Tonight began with a longtime member of the ensemble sharing with us that, due to a pretty big workload leading up to her release, she will be leaving Shakespeare. A few of us shared what her presence and work has meant to us and to the group as a whole – we made sure she knew how much we have appreciated her. One ensemble member even did a song and dance.
Two ensemble members who have been absent lately told us that they are making a “renewed commitment” to the program. “The first time I laughed good was in here,” said one of them. They have both been having a rough time but feel it’s better to show up and hope for a distraction from the things that are overwhelming them.
Some group members suggested that we play a game, so we did! The game we played is one in which the group sits in a circle and sends questions around, making eye contact and trying to maintain focus, without answering any questions. After we started playing for elimination, it finally got down to the group’s unofficial reigning champion and the ensemble member who is leaving. The latter won, to much applause!
We then decided to do some scene exploration while sitting in a circle. The original goal was to do this tagging in and out of scenes, although we shifted to monologue work and that didn’t end up happening. We also talked a bit about casting – identifying three roles (at least) that interest each person so that if we don’t get our first choices, we won’t be totally disappointed. One woman said she is interested in playing one of the murderers because she has mental illness that causes her to relate. She says she works hard to be positive and constructive, but “on the inside sometimes I feel the opposite. It feels good to let some of it out.”
We then focused on Buckingham’s monologue before he is executed. The first person to perform said afterward that she wants to practice the piece more. I asked her how it made her feel. “To me… It sucks. He really gave up,” she said. Kyle asked her what she thinks the character wants. “He wants the audience to know that it all could have been different,” she said. “He knows he did this to himself by being with the wrong person.” Kyle said that, to him, it’s uplifting that he “gets it.”
The woman continued, “It sucks because he gets it, like, a minute too late… As an addict, I saw people who almost had it but missed it, and they died. I can relate to looking at that reflection and saying, ‘Damn, I did all that?’”
Another woman said, “He knows he did wrong, but he also plants the seed for someone else to do right. He didn’t do anything to go to the chopping block… ‘I’m being sent by somebody I thought was my friend. I’m not innocent, but I don’t deserve this.’ He’s warning other people to beware and make the right decisions.”
That woman then tried the monologue. Afterward, she was disappointed, saying, “I didn’t do it the way I wanted to do it. I knew when those points were… I don’t know why it wouldn’t come out. Maybe because I wasn’t standing.” We assured her that that’s always the way early reads go – they are never exactly how you want them to be – and that maybe she has a point and should stand the next time she works on the piece.
Further pondering the monologue, she said, “When I was in court – you know when you get to say what you get to say before you get here… This feeling I get so well from that day… I thought I would say something better… But I said, ‘I don’t need you to feel sorry for me.’ That day, you die. Maybe a new you is born, but that day you die.”
The first woman then read the piece again. She said it felt better that time. “Seeing other people do it gives you insight into where the rhythm is. There are so many layers in it.”
“Oh, no. This is not what I’m gonna sound like when I die,” said the second woman who read the piece. “Does anyone ever feel like they’ve gone too far in life?”
“That’s why we’re here,” another woman said quietly.