Written by Frannie
After a brief warm up, we sat down to read Act One, scene one. We read through the entire thing and then stopped to discuss.
“He is something else,” said a longtime ensemble member about Richard, in regards to his interactions with Clarence, who is heading to the Tower. “He has no desire to get him out or serve his time. It makes me emotional. He’s manipulating his own brother. It makes me sad.”
Another person said, “He’s ballsy, though. He doesn’t care. Clarence isn’t in a position to tell Edward anything.”
We began to discuss Richard’s plotting as opposed to Iago’s – that Iago is a puppet master, while Richard is an opportunist. “Most people that are manipulative like that think a lot about their plans,” said one woman. “Powerful people… put on a front. They pretend to be one way when they’re actually feeling something different.”
A newer member chimed in, “In any sibling relationship, you’re gonna have one trying to get another on his side. George is the dumb one, right? So Richard tries to get him on his side.”
We talked about how violent the times were throughout Richard’s life – how inured he must have been to murder and manipulation. One woman offered another perspective, saying, “Richard has been the pariah his entire life, and now this is the only way for him to be respected, to have people do what he wants… That’s what drove him to this point. I mean, dogs bark at him when he walks by. This is his breaking point. He wants to get away from that feeling by any means.”
“It amazes me that these people make all these plots to get in power, but do they ever realize these things will happen to them once they get power?” mused another woman. “They don’t think it through to the end,” responded another.
Another woman joked about all of Richard’s crimes, “He’s like Pringles. Once he popped, he just couldn’t stop.”
We then decided to continue with Act One, scene two, in which Richard woos Lady Anne. There were many different perspectives on this scene, which is very open to interpretation.
“She’s easy,” said a newer participant. “She just left her dead father-in-law in the hands of his killer to go wait for him.” Another woman responded, “She’s vulnerable – she’s going through it. She’s grieving and he’s just kind of sweeping in… He keeps going at her. He’s got game.”
Another woman said, “I think she’s bloody brilliant. We have to think about the time. She married into power. This dirt bag stole it by killing her husband. The only way to get the power back is to marry the next in line. She’s brilliant. She is just getting back what he took.”
Another ensemble member disagreed. “I see many stages of grief in this scene – she's crying, angry, making poor decisions…” Building on that, another woman said, “She’s painted into a corner. It’s keep your friends close and your enemies closer. It’s a power play.”
“Women want to be loved and wooed,” said another, “and he just did all of that. She’s had a lot of loss in her life, and she’s getting all of the attention. He’s giving her a reason for her loss. She wants to cling to whatever she can… The best manipulators are charming. He’s manipulating the crap out of her in a really vulnerable time.”
The conversation shifted as we neared the end of our session. It was the last night for one of our ensemble members She read a bit from her journal, and then said a few words. “I really enjoyed this group,” she said. “It’s helped me a lot within myself. Things I didn’t realize were in me, I could see within myself and in the characters. Seeing things in different ways has helped me become a better woman. When I came here, I was really angry and didn’t care about anything but myself. Now I see things differently.”
“You’ve grown up a lot,” said another woman.
We ended on a positive note, wishing her luck on the outside.
Written by Kyle
Today when Lauren and I arrived, some of the ensemble members had already started messing with me about being the substitute teacher since Frannie was not there that week. I have confided with them in the past that I feel that way and they were quick to remind me. I wonder how they feel about an SIP session that which Frannie is not present. It definitely has a different feel to the night. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly what exactly the difference is. Maybe it’s that I feel nervous that I’m going to mess it up- like I’ve been given the keys to my Dad’s car or something.
Right away we started reading act 1.3 - the famous scene with Margaret’s “prophesies” about Richard’s villainy. It clipped along without too much stopping for comprehension. I get the feeling there is a pretty high level of comprehension of the text; I don’t know if it is the edition we gave them that is filling the gaps, or if the group has a higher reading level. Either way the speed at which we read, and depth of conversation is palpable.
We finished the scene, and one of the ensemble immediately said how much she loved Margaret. She said you could tell that Margaret had her “soul ripped out” and was there to ‘rub it in.’ She liked that Margaret’s whole M.O. was to just stir the pot and didn’t want anything else.
Another longtime member said how much she liked Margaret’s and Richard’s relationship. They had both done grimy things, and they were more or less on the same wave length. They understood each other, and were equals. I talked about how hurt Margaret was, but it was in part because history is written by the victors - they could paint her in whatever colors they want, and conveniently forget their own war crimes.
After the discussion of Margaret, we read the scene where Clarence is killed by the two murders. There was talk that there needed to be more vulnerability in Clarence, and that he needed to “beg for his life.” I am really liking the way that the ensemble is really reading into the scene and are starting to have a clear picture of what the scene should look like. This is definitely the earliest in the season that I’ve seen that happen, and I am excited to see the progress from one season to the next.
The woman reading very enthusiastically said that she loved playing murderer #2 because she “felt connected” to him. She liked that he had a moment of reflection before carrying out the murder, and that the scene was funny, which was something she felt she could do well.
We finished the scene, and everyone asked to play a game we have had mixed results with in the past. I was very hesitant, but it was almost unanimous from the returning members of the group. I didn’t want to make a unilateral decision for the group, so I made everyone take a pledge that they would not get really competitive with the game. We were going very slowly so that the newer members could get the hang of it before we started playing for real. One member commented several times when I didn’t get someone ‘out’ who had made a mistake. I and others reassured her that we were still giving the newer members a chance to get used to the game. It seemed like the competitive nature of the game was getting the better of us, and I quickly changed to a different game to try and finish the night on a good note. This did not go well with the member who was struggling- she left early and angry. I’m not sure if it was about me, the game, or something else, but I was pretty upset about how that went down. I decided that I am never playing that game there ever again; as much as I love it, it causes too many problems. I was disappointed that it went that way, and I don’t know why that game seems to bring out the worst in everybody. I feel like there is a reason that we are in prison, and that scenarios like that are difficult for some people to navigate - it is part of the work we do to help them better navigate them in the future. It’s all I can really do. Needless to say though, it felt like a crappy way to end the evening and I continued to think about it all weekend. I’m eager to get back on Tuesday to make right whatever I can to make it right, and move on as a group.