Tonight we welcomed another journalist to our group, taking some time to talk about everyone’s experiences and the impact Shakespeare has had on them. I won’t get into specifics since I don’t want to spoil anything that might be in the final piece, but suffice to say that, again, the ensemble members who chose to share were eloquent, honest, and enthusiastic.
Following our discussion, we launched into scene work, continuing to plug our Othello into scenes for which she missed the blocking. Even with cameras present (which make all of us nervous), the ensemble did great work, whether on stage or in pairs working on lines. Although we are in the home stretch and the pressure is on, everyone is staying pretty calm.
Our casting appears to have at last been finalized, although there’s always a chance that someone will still leave the group. While it has been empowering and invigorating for the women in our group to stick with the project through performance – it gives them a sense of accomplishment they may never or rarely have had – in past years we have sometimes had to deal with an ensemble member dropping the group at the very end of the process. We always hope that everyone will stay through the end, but it doesn’t always happen.
We were fortunate enough to be given two Thursday afternoon meetings in addition to our regular Tuesdays and Fridays in the final two weeks leading up to our first performance, and today was one of those days.
We got to work right away, even while waiting for people to arrive, choreographing the fight between Cassio and Montano. We came up with a short fencing sequence that can be repeated until the fight is broken up by Othello. It’s looking good.
We then plowed through scene work aggressively and effectively, with our goal being to finish scene work this week and begin running the show next week. We banded together and got an incredible amount done on this extra day.
One moment that stuck out today was the arrival of our Bianca at exactly the moment she is supposed to enter the scene we were working on. Without missing a beat, she joined right in, seamlessly. Even with the limited number of times we’ve worked on her scenes, as a seasoned member of the ensemble she is on top of her lines and cues, always showing extreme dedication to the group and her work in it.
We spent some time at the beginning of today’s meeting trying on and working with props and costumes. I had initially hesitated to do this today, but as always when the ensemble’s opinion outweighs mine, we went with what the majority wanted and brought everything into the classroom we usually use on Fridays.
It turned out to be a good thing! “This just makes it seem real,” said one woman to me. “Now I’m even more excited.”
Once we had spent some time on props and costumes, we dove into the final scene of the play. After we reviewed the scene’s blocking, plugging in our Othello, we ran it. Our Othello set the tone by fully committing to the rage and sadness her character experiences, and the result was that everyone else bumped it up a notch to meet her. At one point I looked over at an ensemble member who is not in the scene, and she was weeping. “This is just so sad,” said another woman.
Our Brabantio then quietly asked if we could work her scenes, since she took over the role from someone else and hasn’t had any rehearsal time with it. “I know, and I’m so sorry,” I said. “It’s all right,” she said, “I’ll be fine as long as I can do it a couple of times.” We worked the first scene of the play, and, to our delight, she already has all of her lines memorized – she is totally prepared. It would have been great for her to have more rehearsal, but as it is, she’s making it work – and making it work well.