During our check-in today, two of the returning participants noted that they have been reading ahead in the script together, and they are feeling very pulled toward certain characters. We again discussed the need to be open to at least two or three characters, since we will do casting as a group and not everyone will get her first choice, and then they gave the group a preview of what is coming up.
One of the past participants asked if we could “jump around” in the script, working scenes in no particular order, but another mentioned that that felt a bit chaotic to her in the past. We decided to compromise by working through the play in order now, and then working whatever the group feels like once we’ve gotten through the whole thing.
We played two call-and-response games, which were a lot of fun, and then we got down to the play. We continued to work on Act I Scene I, reading through the second part of it and then getting it on its feet. We proceeded to cycle through many of the participants in the Romeo/Benvolio part of the scene, experimenting with vocal freedom and physicality to communicate the relationship and characters. We got to a place where everyone was able to get the dynamic across, more or less, and one woman remarked about a pair, “That was very different but still worked perfectly.” They are gaining confidence in making individual choices with the text as they see it coming across clearly from different people. We saw Benvolios who cared deeply about Romeo’s situation and others who were mocking and sarcastic, as well as a few who struck a balance between the two extremes.
This scene is always a lot of fun to play around with, and I have a feeling we’ll be working with it more when we begin “jumping around” in the script.
Today was a very positive day, even though it got off to what could have been a rough start. It took much longer than usual for us to get through security at the facility, but we kept in mind that last week the women began warm ups without us when we were a little late, and hoped that they were finding ways of using their time well while we waited. When we entered the auditorium, I was elated and extremely proud to see the entire group sitting in a circle, working on the script. This is something that I had not seen in our program yet and shows the incredible growth this group is already experiencing – we are only in the fourth week of the program, and they are already confident and empowered enough to take on the challenge of working on the text without a facilitator to guide them. And they were doing excellent work. As a result, they are even further empowered to take ownership of the program and the text – when we discussed a date in the future when it may not be possible for any of our volunteers to come to the facility, a few of them jokingly said, “We’ll have class without you. We don’t need you!” I am so excited that they’ve taken this step together.
They had moved on to Act I Scene II, and Dominique and I plugged ourselves in and caught up with them. We filled in some of the (very few) blanks they still had, discussed the characters a little bit, and then put the scene on its feet. This led to further character analysis, in particular about Paris and Capulet. One woman asked if Paris were just a pretty face. We discussed that, while he is definitely less developed as a character than other people in the play, he also gets very much swept up in the tragedy – it’s possible that he suffers the most while having the least amount of responsibility for what happens.
Another woman brought up that she is getting a “Donald Trump” vibe from Capulet, which I think is dead on. Another woman didn’t quite understand the parallel, and the first woman explained that she feels that he is powerful and domineering but, ultimately, kind of a blowhard.
I was also pleased to see a familiar face had rejoined the group today – the woman who, in the last session, had so many issues with communication and experienced such growth in terms of expressing her opinions without hurting others’ feelings. She is back for more, is getting along great with everyone so far, and I couldn’t be more happy.
These first four weeks have been truly amazing. This group has gelled far faster than the previous two, pushed in that direction, perhaps, by the larger number of returning participants, and I am so very excited to see what their growth will be like from here on out. They are already amazing all of us volunteers every single day.