Tonight began with a discussion of what we might be able to do with our time, as we are still waiting for our rehearsal scripts to be approved.
A longtime ensemble member suggested that we try paraphrasing our way through some scenes to get more meaning out of them. I welcomed her to lead the exercise, but in practice it proved to be too soon in our process for this to work – we just don’t know the material well enough yet to mark through it like that. This was frustrating, but we will revisit the exercise down the line.
We then decided to work some monologues even without the cuts. Our Richard asked to work on “Was ever woman in this humor wooed…” Her first instinct was to try to make us laugh and to showcase her arrogance, and this was fun, but we asked her to go deeper with it – to make us worship her brilliance rather than just making us laugh. This made the piece absolutely sing – she was clearly having fun with it, which is absolutely appropriate, and we loved it, too. She is also beginning to explore Richard’s “deformity” – she wants him to be strong and sexy, but we pointed out that he talks repeatedly about being deformed, so she needs to find a way in to something along those lines. This will be a challenging balance to strike, but I’m confident that she will find a solution that works for her.
Our Richmond then worked her speech to the troops. She is very strong in this piece, but we wanted her to go for more specificity. When she did it a second time, we interrupted her occasionally, asking for clarity on things like, “WHO will welcome us home?” This led to a much more detailed interpretation.
We continued to talk about ways of finding detail in these long monologues – our Richard is feeling challenged by the soliloquy that follows the ghosts’ visits – finding movement when thoughts change and not simply wandering around the stage. We will continue to explore this!
As the group worked, one woman turned to me and said, “Sometimes I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. Everything seems so strange. But I’m starting to feel comfortable here [in SIP]. I always laugh. But it’s just being in prison… I guess it’s good. It means I’m not getting used to it.”
Tonight the ensemble member who is acting as our dramaturg arrived with materials she’d gathered about various historical aspects of the play. She had specifically pulled an article called “Anne Neville: Victim?” for the woman playing Anne, since she’s expressed a lot of conflict about how she should interpret the character. Our Anne was excited and grateful for the resource, and the woman who provided it beamed. What a thrill that working on this play in particular has provided this role to someone who is so enthusiastic about it – she really loves being a resource for the group and is working hard to provide whatever information she can as we work through the play.
As we gathered, I sat and chatted with an ensemble member who, upon seeing our Richard pass by, jokingly said, “Hey there, Dick.” “That’s King Dick to you,” she responded with her nose in the air.
The group seemed listless, as we still do not have our rehearsal scripts, so I launched us into some more exploration of Chekhov technique, this time Imaginary Centers. In brief, the idea is that any character’s energy comes from one of three centers at any given time – thinking (mainly the head), feeling (mainly the heart), or willing (mainly the pelvis). There are images associated with those centers – a stick with thinking, a veil with feeling, and a ball with willing. We spent the majority of our time exploring and experimenting with those centers and those images, which involved full body explorations and lots of movement.
Several women connected more to their willing than to their thinking centers. Kyle reflected that, when he was a ball, he was more eager to interact with people. One woman said, “I feel like I’m a super ball – each type connected to a different part of my personality.” She mentioned that, when we channeled a ping pong ball, she felt connected to the part of her that has been abused. Kyle volunteered that he felt the opposite as a ping pong ball – free and easy. This technique is very subjective!
When another woman reflected that she did not enjoy exploring the feeling center, saying “it’s just too much,” that led us into a conversation about where our own personal dominant centers are. We are a diverse bunch - answers ranged throughout the three centers, with some noting a conflict between two, such as feeling and thinking. One woman said, "I'm a bouncy ball being hit with a baseball bat, covered by a veil." I always love when we think outside of the box!
We had done a lot of moving around, and everyone was tired, so when one woman asked how exactly we use this in our rehearsal process, I asked the group if they would like me to demonstrate, and they said yes. I asked them to give me one image at a time with which to explore the first four lines of our play, and we went through at least ten, maybe more – I was having fun and lost count! Using different images changes the quality of performance, and that came through even as we stumbled on images that didn’t work as well for those lines – or at least they didn’t for me. Our Richard gave an image that didn’t work for me a try, and it worked great for her! Musing over her character, she said, “I have to have will to conquer and take over, but I also want to give you a little bit of my veil.”
The group was tired – it was warm in the room, and we’d been very active – so we agreed to leave early. Nearly everyone agreed that these tools will be valuable to them in their exploration of the play – our Anne in particular was enthusiastic about what this will do for her process. She is a feeling-centered person and believes that playing Anne primarily through her willing center will be her “way in.”
I’m very glad that these techniques are proving to be interesting and helpful for the group. I try to avoid making our program into an acting class, but I’ve always found these tools to be valuable, and while we’re waiting to be able to work with our actual scripts, this has been an enjoyable way to spend our time.