March 1, 2013

One of the participants came in today feeling very emotional about some things going on in her personal life. We took some time to let her talk about what was going on, and others in the group offered their support and advice. She seemed to feel a little calmer after our talk, but asked if she could just observe for the day anyway. I said that would be fine, but I’d love for her to warm up with us – I had a warm up in mind that we haven’t done in a very long time that I thought would make all of us feel better. This warm up was the Six Directions, in which one pushes one’s energy in different directions with different qualities of movement. It comes from Michael Chekhov technique and is usually a favorite among groups with which I’ve worked. We did the exercise, and everyone remarked about how much more awake, alive and energetic they felt afterward – one said it was almost like Tai Chi, and it gave her more focus and positive feeling. I then taught them the psychological gesture “to uplift,” and we took turns with one person in the center of the circle and the rest uplifting her. As always with this exercise, each individual to be “uplifted” did feel lighter and more cheerful afterward. They want to do these exercises more often in the future.

After this, I asked the group what they wanted to work on. They all wanted to work on a scene with a good number of people in it, even though it was a low attendance day and we would have to work with substitutes. They chose Act III Scene iii, in which Ariel torments the men from the ship. We have decided to cut the banquet portion of the scene for simplicity's sake.

The participant playing Sebastian stopped things at one point, expressing frustration that the woman playing Antonio is not taking all of her suggestions. I asked Antonio why she is hesitant to do certain things on stage (in this case, she was hesitant to stand close to Sebastian and be aggressive), and she said she didn’t know. That led to a brief discussion about how people in the group come to the material with different backgrounds – some are very comfortable reading aloud, and some are not; some have no inhibitions on stage, and some are extremely inhibited. I reassured her (and the rest of the group) that, because of this, not everyone will move at the same pace, but everyone will grow, and that’s what is important. I also asked the participant if it was okay for us to gently push her, knowing that she can tell us it’s too much at any time. She agreed. She then pushed herself further in subsequent readings.

I stood in for the participant who plays Ariel today, which proved to be a lot of fun for everyone. We experimented with the key words to which the men react in her monologue, and then we worked on different ways in which they physically react. They really enjoyed having me on stage with them because I never hold back, and they love playing around with interacting with me because of that.

The participant who had been observing began a discussion at that point about how well the day had gone, even with a number of people missing. She felt that things had seemed more “cohesive” today. I asked the group if they agreed, and, when they did, I asked them why. They decided that things went so well because everyone present was so open to diving in, taking risks and volunteering their ideas. Then the participant observing made a special point of complimenting the woman playing Antonio on how much she’s grown in the group so far, and how much she is looking forward to seeing her continue to grow. “The only way you can fail is to give up,” she said.

This was an extremely positive day for everyone, and I am hoping that it spills over into the next session, when we’ll have more people.