We tried a new warm up today, one that comes from Michael Chekhov technique and warms up the whole body while getting one’s energy flowing in all directions. While some people with whom I’ve worked have been resistant to this exercise, this group loved it and requested that we do it regularly from now on.
We determined that, since attendance was rather low last Thursday, the best use of our time today would be to review what was worked on that day. One of the women suggested that we put the scenes immediately on their feet, rather than reading them, to see what those who were new to the scenes could get out of them. We tried this with the scene before the party, which includes Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech. The women said that they were still finding it kind of mystifying, so we broke it down. As with many of these scenes and monologues, we decided that it would really take the actor’s physicality to make this speech work. But what kind of physicality would that be? Another participant suggested that they break up into smaller groups and experiment.
The first group of four women each chose one line to “act out.” They wound up using each other as props, which we all decided would be a good thing for Mercutio to do in the scene. What was remarkable was that each of them memorized her one line in the fifteen minutes we spent working on this. That seemed to instill some confidence in the group that memorization might not be as difficult as they anticipate.
The second group designated one Romeo and then took turns talking to her, using gestures they thought were appropriate, with just one section of the monologue. The whole group liked this approach as well.
The third group didn’t fully commit to their approach because after they saw what the other groups had done, they thought they had misunderstood their goal. We talked about how that could have been an opportunity to improvise rather than to simply go through the motions.
It was a productive day, but we’ll have to do much more work on this speech. I think that’s a very usual challenge to have with this play!
After warm ups, we worked on three line scenes, led by Sarah. The women got better and better at this exercise as we kept working, and they can all see how this exercise in particular will help them in performance.
We reviewed Act I Scene V, the “party scene.” After we read it through, one woman asked why Capulet is okay with Romeo being there. We discussed some ideas – maybe he’s NOT okay with it, but he doesn’t want a fight at his party; perhaps he is protecting Tybalt; or maybe he’s just so drunk he doesn’t care. Another question posed was how nobody sees what happens between Romeo and Juliet. We talked about how important blocking would be here, but how we could also use a theatrical device to make it work better – perhaps everyone except the two of them either freezes or moves in slow motion, for example.
We put the scene on its feet, and it was very nice. The women who read Romeo and Juliet gave a very quiet, vulnerable reading. The woman who read Romeo has done a lot of reading so far, but she said this was the most connected she had felt to the text and the other actors. This was a good opportunity to talk about how sometimes a very large performance isn’t necessary, and how we really liked how sweet and simple their reading had been.
One of the women said that she has read through the whole play and feels an intense connection to the Nurse. She feels that she has a lot in common with the character and is very eager to play her. I don’t think that will be a problem for anyone – we’re all very excited when we see people making those connections.