Session Three: Week 27


We found out today that we have lost three of our members, one due to schedule conflicts and two others due to their being on sanction (this means that they are unable to attend the group, have too many unexcused absences, and can no longer participate). So we hunkered down as a group to discuss our options. After much discussion, we decided that it is too late in the game to continue adding people – especially since we never know whether folks will stick around and commit or not. The path of least resistance at this point is to rely on the ensemble we have, most of whom have been with the group since October. This includes the facilitators – so it looks like the three of us who can be at every performance will be taking on a role or two each.

While the goal of the program is for the inmates to take ownership of the group, the material, and their performance, I feel that we are still within the bounds of the goals we set by plugging in facilitators at this point. The women who are still with the group have been working diligently on the parts to which they committed months ago; lines are beginning to be memorized, and their understandings of their characters deepen with each rehearsal. For them to be penalized by others’ lack of commitment – to have to abandon these characters now to pick up the slack elsewhere, or to add to their loads with verbose characters like Mercutio and Friar Laurence – will engender stress, not empowerment. And we facilitators, by committing fully to the parts, becoming more integrated in the ensemble, and providing an environment in which the women can continue toward their own personal goals, can stay in keeping with Shakespeare in Prison’s objectives even as we step onto the stage ourselves.

All that decided, we dove into the “party scene,” which the women had been working on individually for the past week. It is mostly off book and has shown a LOT of growth. The woman playing Capulet, who has had a difficult time accessing the character’s aggression and “manliness”, became much more forceful and boisterous. She was still uncomfortable delivering her opening monologue on the stage, so we moved her into the house, where she can directly address the audience. This is much more interesting for her, and the speech took off. She noted that she had an easier time railing against Tybalt with Matt reading the role, as the woman who plays that character is still finding her way into the character. We discussed the give and take between actors; that the more she gives Tybalt, the more Tybalt will give her.

The woman playing Lady Capulet mentioned that she wasn’t sure what to do in this scene; she has found her way over to the Capulet/Tybalt argument, which feels right, but she’s not sure where to go once they both exit. Lady Capulet’s loyalties, she feels, are divided between her lover and her abusive husband. We ran the scene twice more to give her an opportunity to explore both ways playing the scene. I encouraged her to take a moment or two to make her decision. When we ran it the first time, she sadly exited after Capulet, and this ended up being what felt right to her. She feels that Lady Capulet is just too cowed by the abuse to do anything else – it’s not what the character actually wants, but she’s too afraid of the repercussions to follow her heart. This informs the rest of the play for her as well.

The group seemed empowered by our decision to be self-reliant, and by the enormous growth in the scene we worked tonight. I am encouraged that, even with all of the frustrations, no one yet has said, “Maybe we should cancel the performance.” They set a goal, and they are determined to meet it.


Written by Sarah

We began the rehearsal with a warm up and a discussion of the paint needed for the sets.  Our Capulet pointed out that if we get the primary colors and white we can make any colors we need.  The cast was also very excited to share that there will be a balcony built for the show.

We then got down to work rehearsing.  We got so much done.  The cast members have been soaking up their roles and working hard on objectives.  It shows in their work, which is deepening and strengthening each week!

We began working on the Capulet/Montague face-off in Act I.  Staging the scene and making sure that everyone knew what they wanted and needed in their characters.  The cast built on the facilitator's suggested blocking to find the humor and the danger in the scene.

We worked on the Apothecary/Romeo scene, putting Romeo back in, as she had to miss the last rehearsal when we worked it.  The actors found strong objectives and the cast provided great encouragement and direction to them.

We then moved on to the top of the party scene when Capulet welcomes guests through to the argument with between Capulet and Tybalt.  In this scene Tybalt discovered the power of stillness.  When she stopped trying to be on the move and allowed Tybalt to stay in one spot, she discovered the power she could emanate with just Shakespeare's language.  Capulet had so much to react to and work with, with Tybalt's new-found quiet strength, and the sparks flew between the two.

Finally we worked on the Romeo and Juliet bedroom scene (the lark and nightingale scene).  This was an extraordinary experience, and our Capulet took the helm as director and mined the scene for all its humor.  She asked Romeo to be DOING something physically throughout the scene (taking shoes off, getting back in bed, etc...) There was a smooth and exciting collaborative spirit in the room that allowed everyone to do their best work.

The cast has really embraced the use of objectives and tactics, and I promised to do a great objectives and tactics exercise at the top of rehearsal this week.  We closed knowing we had made strong progress and worked very well together.


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