We returned to Act II Scene I today, plugging in our Petruchio, who has missed the last couple of times we’ve worked on it. We found, though, that our focus shifted to Hortensio – she has been having a difficult time finding her way into the character, and Sarah suggested that she try a different approach. Instead of downplaying Kate’s flaws, as she has been doing, the woman playing Hortensio tried the scene with in a straightforward way. She found that this works better for her, and it makes sense, given how logical Hortensio is about so much in the play. She’s feeling a bit better about the character now.
We then read through Act III Scene I, in which Lucentio and Hortensio take turns surreptitiously wooing Bianca. The woman playing Bianca said that she was torn between the character being sweet and naïve or being a tease. She mentioned that one of the women in the group feels strongly that Bianca is “loose,” to put it mildly, and several of the others jumped in to caution her against trusting anyone’s instincts over her own. Sarah shared an anecdote, then, about a time when she listened to her cast-mates’ instincts about a character rather than her own, never felt good about the performance she gave, and only realized after the show had closed what truly clicked for her about the character. This story bolstered Bianca’s confidence in trusting herself here, and it’ll be interesting to see in what direction she ultimately goes.
One of the women in the group came in today bursting with excitement about some reading she’s been doing. She got a copy of Othello, which she loved and summarized for the group. The thing she loves most about Othello is how familiar she found Iago – she’s witnessed manipulation like his and feels that the play is very true to life, that it still has relevance for all of us. She’s also been reading a book called Shakespeare’s London, which has given her more insight into the plays we’re working with and the man who wrote them. She’s excited by what she’s learned and encouraged all of us to read this book.
After nerding out for awhile, since it was clearly a low-attendance day, we decided to give individual attention to a couple of women who had specific challenges they wanted to address. We began with the woman playing Gremio, who has a lot of questions about her character. We decided to focus on his speeches following Kate’s and Petruchio’s wedding to see what we could find out. We read through the scene to make sure we understood it, and then we tried it on its feet. She felt confident that he is appalled and shocked by what he witnessed, but she was frustrated by having to rely on her script and felt hampered by it. I volunteered to back her up in a drop-in exercise – I stood behind her and read her lines to her so she could have her hands free, not have to read, and maintain eye contact with her scene partner. When we did this, her approach changed a bit – it became more physical, and she used her hands a lot. The others found her interpretation funny, and her biggest discovery was that Gremio is direct – he says what he wants to say.
We then worked the end of Act IV Scene IV with Lucentio and Biondello. The big question became: what is Lucentio nervous about? He says he’s nervous, though he’s just gotten what he wanted – so why? The woman playing this character feels that, in this moment when it all becomes real and official, he is overwhelmed. We talked about this being a universal feeling, not just associated with getting married, although that is the experience upon which she is drawing. Another woman suggested that an additional layer could be the fear of what happens now that the deception is about to be exposed. There’s a lot going on here. We found that Lucentio’s interpretation works here – it’s a quiet moment in our play, a frustrating one for Biondello, who doesn’t understand, and something we’ve all experienced in our lives.