Session Six: Week 34

Tuesday

 

Tonight I had a series of individual conversations with members of our ensemble while Kyle got the group going by reviewing the scene we ended with on Friday. That strengthened, we moved on to the scene in which the Murderers come for Clarence. We were missing our First Murderer, but we decided to work the scene anyway.

We discovered some funny shtick for the Murderers, whose interpretation is very Laurel and Hardy, but there was a challenge the first time we ran through the scene in that our Clarence remained seated on the ground the entire time. We asked her if she felt that she needed to sit, or if maybe she should stand. She said she wasn’t sure. I asked her what Clarence wants in this scene. She landed on him wanting to stop the murderers from killing him, which is spot on. I suggested that she physically engage in her efforts, pointing out that, even seated, if I want to make a strong point, I’m going to plant my feet and lean forward to do so.  

We went through the scene again with her standing when she felt compelled, and it worked much better! We wondered how to get Clarence’s body off the stage without dragging her across the floor and arrived at the creative solution of the First Murderer stabbing her from behind while the Second Murderer pages the curtain, and then the First Murderer simply pulls Clarence through the opening and follows, returning for the end of the scene.

We went through the scene one last time, encouraging our Clarence to give herself time to absorb the information she’s getting and react to it. She did, and there was a lot of growth!

We moved on to the scene in which peace is brokered by Edward and then word comes of Clarence’s death. There was a bit of a debate over how everyone is arranged on stage at the top of the scene, and finally we figured it out. One of our longtime ensemble members, who is a perfectionist and knows it, smiled and said, “Okay, okay. I was wrong. I was wrong.” Another ensemble member gasped theatrically and said, “You were wrong? You were wrong?! Let the record show that on April 25, 2017, [name] admitted she was wrong.” We all had a good laugh, including the woman who was the subject of the joke.

The scene went beautifully. A quiet member of the ensemble surprised us all by having her lines memorized! And our Edward has clearly been working on her monologue – it’s incredibly strong and impactful.

Our Richard entered the scene with her foam sword tucked in the back of her shirt through her collar. I’m not sure why she did it, but, as I watched, I realized that the bend in the sword made her look hunch backed. You may remember from this blog, months ago, that our Richard has been very resistant to playing Richard’s “deformity” – she hasn’t wanted to alter her physicality or weaken him. Using the sword as a prosthetic was an interesting idea to me, and potentially a compelling artistic choice. I pulled her aside toward the end of our session and asked her what she thought about it. I pointed out that, perhaps, when the curtain opens on her at the top of the play, she could be regarding the sword, endowing it with all of her bitterness and anger, and then at the word “deformed,” she could place it in her shirt, establishing the convention. The sword could then be taken out for the fight, and would work as a pretty cool symbol. She loved these ideas. Problem solved!


Friday

 

We began tonight by plugging our First Murderer into the scene we staged on Friday. This threw our Clarence for a bit of a loop, as having a different person in the role changed some of how the scene worked. We reassured her that more rehearsal will help things fall into place. One ensemble member asked our First Murderer why she was “doing an accent,” and she replied that she didn’t seem to be able to help it. I asked her if she knew her character’s objective, and she said she wasn’t sure. I suggested that the “accent” might come from a disconnect with the character, so we talked about how this guy behaves. Why does he let Clarence speak for so long, for instance? We determined that he wants to control the others. She asked if “the cockiness should come into my voice.” I asked her to just focus on her objective for now – that everything else flows from that. The second time running through the scene felt much better for everyone, and we moved on.

We explored the reactions of the characters in Act Two, scene four, in which the Duchess, Queen Elizabeth, and York are told about the imprisonment of Vaughan, Rivers, and Grey. What does this violation of the peace agreement mean for them? Our Duchess and Elizabeth were all in for reacting with horror and dismay, while our York was more hesitant, saying that a child might not understand the implications. We suggested that he would still react to seeing the women so upset, and we found a flow for the scene from there.

We moved on to the scene in which the Prince is brought in by Richard and Buckingham, Hastings informs everyone that Elizabeth and York have taken sanctuary, the Prince is taken to the Tower to meet with his brother, and Buckingham enlists Catesby’s help in finding out if Hastings will be part of the conspiracy to make Richard king.

We worked on blocking very collaboratively, with one member making a great suggestion that Richard linger on the floor in front of the stage, separating him a bit from the group and making more clear what has happening.

In discussing the Prince’s role in this scene and the way the others treat him, we got into somewhat of a debate. Our version of this lengthy scene is extremely truncated; our Prince has stage fright and asked us to cut as much as possible. As a result, we eliminated the entire part of the scene in which the Prince expresses some suspicion, and the boys play around with Richard.  Our Richard, who seemed to be having a bad day in general, pointed out that some ensemble members were interpreting the scene without keeping in mind the material that has been cut. She reminded us that the Prince actually has a lot to say about what’s happening, and that he “isn’t stupid.” She made a good point, but, unfortunately, she made it in such a confrontational way that it shut down the collaborative energy and caused a number of people to get frustrated and upset. I tried to express what she was saying for the group in a more constructive way, but the sour energy remained, and we ended in a bit of a cloud.

It’s an ongoing challenge for this ensemble member – when she’s feeling negative, she often takes it out on others, often without realizing she’s doing it. We keep talking with her about it, trying to help her navigate new ways of handling communication when she’s feeling lousy, and the ensemble continues to be as patient as they can be even when her actions make things difficult. We are all learning and growing.