Before we got going tonight, a couple of people spoke with me privately about their feelings after casting the play last week. Some of their feelings were echoed later in the circle by other ensemble members – that the way people made their decisions led to perceived unfairness, and that we need to take a hard look at our casting process to refine it moving forward. I suggested that we process this for awhile and see what solutions we come up with for our year-end wrap up – the rawness that some are feeling now would likely cloud our judgment and lead to conflict.
Before we gathered in a circle, the ensemble member who turned in her book last week appeared in the doorway of the auditorium and beckoned me over. “I’ve been feeling really, really bad,” she said. “I’ve been crying and sad ever since I quit.” She said that she’d called several of her friends and family on the outside to talk it out, and all of them suggested to her that she come back. A former group member who was released earlier this year was particularly strong worded with her, reminding her of another member’s history of not getting the part she wanted three years in a row, and staying with the group nonetheless. This ensemble member hadn’t realized that, and it made her think. “Really, what it is, is I’m a spoiled brat,” she said, smiling a little. She’s decided to stay with the group, believing that this new perspective of not getting exactly what she wanted will teach her something important and give her an opportunity to grow. “Shakespeare has been such an important part of my recovery,” she said. “I don’t think you even understand how much.”
I’m ecstatic that she’s back, and I’m particularly thrilled by her reasoning for returning. Since she joined the group four years ago, this woman has come a long way in terms of her communication and conflict resolution skills, and her openness to others’ feelings and ideas. Although I know she’s learned a lot already, her strength in coming back humbly and open to not having a named role (at least for now) is just worlds away from where she was in the beginning. She shared all of this with the group as well, and everyone seemed happy to welcome her back.
What with some group members feeling burned by casting, and the holiday season being incredibly hard on everyone, we decided to take a break from Othello and play games through the new year. This proved to be a great distraction and a movement toward bonding everyone together again. We laughed a lot, getting better and better at working together in the moment – which is precisely why we spend time learning to improvise. “My head hurts from laughing,” said one woman (Jessica). That’s a rare thing this time of year.
All in all, we seem to be on the road toward having a cohesive ensemble again. Those who, thus far, don’t have much stage time will take a heavy hand in directing, knowing that we generally lose 2-3 people before the performance and they are likely to have an opportunity to step into a named role down the line.