We brought costumes and props in tonight, which is always exciting even if a little chaotic. As we began to unload and set up, one of the ensemble members approached me and let me know that our Anne got in some trouble and might not be able to perform with us. When Anne arrived, she confirmed this; the exact timeline going forward is unclear, but she will almost definitely not be present for all three performances.
She’s upset, but she’s taking responsibility for the actions she took that resulted in this situation. I reassured her that there is no judgment on my part, that I’ve reserved myself as an understudy for situations like this and can take on her role if necessary, and that now we needed to strategize together to figure out a plan. She was able to calm down and think things through with me.
This kind of thing happens sometimes, unfortunately. It’s why last year was the first time that no facilitators played major roles in the performances. Progress isn’t always linear, and we accept that as one of our challenges, trying not to let it frustrate us too much.
After we were more or less organized, we began at the top of the show. At first our Richard got very upset that she was forgetting many of her lines, at which point our facilitator Sarah stepped onto the stage to reassure the entire group that it’s normal to “lose lines” during a first dress rehearsal, even for professional actors. This reassured everyone, and we were able to get back to work.
There was a lot of compassionate adjustment on stage and off throughout the evening, with people reminding others of entrances, exits, and blocking that were miffed, and no one becoming angry or short-tempered.
Our Elizabeth joked with us that we had let her down by only bringing one throne, when we’ve blocked that scene with her seated beside Edward since the beginning. I mentioned that standing beside the throne could provide her with an interesting opportunity. “It’s up to you,” I said. “He’s sick and dying… Maybe you stand there protectively.” She shook her head. “I don’t really like him,” she said. “I mean, come on – ‘if he were dead, what would betide on me?’ He just died, and she’s thinking of herself.”
We got to the halfway mark in terms of pages, although we know that the latter part of the play moves much faster than the first. We’re in a good place and ready to move forward!
I had exciting news to share with the ensemble tonight. As soon as we were in costume and organized, we gathered in a circle, and I announced that we’d won a $36,000 WeWork Creator Award. The group erupted into cheers and applause. “Wait, how many noodles is that?” asked one woman. Kyle did the math: more than 12,000. “We’re rich!” she cheered.
I tried to impress upon them that this recognition is a result of their work more than anything else, and that they should feel proud and take credit for that. “I’m just the pitchwoman for the work that happens in this room,” I said.
We picked up where we had left off in our dress work through, plowing forward and, again, making compassionate adjustments as we went.
One longtime ensemble member arrived late, missing the announcement about the award. I caught her back stage when neither of us had anything to do for a few minutes and told her. She burst into tears, saying, “This is literally the best news ever.” She has an enormous amount of ownership of the program, being my most frequent (constructive!) critic and taking a lot of responsibility upon herself for our success. She also wants to continue to do this kind of work when she goes home, so something like this has enormous meaning for her. It was a thrill to see her so happy and excited – she has worked extremely hard in Shakespeare for years, and I didn’t need to say out loud that she should take a lot of credit for where we are now as a program.
We got to the end of the play far more quickly than anyone had anticipated, which was a very pleasant surprise. Even with adding costumes and props, we’ve shaved a half hour off of the time it took us to work through the play last time.
We gathered again in a circle, and I gave a bit of a pep talk. I encouraged everyone to keep hammering lines, but asked if our goal next week could be simply to get from the play’s beginning to its end, no matter how we do it. Based on my last five years with this program, I said that I thought that would be more valuable than trying to do things perfectly – our performances are always full of hiccups, and we’ll have more confidence having gotten through the entire thing while compensating for mistakes than if we try to get every line right and have no idea if we can get through the play in our allotted time. I reminded everyone that we’ve been working on the play for nine months and could improvise virtually any part of it if needed.
The team seemed confident going into our last week of rehearsal. Every year, this part of the process has been unique; I’m very interested to see how the next few weeks go.