We stuck to our plan today, moving on to Act II Scene I. But first, the woman who has been cast as Grumio let us know that she will be released earlier than she expected and will go home in January. This is, of course, great news! It does leave a casting gap, and we decided not to make any decisions today – to give ourselves until Thursday to think over our options. In the meantime, the woman who has been cast as Pedant volunteered to read in for the day, since she is interested in the role (and several others are interested in casting her there).
We began to introduce some storytelling concepts today that are also basic acting concepts. The woman playing Gremio asked right off the bat “how she should play her character” – as she put it, she’s not sure right now whether he is “cocky or soft.” I shared the idea of “given circumstances” in the play, suggesting she focus not on “how” to play Gremio, but on what is evident about him in the script that can inform her interpretation. I suggested that, since her instincts right now are not leading her in one particular direction, she comb through the play to see what Gremio says about himself and what others say about him. Off the top of our heads, we know that he is old and rich, and that people poke fun at him a lot. Looking into this in more detail may give her some solid ideas of where she wants to go.
Another thing that came up is the importance of how we walk. We specifically talked about Petruchio’s walk – we know from the text that he is very sure of himself, that he is physically fit (at least enough to frequently smack others around), and that he may be somewhat self-centered. So how is this reflected in his walk? A long, swift, sure stride seems key, and posture will also contribute to our audience knowing immediately what kind of person this is. We didn’t dwell too long on this, since we had a substitute Petruchio, but everyone is now thinking about her character’s walk, and we’ll be able to move forward from here, having established the idea.
Our Hortensio had a lot of fun playing contrasts in this scene – from alarm initially about the fight between Grumio and Petruchio to asking how they are doing and welcoming them – to baiting Petruchio about Kate until he bites and then quickly reeling him in. This was an absolute delight to watch and gave us some great ideas for how to enhance our story. Another great discovery, since the group is enthusiastic about breaking the fourth wall and engaging their audience, is how well it works to have Grumio retreat into the audience and heckle Petruchio from out there for most of the rest of the scene.
We’re talking constantly about clues in the text that inform our staging, encouraging each other to speak up with creative ideas for telling our story the way we want to tell it, and the work today was fun and exciting. It was a good session.
Attendance today was low, and the energy was kind of down as well. This is a very hard time of year for everyone, so the facilitators didn’t push anyone who clearly needed a little space.
The people who were present decided, after a brief discussion, to cast the woman who read Grumio at our last meeting permanently in the role. She is ecstatic, as she fell in love with the character during that reading. She’s a very good fit there.
We plugged in a couple of people to Act I Scene II who were absent when we last worked on it. We are not yet “done” with the scene, in terms of basic staging, due to the large number of absences, but we decided to leave it for now and return when more people are present. Otherwise we will have to review it again and again, which has proved frustrating in the past.
We plugged in our Biondello to the end of Act I Scene I, as she was not there the last time we worked on it, and then we moved on to the issue of the Pedant, as this role is now vacant. There is a newer member of the group who is currently cast as the servant Peter, and we asked if perhaps she would be interested in reading the part to see how she felt about it. She agreed to try it, and as we worked the Pedant’s scene, she seemed to grow more comfortable and enthusiastic. She has great energy and seems to fit the part very well. She is going to look over it in more detail before committing for sure.
Due to the holidays, we are only meeting once each of the next two weeks, so this blog may be a little quiet through the new year. Things should pick up in January, after we get through a season that is very rough on many of the women in our group.