Session Six: Week 35


Written by Matt

Facilitators were held up for a while at security today, which usually promises a delayed start for the group. With so much to do before performance, there wasn’t time to waste, so facilitators hustled over to the programs building, anxious to make up the time.

Inside the auditorium, the curtains were drawn and a scene was being rehearsed: a conversation between Hastings and Catesby that sets up Hastings’s demise. The two women were speaking with confidence and poise, but then a voice cut in at a key moment:

“Wait. Who are you saying that to?”

It was our Richard, sitting in the audience. The scene stopped, and the women paused for a moment and rustled through their scripts.

“Well, isn’t she talking to Stanley?” offered one woman who follows the script closely.

“Let’s think about this,” said a longtime member, while several other women. After a minute or two of discussion, they came to an understanding of the line (a statement by Hastings), and moved on to figuring out how to block the end of the scene.

“That’s real good,” Richard chimed in. “That’s dope. You guys are awesome.”

Our Anne, who has so far mostly avoided weighing in on others’ performances, suggested a change, leaping to her feet and striding to the stage, where she demonstrated her idea.

Playing the scene again from the top, the performances by Hastings, Catesby, and Stanley were tight and considered. “Open up!” shouted Richmond from the audience whenever an actor turned her back to the audience. At the end of the scene, a chorus arose of “that looked great.” One woman took the temperature of the group: “Are we ready to move on? Let’s move on.”

A new member piped up: “Okay! Act Three! Scene Three!”

Richard jumped to her feet. “Ok, we need Ratcliffe, Rivers, Grey, Vaughan!”

All without a word from facilitators—some of the women were surprised, after 45 minutes, to see the facilitators sitting there in the audience.

The feeling of purpose in the room was contagious. Even women who ordinarily take a back seat during scene work were engaged and focused. And that energy from the group enhanced and redoubled the effort onstage. For two and a half hours, the group worked totally undirected and uncoached, sorting out among themselves how to run the rehearsal. And run it they did. We blazed through all seven scenes of Act Three, including several with complicated entrances and exits, first stumbling through each scene, then working it two or three (or more) times to refine blocking and intention.

A highlight came in III.iii, a scene in which Ratcliffe leads Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan to their deaths. Two women were recruited to be halberds, which crowded the narrow playing space before the curtain. “Wait,” said Ratcliffe, halfway through, “I don’t get this scene.” Several women offered suggestions about making the performances more specific and intentional.

“Wait, why are [the prisoners] talking?” asked Ratcliffe.

“The same reason we talk when police are escorting us,” said Richard, who was kneeling to demonstrate to Rivers a potential physical expression of terror, and then leaping up to show “what comfort looks like” to Grey.

“It’s like you in seg on [security level] four and they’re taking you on that walk and it’s like a mile long,” Richard offered to the three prisoners as a final note.

When one of the guards—played by our Anne—broke up the three prisoners, who were huddled together for comfort, the woman playing Grey said, shaking her head, “No touching. Breaking us up. That’s prison.”

Already, as III.iii finished up, women were pulling together the furniture for the next scene.
As we worked through the rest of the act, so many of the women joined in to help, from the usual leaders to those who ordinarily sit back a bit.

When we ended, the group was elated, almost giddy with excitement. “That was dope as hell,” Richard said, and the others murmured assent. The woman who plays Richard’s mother said that, although she had remained quiet throughout most of the rehearsal, she had been riveted by the performances. A new member mentioned as we closed for the day that this was her favorite meeting so far. She said she felt that we had “really done the work,” and commented on how good that made her feel.


Written by Kyle

Tonight was a great night. I really see the ensemble coming into itself, and I feel less like a teacher or leader and more like a facilitator.  It’s really satisfying that when we get into the space, everyone has already taken it upon themselves to start the workshop.  When Lauren and I got there this evening, the ensemble had already checked in and completed the ring exercise.  They were eager to start rehearsing, and, without much discussion, we launched into rehearsal.  One ensemble member in particular seems to be very good at taking charge.  Up until now she has always been a solid member of the cast, and all of us have been waiting for her to step into this role.  We as a group of facilitators have felt that it was an inevitability that she would emerge as a leader; we just didn’t know when, or what was holding her back.  It feels vindicating that she, without our prompting, has taken such an active role in the group’s productivity.  She was giving notes, organizing the rehearsal, and holding the others accountable in a very humble but clear manner. She seemed to hit that balance perfectly.  Between her and one of the other newer members, they seemed to know the blocking for the whole cast - their energy was contagious.  For the most part, Lauren and I sat back and let the ensemble be the ensemble.

Despite the productivity, there was a fair number of people missing; we didn’t skip a beat, though, and the rest of the ensemble jumped in as needed.  All in all, we finished the entirety of the fourth act, which is a relatively large chunk of text for this group.  I also noticed that there seemed to be a fair number of personal struggles happening in the group with individuals; it was nothing anyone wanted to talk about, nor was there in-fighting within the ensemble - just two or three different women, who were clearly upset, speaking low to each other for support.  With the relatively small turnout for the evening, having two or three in a dark place came out to a high percentage.  It didn’t seem to bother anyone, though. Everyone was pretty content to just get up no matter how they felt and get the job done.

On the way out, I talked with one of the newer members whom I know has been having a hard time lately. This time of year has a lot of family time that she is missing and takes its toll on her.  I asked her if she was okay. She said that she was “only kind [terrible] today,” but that this coming Tuesday she was expecting to be “really terrible.”  I asked if she was still going to come, and she said “probably not.”  I told her to come, tell everyone at check in that she didn’t want to talk, is having a hard time, and to give her some space.  She smiled large and said “We’ll see…”