Tonight we embarked on casting as planned! After our check-in, we grabbed chairs and circled up.
As anticipated, most casting was settled on quickly and easily – there was almost no overlap between first choices. Where multiple people were interested in the same role, we worked together to find compromises. The most exciting compromise was between two women who wanted to play the Third Witch. One of them leaves early on Tuesdays for another commitment, so the other one agreed to understudy/role share to avoid holding up rehearsals with absences; this woman is taking on another role that she really wanted as well.
As we talked through the casting of the witches, one woman floated the idea that, rather than casting other people as the apparitions, the witches could be possessed by them and deliver the lines themselves. We were all pretty excited about that. We’ll see how it works in practice!
A number of roles are vacant, as we’ve recently lost some ensemble members. We decided to leave those roles open for now. The plan is to read through the play with our initial cast looking for cuts and places to eliminate or combine characters. Then we’ll add new members, read through the play with them to get them oriented and determine their casting, and go full steam ahead into the next phase of the program.
Two women who had planned to leave the group in January to participate in another asked the rest of the ensemble if they might be able to stay in an “off-stage” capacity, since they would always be able to be present for part of the time before going to their other commitment. We all agreed that that would be great; they can provide valuable input from the audience, stand in for people who are absent, and help out back stage during the show. We’re all very glad that they’ll be able to stay.
We had fairly low attendance tonight. Several people came briefly to let us know what was going on and then had to leave. Some of this was situational and some was emotional. Others were absent entirely.
But we still do good work with a smaller group! Our focus tonight was on making the first cuts to our script now that most parts have been cast. We decided that we would leave alone the lines of those characters who’ve been cast, but whose actors were absent. But we also decided that it would be fine to cut lines of characters who haven’t been cast for efficiency’s sake; if we add a new person to play a given role who strongly feels that something should be added back in, we can do that then.
The process of making cuts is always more fun for some than others. It took a little while to get our newbies acclimated to our strategy, too. When we make cuts, we don’t approach it in an academic way. Our decision-making process is essentially:
• Is this information vital for the actor playing the character?
• Is this information vital to understand the plot?
• Is there an individual word or phrase here that will make understanding easier for the audience?
• Does the cut still make sense as a sentence or phrase?
• If certain lines are tripping an ensemble member up, and that’s why they need to be cut or altered, how do we deal with that creatively?
• If an ensemble member truly loves certain lines, is it okay to leave them in place? (The answer to that is usually yes.)
At this point, we’re looking for obvious cuts rather than detailed ones – the need for those will be clearer once we’re on our feet. We also came up with a few ideas of how to keep people engaged who don’t enjoy this part of the process, and we’ll start implementing those next week.
One of the women shared with us that she had been watching Jeopardy when “Shakespeare” was a category, and she’d been really excited about it. Another woman said she’d seen it, too. “It feels so cool when you can answer Jeopardy questions, and it’s because of this class,” one of them said.
The woman who is playing Lady Macbeth jokingly said to our Macbeth, “I feel like Lady Macbeth is gonna be the ruler of you.” We all laughed. She continued, “My bunkie – she’s wondering, ‘I wonder if milk’s gonna be the same price when I get out.’ And I’m wondering, “I wonder if [Macbeth] is gonna let me boss her around.”