to stop playing the characters altogether; however, the women feel that it will be a testament to their own strengths to play these roles without feeling tempted to go to that place, and they are looking forward to how it will make them feel. We then had a brief discussion about how to play these characters truthfully without judging them, even though we might be tempted to do so – that they are more likely to make their point that drunkenness is harmful by playing it honestly than by showing the audience how they personally feel throughout their performances.
It is wonderful when the participants feel comfortable enough to open up about personal experiences that shape what we are doing in the group. That’s a big part of what this is all about. Playing these characters whose issues are familiar to them will, hopefully, enable them to take another look at their own experiences and learn from what they are doing now.