Session Three: Weeks 18 and 19

Week 18: Thursday  

After welcoming a few new members to the group and warming up together, we moved forward in the script with Act III Scene iv, in which Capulet sets a date for Juliet’s wedding with Paris. Although it is a brief scene, we delved pretty deep into the characters here, beginning with determining how everyone feels about the situation. The women have envisioned this scene possibly taking place in Capulet’s office, sort of a “Godfather” setting.

We determined that Paris is uncomfortable with the situation and tries to leave, but Capulet doesn’t let him. We played with different ways of Capulet making Paris stay in the room, really “manhandling” him by subtly blocking his exit and keeping him in his chair with a “fatherly” hand on the shoulder. We talked about the need for Capulet to be bombastic not just when he’s happy at the party, but in all situations, at least at this point. We also discovered that the more justified movement the scene had, the better it worked.

We also worked a bit on Act III Scene iii, in which Friar Laurence tells Romeo that he has been banished. At first it was a bit rushed, so we stopped the scene and talked about how we all have a tendency to led bad news sink in a bit before reacting to it. With this, the woman playing Romeo, took her time processing what the Friar told her, and the result was a beautiful, slow scene in which we all understood exactly what she was saying because she began to allow herself to “fall in” to it, or “feel it,” as the women often say. The woman playing the Friar listened and reacted truthfully as well, and we were all moved. That being said, there are cues in the text that tell us that this quiet interpretation will not work in performance, since Friar Laurence calls Romeo a “mad man,” and Romeo talks about tearing his hair and throwing himself on the ground. We’ll be working toward an emotional build in the scene, beginning with this woman’s interpretation and developing it further. But she clearly empathizes with Romeo and has a natural gift for performing this text; we are all excited to be part of her development.

Week 18: Thursday canceled due to bad road conditions. We can't wait for this winter to end!

Week 19: Tuesday

Written by Matthew

Tuesday was a bit of a challenge, but the group made it work for us.  Most of our participants went to a Black History month event scheduled at the same time as our group.  The event also took place in the prison’s auditorium, so we met in one of the classrooms in the programs building.  We began with about eight women present, including two new members.

We talked briefly with the new members about the group and warmed up.  The few core members who were present really wanted to dive into a scene, so we looked at the opening if Act III, scene i.  In this scene, Mercutio and Tybalt begin the altercation that will eventually end in both their deaths.

The women decided that the pacing of the scene was key to establishing tension, so they wanted to read over the lines several times sitting before trying to stumble through on their feet.  They worked out several options for the tone and pacing—fast and staccato or building slowly—before getting up to walk through it.

As soon as they were on their feet, the women understood that where and how they moved in this scene was as important as the lines they were saying.  So much of being threatening or playful is about being threatening or playful with your body.  The Tybalt’s lines, delivered with an ironic twist, mean something very different from his lines delivered earnestly.  The women were keen to try a short section many times in as many ways as they could think.

We tried an exercise in which Tybalt and Mercutio circled each other, sizing each other up like animals, while Benvolio stood in the background.  After a dozen or more experiments, Tybalt and Mercutio began to hit a stride that worked for them.

Unfortunately, we had to go at this moment.  Our participants had other appointments to go to, and it was getting late.  We closed the meeting and headed home.

Week 19: Thursday

Today was unfortunately very brief, as all programming was cut short about 45 minutes into our meeting and all inmates were required to return to their units. We did manage to warm up as a group and do some improvisation, re-emphasizing the importance of participation. The group also has decided to set the performance in a somewhat neutral place in terms of scenery, so we can begin gathering materials for that now. We will pick back up with Romeo and Juliet next week.