Tonight we welcomed in a number of new and returning ensemble members. It felt so good to have those familiar faces back in the room, and it was so exciting to start to work with our new participants.
We began with a fun name game and then circled up to ask our traditional three questions:
What brings you to Shakespeare?
What do you hope to get out of this experience?
What is the gift that you bring?
Those of us who’ve answered before took part again along with the new and returning members. There are so many of us right now that it took a while, but it was great to hear from people and to learn more about where they’re coming from. Some common themes were:
- A desire to try something new.
- Gaining confidence and knowledge.
- A space that doesn't feel like prison.
- The bonding that happens in the ensemble.
One woman who joined the group in September went particularly in depth about what brings her to our ensemble. "I started Shakespeare to try something new - I don't want to go back to the old things. It's brought me out a lot. I’m 33 and been cooking meth for 13 years. This is a big part of my life, and I wanna be somebody. I want to know what I like. I wanna stand out, and not as a meth cook or a dope fiend. I want to shine."
An ensemble member who is now in her third year responded to the first question by sighing sarcastically, shaking her head, and saying, "I don't know why I'm back. I try and quit every week." Everyone laughed. She told the story of how she was signed up for Shakespeare initially by mistake but showed up anyway. That was when we were toying with the idea of holding auditions, and she showed up ready to perform - but she was the only one who did. Several of us egged her on to do the hilarious impression she did for us that first day. It was just as funny as ever.
With the time we had left, some ensemble members requested that we play an improv game that we’ve played in the past. I’ve honestly never felt comfortable playing this one – it has some very real potential triggers – but group after group has agreed unanimously that they were okay with it.
Tonight, however, a few people left rather than play. Those who stayed had a lot of fun, but I felt conflicted to say the least. I pulled aside the ensemble member who’s been in the group the longest and asked what she thought. She agreed with me that the game should probably be retired to avoid making people uncomfortable. I’m going to try to figure out a solution that will strike a balance between the folks who love the game and those who don’t even want to be in the room while it’s being played.
Even though the night ended in a way that was not ideal, it really was a great meeting. All of our ensemble members are there to do positive work, and I’m very excited to get everyone all caught up and continue our exploration of the play.
It was cold and rainy all day, continuing into the evening. As a result, there were a number of absences and early departures. Even so, we got some good work done.
We first caught up the new members in the room on the play’s plot, characters, and themes. We then read and discussed Act IV scene ii, in which Lady Macduff and her son (and everyone else in the castle, off stage) are massacred.
Things really were off. I had been at Parnall that afternoon, where things felt the same way, so I think this was due, at least in part, to the weather. Our conversation about the scene didn’t go too far in depth.
There was some disagreement about the tone of the conversation between mother and child – how compassionate vs. how contentious should it be? There was also a question about whether the murderer in this scene is the same one who killed Banquo. We don’t know – that’s something we’ll explore.
There was also a lot of discussion about who this messenger (who warns Lady Macduff of trouble coming) is and where he comes from. Some of us think he lives at Macduff’s castle and simply got ahead of the people coming to kill everyone. Others think it’s the Third Murderer from an earlier scene. And others think the messenger is actually one of the witches. That led to a brief discussion about how we’ll need to compromise as an ensemble in our concept of the balance between the supernatural and the psychological – it’s going to affect casting quite a bit.
At this point, we seemed to hit a bit of a wall. One ensemble member suggested a new word game that she could teach us. It was really fun and definitely lightened the mood.
It seemed that there were going to be a number of absences next Tuesday, including those of facilitators, so the ensemble voted to cancel our meeting that day. We’ll pick back up again next Friday.