We began tonight by welcoming some new members to the group who were not able to attend on Friday. Someone brought up that we need a new actor in the role of Desdemona, and the quiet member of the group who took such strong ownership last week volunteered. No one had any issue with her taking on the role, and many of us are excited to see her take such a leap. This whole experience is new for her, and it takes a lot of courage to take on such a major role when one is a naturally reticent person. I’m thrilled to be a part of her journey.
We worked on Act III Scene ii, making sure we understood unfamiliar words and eking out the arc of the scene. Our Othello and Iago collaborated on continuing to cut the script (since we need to perform it in 90 minutes or less), and their give and take was productive and constructive. Our Othello achieved a great deal of depth tonight, which she attributes to drawing on her own experiences.
Some of our new members contributed to the discussion, while others hung back – this is very normal. At the end, one of our facilitators overheard the following exchange:
“Oh my gosh,” said a new member, “It’s over? I don’t want it to be over!”
“Isn’t it awesome?” replied a longtime member. “Don’t worry. We come back on Friday.”
Tonight we continued our work on Act III Scene ii. We worked with our Othello on her soliloquy after Iago’s exit, encouraging her to relish the language and reach out to us in the audience. She began to be very effective, and shared with us that, again, she sees parallels between her life and that of her character.
We moved on to the part of the scene in which Emilia steals Desdemona’s handkerchief for Iago, and this brought on a pretty intense discussion.
“Every time this part comes up, I get so irked inside,” said one ensemble member. “She has to know what’s going on.”
“But women were subservient at the time,” said another. Someone else said, “Even if she was to know, having a husband like Iago, she would deny it at this point.”
“But she’s by herself,” said our Emilia. “Nobody can hear her say this except the audience.”
Another ensemble member said, “If she chose to, she could see what’s going on, but she’s in a bad situation and trying to be with him because it’s safe.”
“She’s blinding herself to his ways,” another agreed. “If you had my type of husband,” said another woman, “You wouldn’t want to know.”
“I think she knows not to ask,” said the woman who began the conversation, “She’s not stupid.”
“Tony Soprano’s wife knows. But she doesn’t know everything. And she knows he loves her,” volunteered another woman.
A new member spoke up, saying, “Iago’s manipulating everyone. Why wouldn’t he manipulate his wife?”
We all agreed that we like to debate these points of the play, but ultimately it has to be up to the woman who is playing Emilia which direction she wants to take the character in.
At this point, we were ready for a game, and one of our ensemble members volunteered to teach/lead one of our favorites. This was a fun and energetic way to end the session, and it was lovely to be able to sit back and let an ensemble member take charge like this. It’s one of our goals at this point in the season.