We got right down to the business of cutting our play tonight. We reviewed our cutting “policy” – essentially, if we don’t need it (and if the person playing the part isn’t really attached to it), we cut it. We need to be able to perform our play in about an hour and a half, and that necessitates some pretty ruthless cutting.
One woman, who is in her third year and has grown to love this process, has already made many cuts to her own lines. We applauded her for this and encouraged others to do the same. We decided also to table any cuts that affected people who were absent.
Although some group members were hesitant about this at first, by the time we left everyone was working together to stay involved in the decision-making. This has always been how it goes – we move slowly as new members get acclimated to the process, and then we begin to cut rather gleefully. It’s an important part of our process even if it’s a bit lengthy and repetitive because it is so empowering – we own the script; it doesn’t own us.
This is our story, and we’re making decisions together about how to tell it.
Tonight when we circled up, one of our ensemble members shared with the group that she had had a very bad day and was upset and anxious about something that is happening in her personal life. Nearly everyone in the group had had an experience like the one she spoke of, and we took some time to offer words of comfort and suggestions of how to manage her anxiety, such as breathing and meditating on a “safe place.”
When she had calmed a bit and said she was ready to work, we did, continuing with our cuts. When she began to seem anxious later, another ensemble member sat beside her and quietly talked to her while the rest of us kept working, respecting the comforting that was happening in our circle.
We continued to work together to sort out the necessary text from text that is repetitive, unnecessary, and/or potentially confusing to the audience. This meant that nearly all of the scene in which Iago jokes with the people waiting for Othello was cut – the word play is complex and will most likely be lost on our audience (perhaps on any audience), and we weren’t comfortable with it, so most of it was cut. “It’s not about us,” said the woman who is playing Iago, “It’s about the audience, and I don’t want to lose them… I want to say what I’m doing, how and why, and I don’t want to give more words than I have to.”
Most of the women are now eager to lighten their workload by cutting their own lines. Nearly everyone is taking the suggestions of the group, while the group is being respectful when people stand their ground about keeping certain lines. A debate broke out about whether or not we need the Herald’s speech that leads into the “party scene,” and we tabled it for the time being so we could move forward. Certain things don’t crystallize until we get on our feet, so we feel all right about making this first round of cuts, knowing that more will likely be cut as we go.
A few members of the group are frustrated by how long this is taking. It’s a very dense play, so it makes sense that it’s taking longer to do these cuts than it has in the past, but I suggested that everyone take a look at her own lines between meetings and make cuts so we can move a bit faster. This suggestion was well taken.
We did a bit of improv, then, returning to an old game with a new twist – playing what is normally a two-person game with three people. This was a lot of fun. We moved on to a really great game that Kyle taught us at the beginning of the year, and it was great to see how comfortable everyone is with it now, and how good we’ve gotten at it.