Tonight we finished out the play, tagging in and out as we went. While the ensemble members continued to be generous with each other for the most part, offering to take turns in many of the roles, a bit of a good-natured battle ensued between the women who want to play Emilia. They tagged in and out frequently but with humor, which was great because we got to see so many people reading the role.
The energy of the scenes was not lost as we moved through them, even with brief hiccups as people stumbled over unfamiliar lines (and the ensemble encouraged them to keep going and not apologize). One woman who was playing Desdemona in the final scene said, “When Emilia sings the willow song, it made me so sad. I wanted to cry even though I was dead.”
We then handed out our anonymous casting ballots, and each person found his or her own space in the room to vote. Ballots were folded in half, turned in to the facilitators, and tucked away in my folder. We chatted a bit as we waited for the last votes to come in, mentioning how important it is in an ensemble like ours to maintain composure – whether feeling happy or disappointed – when the cast is announced, so as not to hurt one another’s feelings.
A few people were absent, so we won’t have a final vote until Friday. The jury is still out on how we move on after that. We’ll decide that when we get there.
Tonight began by collecting the last of the votes, and the group played a new improv game while I tallied them up. I asked whether they would like me to post the cast list or announce it, and they chose for me to announce it. I reminded everyone to try to think “ensemble first,” and to try to keep a “poker face” with their reaction if possible to avoid hurting one another. They did both of these things very well, though some people were obviously (and understandably) disappointed with how things turned out. I reminded those people that we need to always think of our casting as fluid – it is likely that those who have “smaller” parts now will need to step into “larger” roles if we lose people prior to our performances.
It was difficult to move on from this – people obviously felt awkward and needed to decompress. We played improv games the rest of the night, getting back to a place of ease and comfort with one another. We’ll get back to Othello next week.
Things seemed to have gone pretty well, but one longtime ensemble member pulled me aside as everyone was leaving and turned in her book. She said that she was extremely disappointed in not having been voted into a larger part, given she’s been in the group for four years, and she feels that overall her attitude is not ensemble-first, and that may be detrimental to the group. I made sure she knew what a valued member of the group she’s been, and told her that she’s welcome to return at another time if she wants to. It is sad to see her go, but she’s made remarkable progress since I first met her, so at least we were able to say goodbye knowing she’s gotten what she needed from the group.