Written by Frannie
Tonight was both challenging and encouraging.
We began by working on the first scene of the play. We talked about how many of us will need to learn to “walk like a man” since we’re playing men, and we tried to define exactly what that means. We came up with things like placing our weight squarely on both feet instead of resting on one hip and taking longer, purposeful strides. What it comes down to for us is that we as women apologize for our bodies with our posture much more than men do, and we need to learn to acknowledge and use the power we have.
We spent some time figuring out the entrance to this scene – we want to grab the audience’s attention right away. Some suggested an entrance through the house, down an aisle, but we abandoned that idea after trying it several times – we didn’t think we could get the audience’s attention right off the bat that way. We came up with another solution. We began to try to figure out how not to make the scene stagnant, and one woman who has simply amazing instincts for staging sort of took over, explaining and showing the way she thought the scene would most effectively move. This is the role she’s chosen for herself – to be a director rather than a performer – and she is wildly good at it. Members of the ensemble encouraged and praised her for her input. One longtime ensemble member turned to me and said, “This group gets better and better, every year.”
At a certain point, one ensemble member got up, saying “I can’t deal with this,” and began to leave. As she walked, I asked her if she was okay and if she wanted to talk. She sat down with me, and I listened to her for about 45 minutes or so. She is having a very hard time right now, feeling hopeless, and it helped her somewhat to have someone holding space for her, so I focused all of my energy on our conversation.
When the group realized that I needed to be fully absorbed in this ensemble member, they immediately took over my role as guide and helped the actors in the scene to find blocking and motivation. This is an essential part of our group dynamic – since I was the only facilitator present, but I needed to focus all of my attention on one person, the group has become empowered enough and taken enough ownership of the play to do just fine without my input.
Peripherally, while staying focused on the inmate who needed a listening ear so badly, I heard one new member of the ensemble begin to get extremely frustrated with the blocking process – she had told me before I began the one-on-one that this was challenging for her because she didn’t “have the vocabulary for it.” As she became more frustrated, I heard one longtime member reassure her, saying, “I know you’re frustrated, but try to relax. Blocking can take a long time and it’s frustrating, but we have a lot more of it to do, and you’ve got to stay calm.” After the scene had been more or less blocked, this woman was still frustrated, so the group unanimously decided to take a break.
It is extremely important to our process that we acknowledge when people are having a hard time, honor it, and try to help them deal with it. While we are not therapists, we can hold space for people and encourage them along the way. As I did this for one member of the ensemble tonight, the others did it for each other. This bodes very well for the rest of our process.
Written by Lauren
We started off today by running act one, scene one. Our Iago tried walking like a man for this scene, made the comment that "walking like a man felt weird," and admitted that she stopped during the scene because it started to make her feel self conscious.
Everyone was anxious to get to work, so as soon as they were done refreshing their memories on that, they were ready to start blocking scene two. A lot of people had ideas for this scene. One idea was the idea that at the end of the scene, the attendants should back away slowly as if they were still anticipating a fight. Most of the group was really supportive of this idea and were ready to try it.
Our Othello had an idea for the scene, too, but wasn't sure if she should say it because everyone on board for the other idea. Everyone encouraged her to share, and they ended up being able to combine the two ideas for the staging.
While we were running these ideas, one woman approached me and expressed a concern. As someone who had been in the military, she told me that the way the officers were having a "stand off" was something that would never happen in that world. While she was saying this, she said that she would also look at the action and decide if she wanted to share with the group or not. She ended up liking what she saw, and even seemed to have a fun time when she stepped in as one of the officers when we ran the scene again.
She had also expressed concern regarding the layout, as we could not see everyone who was on the stage. This was something that was shared with the group, and everyone adjusted themselves accordingly. This woman has a good eye for direction, and I was pleased when she decided to share with the group.
Tonight had a lot of good energy and everyone seemed to have great ideas to share as well as support for each other and other's ideas!