We began today with some rousing warm ups, including a fun game to build energy and commitment. To my delight, this group jumped in with far more gusto than either of the previous groups. I believe this is due to the example provided by the returning members of the group, who are so enthusiastic and committed. We played another game after that and, again, it went far better more quickly than it usually does.
We moved on to an improv game that one of the new participants had played before. She jumped right in at the end of my explanation, and the group just took it from there. They showed a lot of imagination and willingness to be very silly, which is the first step toward letting themselves be as emotionally vulnerable as one needs to be to fully commit to some of the characters in a play like Romeo and Juliet. I made sure they knew that their improvisation doesn’t HAVE to be funny, but that it’s great that they’re so willing to put themselves out there. We also discussed excellent comic actors who are gifted dramatic actors as well.
Toward the end of the session, the women decided that they wanted to read through the 20 minute Romeo and Juliet again. It was very fun this second time, but some of the women expressed that they are itching to know what some of the scenes look like in their original, tragic form. One of the returning participants recalled the monologue from Richard III we worked on about a year ago (Anne: Set down, set down your honorable load…), began reciting the piece (accompanied by another veteran) and then wanted to know why we weren’t staging that play. I explained again that the majority vote was in favor of a play with some uplifting or comedic elements, and that anything “funny” in Richard III is very darkly so. Most of the new participants then expressed that they would have no problem working on a darker piece, but that they are happy to work on the one we’ve already chosen this session.
After warm ups today, we revisted the improv game that we learned last Thursday. The women are already showing improvement at this game, thinking more quickly on their feet and finding very creative ways to play. We had a lot of fun with it.
I asked them what they wanted to do next, and they decided to work on the “What a piece of work is a man…” monologue from Hamlet. We read it as a group, from punctuation to punctuation, and then a few women volunteered to share what they had gotten from it. Gathering together all of the ideas they expressed, we got the gist of the piece right off the bat. We then went through it again, breaking it down phrase by phrase to get more detailed meaning.
Several women then volunteered to “read the piece with feeling.” The first to read went through it twice, slowing down the second time and saying that she was starting to “feel it” more. The next to read showed that she already grasps the musicality of the language – it was a very expressive reading; she took her time and expressed a firm understanding of the piece in the way she lingered over certain words. The group was very impressed and excited.
I then introduced the concept that, in acting, the most important thing to remember is the character’s objective or goal in a scene – everything flows from that. I asked them what they thought Hamlet’s objective might be in this piece, and they arrived at him asking for help. The next four women to read the piece, all tried to focus on that with varying success. The language is very challenging for some, obviously, but we all reassured them that, with practice, they will master it.
One of the women then stated that, while she’s having fun, she really wants to get to know everyone better. I asked the group if they’d like to do some exercises specifically for team building, since we’ve already broken the ice, and they said yes. I am hoping that this approach – following their lead, easing them into these activities that make us more vulnerable to one another, instead of starting off with those exercises – will pay off in the end, since they’ve already built a foundation of trust without our overtly going after it.