Although tonight we had very light attendance (this is a recurring issue that we are working on addressing, believe me!), some very deep work was done by the women who were present.
I had a chat with the woman playing Lady Capulet about her character just after we walked in. She identifies deeply with Lady Capulet – this woman comes from a family where “expressing affection is expressing weakness,” and, having grown up in that environment, she has struggled to be affectionate with her own child while working against that conditioning. She does not feel that she has always been successful, and she feels that struggle in Lady Capulet as well. Complicating matters for Lady Capulet is a lack of agency – no matter how she might feel about Juliet’s situation, she will always capitulate to her husband for fear of abuse, as this participant discovered in a prior rehearsal.
We also had a good discussion about avoiding emotional “substitution” and instead drawing on past experiences to inform our acting without reliving trauma. We discussed “as if” situations (i.e., it’s as if my own child had been killed when Tybalt dies) and ways of making things physical instead of intellectual (i.e., when I went through this awful experience, I was disoriented, like a zombie – drawing on that, I will imagine that I am moving through fog in this scene). While drawing parallels between Shakespeare’s work and our own lives is important to the work we do, re-opening painful wounds for the sake of acting is dangerous, and we must take care when we revisit those experiences while telling this story.
After talking for quite awhile, we gave Lady Capulet an opportunity to try some different things with the scene just after Tybalt and Mercutio are killed. Clearly she’s upset – but what does she do physically with those emotions? We determined that she should not get in the Prince’s face when demanding justice – it worked better when she stayed on the ground. Being rooted in the language is beginning to do the work for the actress in this scene.
We then worked on Juliet’s “Gallop apace…” monologue, which has been cut down quite a bit for the sake of time and not overwhelming the participant. She does not like the first part of this piece, but she gave Dominique a chance to “make a case” for it. After Dominique explained the poetry a bit, the importance of its tone at this point in the play and for Juliet, the participant tried it. It began to work better for her, but when it really took off was when I took her script, sat behind her, and read each line softly to her, allowing her to “drop in” to the text without having to read it. Although I couldn’t see her face, her voice was much more connected, and those who were in the audience were very excited about what they both saw and heard. The participant is now more enthusiastic about the piece, to the extent that she is going to take a look at the previous version of the script to see if she wants to put back in anything that we’ve cut.
After Sarah led a great exercise about objectives and tactics, we worked on the first scene of the play. We finalized some cuts, eliminating three out of four parents from the scene so that Lady Capulet and Capulet can double as Abraham and Sampson. Our Balthasar is still with us, and I have been cast as Gregory. With that, we worked the scene for pacing and tone. The Prince is making great progress, becoming more imposing, slowing down, increasing the power she has on stage. The scene is beginning to work very well. We just need to choreograph our fight with the foam swords!
We then moved to Act V Scene I, in which Balthasar tells Romeo that Juliet is dead, and Romeo goes to the Apothecary. Our Balthasar has some stage fright, but she is determined to get past it. Her interpretation of the scene is that Balthasar does not want to give Romeo this news, but he has to. As such, she found that it works to avoid eye contact with him until he gets upset. Romeo got to a point today where she has begun to truly feel the loss and desperation, although she needs to dig deeper to motivate Balathasar’s lines about her. She has begun to vocalize without words, which is a big step for any actor – we tend to be very intimidated by our own voices when they are on the primal side, and it’s exciting to watch her progress.
We finished up the day by solidifying that Matthew will play Mercutio, I will play Friar Laurence, and our new volunteer (who will join the group next week!) will take on some of the more minor roles. It seemed like a relief to everyone to know who will be playing those roles. Now I’ve got some lines to memorize!