Tonight we focused on getting to know each other. There are three questions that we always ask at the beginning of the process, and, after a name game, we took turns answering them:
1)What brings you to Shakespeare?
2) What is the gift you bring to the ensemble?
3)What do you hope to get out of Shakespeare?
Some answers included:
“I love this – what we do, the process, the hard work that culminates in successful shows the last four years.”
“I hope to make connections with other people, and I hope to grow into a well-rounded individual that can connect, be normal, and have feelings.”
“I want to learn more about myself and the characters, learn to relate to things that are different, see from other perspectives, and make friendships.”
“I hope to become something great at home from getting out emotions through the characters.”
“I want to gain discipline and people skills – dealing with life on life’s terms. We learn to work through situations and not quit when things get hard.”
“This is my favorite thing that I do. I love the process. The performance is a whole new high – we follow through and don’t flake. It’s nine months of something I never thought I could do. This is my family. You will bare your soul because Shakespeare is timeless. This is a safe place. These are my best friends. ”
“I thought I was too old, but the unity has brought me back – the bond. Someone said something about safe space. The outpour from everyone, their concern – I want to take what I’ve seen, get people to send money and supplies. I’m proud to be a part of this and want to let society know about this work.”
We wrapped up by saying goodbye to a member who is going home tomorrow. We wished her luck and sent her on her way with enthusiasm and the feeling of camaraderie she has often expressed as the thing she loves most about our group.
We also took on a challenge of performing the opening soliloquy of the play on Friday, whether memorized or not. We’ll see how it goes.
Tonight after our warm up, we decided to jump right into monologues. One of our new members volunteered to go first. She read from her chair and said that it felt good, even though she stumbled in a few spots.
Then one participant asked if we had to do the opening soliloquy or if we could choose something different. “You can do whatever you want,” I said. A new member leaned over to the person next to her and said, “How often do you hear that?”
Another new member read her piece from her chair, stating that she had been trying to memorize it but was just too nervous to work without her notes. A returning member reassured her, saying, “Ifyou were uncomfortable, I couldn’t tell. You made me comfortable.”
At this point, people started volunteering to read and/or perform all sorts of pieces from the play. As it turns out, many of them had been intrigued by other characters and wanted to explore them instead of Richard. One woman read one of Richmond’s pieces, working to incite our group to go into battle with her. The response was enthusiastic and invigorating.
Others felt drawn to Margaret. “She’s just angry and hurt because she’s lived this life for so long,” said one woman. “Now she has nowhere to go.” This same woman later remarked about Anne, “I can’t feel the hatred of Richard. I feel like I’ve known hurt and something being taken from me that meant a lot.”
Another woman read Anne’s speech over Henry’s corpse. It was powerful, and she said, “I felt like it was just coming out of me, like I couldn’t contain it.”
A pair of ensemble members read a scene in which Margaret curses Richard. “I think part of the reason why he hates himself is the mother,” said one of the women. “There’s so much dysfunction in this family… You just know that it’s bad.”
We branched off into a discussion about how we handle mistakes in performance. Returning members of the group mentioned using the improvising skills we develop to help recover from anything that goes haywire. We told stories of past mistakes and how we dealt with them, and there was a lot of laughter.
At the end of our meeting, two participants read to us from the journals they are keeping about our work. We all loved hearing their reflections, and the group decided that anyone who wants to read in the future is welcome to do so.
We decided to each choose a different piece to work on for Tuesday. After this, I imagine we’ll begin our reading and analysis of the play, but the group is already ahead of where they usually are at this point. I would credit this to our use of the “No Fear” Richard III, which has made it so people for whom the language is unfamiliar can still read and understand the plot.