Tonight, four longtime ensemble members and I met with a number of people on our waiting list to fill them in on exactly what we do and how we do it, and to see if they were still interested in joining.
The past two times we’ve added members, I’ve been on my own to cover everything and gauge interest. This time, however, with those four taking the lead, the meeting was more exciting, and I think their descriptions made the group sound more alluring than if I had done this alone. “You’ll get so much out of this group,” said one ensemble member. “Public speaking skills, friendship, new perspectives…” Another said, “I joined this group when I had been here for four months. Shakespeare literally saved me. I can’t say enough about that.”
Nearly all of the women at the meeting decided to join the group. When we returned to the auditorium and told the group that 13 women were going to join, there was a lot of excitement and planning about how we’re going to welcome them in.
This evening, we began to work on Act III Scene ii, the scene in which there is a celebration and a drunken fight that ends up getting Cassio fired by Othello. The group explored different ways of staging this, arriving (at least for now) at a goofy conga line dance while Iago sings his drinking songs. There was also exploration of how Iago and then Othello try to break up the fight – what is it that finally makes Cassio and Montano pull back?
We tabled the scene, then, thinking that maybe in our next meeting we’ll add our “newbies” into the scene and see how that works. We are all eager to orient them and get them involved.
The facilitators were a bit delayed getting to the group tonight, and when we arrived we found everyone chatting and getting to know each other. From this natural state, we flowed into asking our usual three questions, not only of the new members, but of those of us who are already in the group:
· What brings you to Shakespeare?
· What do you hope to get out of this group?
· What is the gift you bring?
The answers to these questions ranged a great deal, but the overwhelming sentiment is that the people in our group are eager to learn new things and grow in various ways.
After this, we lowered our ring, and then we decided to play a couple of silly circle games to loosen things up and have some fun. One of the games has to do with passing energy around the circle while saying “wa!” We discovered that there are many different ways of using this one syllable, and at times it seemed like we were having a conversation or telling a story.
We provided an overview of the play for our new members, and then we dove into scene work. We made cuts together, making sure no one was left behind or bewildered, and we ended up with a very quick but effective scene between Iago and Cassio at the end of Act III Scene ii.
Tonight was also remarkable in the evident growth of one of our ensemble members. She has always been shy and reticent, but participating as much as she was comfortable; she said in answer to one of our questions tonight that she is trying to get over her shyness and wants to start a Shakespeare program of some kind after she is released. Then, in a new and exciting way, she took charge of the group, guiding everyone into consensus about working on Shakespeare rather than playing games all evening, and volunteering to replace our Desdemona if needed (since she was removed from the call out and we’re not sure she can return).
It’s always exciting to see the quieter members of the group taking ownership and being unafraid to put their ideas and opinions out there. I’m looking forward to seeing where this ensemble member goes from here.