Tuesday Written by Kyle
Tonight was my first night working as a facilitator; I went through the orientation and so missed the opening/warm-up aspect of the session. I wondered whether I was going to jump right in or hang back and observe. The former won out in short order! When I arrived the company was warm, welcoming and eager to know about me. We went through what I came to realize are the questions that all new company members are asked. What brings you to Shakespeare? Why do you want to do Shakespeare? What do you hope to get out of this experience? etc. Simple questions all, but questions I could talk about for hours. I was as eager to answer as they seemed to ask, and it felt like a nice sort of initiation to get the ball rolling.
The group set out working Act 1 scene 2; it’s a long scene with lots of entrances, exits, shtick, and lots of people on the stage. It can get a little messy with the staging and so the company had to stop and discuss many times just how we wanted to make it work. I suggested that we bring the most important elements of the scene downstage center. This prompted many more questions of the company that seemed to lead into one another: How were we going to use staging to highlight the important part of the scene? What was the important part of the scene? Why? All good critical questions that as they unravel can give the distinct impression that the scene is unraveling. They hung with it though, and took direction well. One of the newer members in the company who has a smaller part had the benefit of watching the whole scene, and she was able to voice some great ideas about staging. We were able to take those ideas and build on them in a really wonderful way. At one point they used the steps on the stage to express one character’s dominance over another; it was a really wonderful idea that utilized the space in a really organic way- it would have been a good idea in any playhouse! By the end everyone was tired, but morale seemed high for all who stayed to the end.
On a personal note, as it is my first time working with the company, and I wondered how the night would go… It was humbling, exciting and most importantly, I found the experience a little common place in the most wonderful way. Very quickly we become people doing theatre, the same as I have done my whole life. It not as if you can ever forget where you are, and frankly, it would be inappropriate to try. The point is however, that for most of the night the prison was not downstage center- it was the backdrop of the show at best. What was up front for me was the fact that there were the same hopes, fears, company archetypes, and the willingness to make something out of nothing that has been the spirit of all my experiences in the theatre- in short, I’m hooked.
Written by Frannie
Attendance was light today, but this enabled us to give a lot of attention to a couple of scenes that really needed it.
Most of our work was done on Act IV Scene I – just the first part of the scene when Grumio enters and has a conversation with Curtis. The woman playing Curtis has been patient as we’ve rotated through Grumios, but at a certain point she was not eager to continue working this scene with stand-ins, so we let it alone for awhile. Now that I’m in the role, we decided to really dig in to make it easier to for her to learn the lines.
We made a lot of discoveries together – she proved to be very flexible and a great improviser as we tried different things. We discovered that Curtis and Grumio are rivals of sorts – they needle each other throughout the scene. We found that the scene worked best when Curtis repeatedly interrupted Grumio, pushing him and getting under his skin.
Something else that has been very striking lately, but was especially in focus today, is the growing confidence of one of our ensemble members, who is playing Vincentio. She joined the group well after its start date last year, and, despite extreme stage fright and shyness, pushed through her one scene with lines as Balthasar and emerged with a new feeling that maybe speaking in front of people is something she can actually do – and do well. This year, she rolled with the punches on casting, ending up with Vincentio and deciding that it was meant to be – that she was meant to take on this role, which, for her, is quite “large.”
Since then, she has been a constant and constructive voice in the group. She’s become a self-professed “Shakespeare nerd,” reading about him outside of our group and bringing us pertinent ideas that she’s come across. She’s also emerged as an insightful and compassionate director, guiding scenes and actors to find better ways of working with our material. This has been a truly exciting change to witness, and I can’t wait to see where she is on the other side of our performances. She’s always been a great asset to the group, but her recent emergence in such a positive leadership role is remarkable and inspiring.