Written by Kyle
This week I started the evening talking to one of the newer members of the group about Shakespeare’s verse; we don’t always get to take a deep dive into the intricacies of his verse. It can get dry and too academic for many in the group. So I always jump at the chance to ‘nerd out’ when I see one of the ensemble members willing to go there with me. It turned into a much longer conversation, though, about the philosophy of the group. It was an interesting conversation. She was craving some more heavy-handed direction, which we intentionally avoid because the group strives to be non-hierarchical. I reiterated that it is an ideal to which we will always fall short, and that it can make the process seem more laborious at times; ultimately, though, the extra effort is worth the sense of ownership that a communal process fosters. I appreciated the frankness of the conversation and the perspective of a newcomer to the group. One of the highlights of the check-in was when one of the ensemble members told the group that she will be seeing her son for the first time in two and a half years; that this is a direct result of the positive changes that she has made to her life, and that SIP was a big part of that.
We had a fairly well attended session at the outset so we elected to skip a scene or two and begin with Act 1 Scene 3, in which old Queen Margaret crashes the party. The ensemble oscillates between creating some truly compelling acting work (by anyone’s standards) and learning the basics of stagecraft: where does one stand on stage, how to counter your scene partner with your movement, if you are a messenger with only a line or two where do you stand that’s out of the way, etc. These are all commonplace discussions that happen just about every couple of minutes in these first rehearsals. It’s encouraging to see the newer members challenge the group to acknowledge royalty, suggest cuts to a scene, and identify possible inconsistencies in the text. This scene is packed with a fair amount of back history, and it's difficult to not get bogged down; you can easily spend all your time talking and not actually get around to rehearsing. Once the scene got going we had some really powerful stuff from our Margaret and Richard; both actors could have easily held their own in a university setting or professional actor training program. It was also great to have Sarah in attendance tonight. Her point of view is always so authoritative and inspires such discernment from the ensemble. It’s pretty amazing, actually, the caliber of acting that is happening so early in the process. At a certain point, though, the actors began to lose the thread of the scene, and we had to sit and hammer things out reading in a circle.
We’ve been having an issue with conflicts and the ensemble leaving early. It’s been happening all along, but it plays out a little differently now that we are in rehearsals. I hope it is something that we can address in the coming sessions; although there is a part of me that enjoys working with the actors in a more intimate group, ultimately it becomes the same collaborative question that came up in private conversation at the start of the session. Great work was accomplished by the members who stayed, but it felt somewhat lost because so much of the ensemble had left early.
Today we had the update from our ensemble member who was reunited with her son. These things never quite go the way you’d think, and the story she told was no exception. She said it was a start, though, and it was wonderful to see the whole group share in her joy.
During the latter part of the check in, one of the other ensemble members brought up the attendance policy and how everyone had bailed before the end of the session on Tuesday. It was really well said, and without rancor or judgment; I was really impressed by how well she navigated potential conflict with good natured poise, all without walking backwards on her position. It did drive home just how many people have legitimate conflicts. It felt like people were skipping out early on Tuesday, but I’m rethinking that assessment. A large number of our group have other approved commitments, and I imagine it will be something we revisit several times before the performances this summer.
After the warm-up we worked the famous scene in which Richard courts Lady Anne. It’s a truly challenging scene, and it is nice to have two veterans from the group be at the helm. Unfortunately, it's a two-hander, and quite long at that, so much of the group were not rehearsing their scenes tonight; everyone was really good about following the scene and contributing ideas where they could. The actor playing Richard has really taken it on herself to play and experiment in her scenes. I’ve not seen this kind of freedom from her in seasons past. She’s always been a committed actor and taken direction well, but I’ve never quite had the feeling like she might do anything at any moment. It’s exhilarating to watch her play - she walked right up to one of the servants and flicked her in the face. It happened so organically, and there were many more moments just like it; every couple of lines Richard would give a look to the audience letting us know what she really thought of the scene. It seemed like there were a hundred little eye rolls, winks, and inside jokes she started with the audience. I’m really not sure when it sunk in that she could have as much fun experimenting in the scene, but if tonight’s rehearsal is anything to go by, she has learned the lesson well.