Everyone arrived tonight ready and calm for our final show. Again, the ensemble worked together as a team to help each other through the rough spots and gave it their all. The woman who had been very upset last week nailed her scenes this week and clearly felt much better.
Once again, our audience gave us a standing ovation. It was well-earned, and put a nice stop on the performance part of our process. I distributed completion certificates and urged everyone to attend our final meeting on Friday, when we’ll discuss the program in general – what’s going well, and what needs improvement.
A good number of our ensemble members were present tonight to assess this year’s program, and those who weren’t present sent along their greetings and intentions to continue the program next year.
One of the issues brought up by the group was the “messiness” of our performances. Everyone agrees that this is due to inadequate rehearsal, caused mainly by absences and early departures. Some feel that there is also not enough structure. Our solution to this is to come up with a stricter attendance policy in the fall, to bump up our casting date to November (which we are hoping will be aided by next year’s use of the “No Feare” Richard III), and to have a rehearsal schedule of sorts so that people can make sure they are present when their scenes are being worked.
Due to those absences, we were not able to spend very much time on ensemble building during the rehearsal phase of our process. The group feels that we need to bring that back, and we hope that the solutions outlined above will make it so we have more time for group activities.
I then asked the group for an honest appraisal of the facilitators’ work. I anticipated constructive criticism, but the ensemble had nothing but praise to heap on us. They are incredibly grateful for our enthusiasm and commitment, and for the respect that we show them. “You made me feel like a human being,” said one woman.
One of the ensemble members, who had a very rough time this year, expressed her thanks to the group for sticking with her and helping her through. “It was an honor that you shared all of that with us,” said one woman. “You helped us, too.”
I asked the group how our pilot program with student facilitators worked. They expressed enthusiasm for this new aspect of our program. “New people on our side are unusual,” said one ensemble member. “It’s part of our escape.” Another woman said, “We’re helping them more than they’re helping us. That makes me feel better.”
The group then launched into an open discussion about the program, which wound its way back to facilitator feedback. A woman who has been in the group for four years got very emotional, saying, “I think everyone has a ‘better person.’” She looked at me. “You are my better person… I feel like you’re raising me. No one raised me at home. I’ve changed because of you.” I expressed what an honor it is for me to be that person for her, and my deep appreciation of everything she brings to the group.
Another woman said that she appreciates the way we model the handling of conflict and criticism. “We deal with real life situations in real life ways.”
Another woman specifically spoke about having Kyle in the group. “Guys are nice,” she said, becoming tearful. “They’re not all sleaze balls. They’re not all tricks… I used to think, am I ever going to be able to look at men and not see something sick inside of them? But Kyle’s just a normal guy, and it gives me hope for my future. If I hadn’t had you as a male around me, I wouldn’t have been able to grow like I have, for my life on the outside. I’m gonna be normal again, and it’s gonna be okay.”
We left feeling positive and excited to come back together after our summer break. I can’t wait.