We had a couple of new members in the group today, and after welcoming them and warming up, we got right down to work to throw them into the mix and see how they did!
After reviewing our casting, we discovered a few holes which we began to fill. One woman is being released prior to our performances, but she is a wonderful member of the team and has been getting a lot out of the program, so she is going to stay, contribute to discussions, and sub for people when they aren’t there.
The woman playing Tybalt came to me to express her trepidation about playing such an “angry” character – that he reminds her of how she used to be. I reassured her that she does not have to do anything with which she’s not comfortable, but that perhaps if we approach Tybalt differently, she might bring great perspective and empathy to a much-maligned character, without having to relive anything from her past. I mentioned that anger is a symptom of a problem, and not the problem itself, so perhaps we should dig deeper and find what’s at the root of Tybalt’s attitude. She seemed to like this change of approach, and she’s going to think about it to see if she can get more comfortable with the character.
Our Benvolio has left the group, but one of our new members seemed to have a good personality for the part, so we asked if she would like to give it a whirl. We read through the first scene between Romeo and Benvolio, which she thought she didn’t understand but actually did, for the most part. The women put it on its feet, and it went pretty well, although we missed the playfulness and the friendship. These two women are friends outside of the group, and they joked that they have a similar friendship, but in reverse. One said, “Let’s do it again, and I’ll be you this time.” So they “were each other,” and it was much warmer and more fluid. Everyone really enjoyed it, and our new member is excited about playing Benvolio.
We then worked the “party scene” with all speaking characters on stage (we’ll plug in the other guests soon). We tried some different things, with Capulet pretending to play basketball throughout (as a way to help her be more physical and less feminine). The woman playing Romeo also did something very interesting physically, as she leaned with one arm against the wall while talking to Juliet. This made her interpretation seem more “smooth” than what we’re used to… but we liked it.
The group seems reinvigorated by the energy brought about by near full attendance and two new, enthusiastic members. Let’s hope we can sustain it for awhile, even through the unknown challenges we will almost certainly face as we head “down the stretch” – our performances will be at the end of June.
After warming up and playing several high energy games that got us all laughing and on our toes, we had a brief discussion about our scenic and costume needs. These will be nailed down within the next two weeks so that we have enough time to gather and prepare everything for the performances.
We then decided that the best use of our time right now, with several brand new members and a few others who haven’t been in the group for very long, was to read through the whole play (which has many new cuts and is eleven pages shorter!) to assess what still needs to be done and make sure that the “newbies” have read it through. We got nearly half way through and discovered that there isn’t much we haven’t covered at all – it’s mostly group scenes, which have been challenging because of fluctuating attendance.
The woman playing Capulet noted that there is a major shift in the language from the first to the second part of the play. Many of the characters speak in even rhythms, and even rhyming couplets, early on, but things get more messy the deeper in we get. We discussed how this reflects the mood of the play in general – things are more or less status quo in the beginning, even when they are tense – but then things begin to go haywire with the death of Mercutio, and the language reflects that. It was an astute observation.