Almost right away, our Porter, who had been so overwhelmed last week, let us know that she wanted to try her scene again. Multiple people (including me!) joyfully exclaimed, “Really?!” We were surprised and excited that she’d rallied in such a big way and was being so assertive.
After a brief huddle with a couple of ensemble members, she launched into her monologue. Occasionally she stopped and apologized when she stumbled over words, but each time she did at least five people would shout, “Don’t apologize! You’ve got this! Keep going!” And even though her performance was halting, she laughed off each mistake, bolstered by her own determination and the vocal support of the ensemble. At one point, Kyle asked if she wanted him to “drop in” the lines so she wouldn’t have to read, but she smiled and said, “No. I can finish it.” And she did. And it was amazing. No one ever would have known how discouraged she had been from what she accomplished tonight.
We then did some problem solving with our staging. If you’ve been reading along, you might recall that I had been doubtful that we would stick with what we’d come up with, and I tried to introduce some of my concerns and ideas without being pushy. I explained that as an audience member I would be confused by the curtain closing between the post-murder scene and the porter’s; it would make me think that the location had changed, but we’d determined as an ensemble that it doesn’t. We decided to try leaving the curtain open, slightly adjusting some of our blocking. That seemed to work well, at least for now.
When we arrived at Banquo’s entrance, we were reminded that that role was still open. The woman playing Lady Macduff jumped up to fill in. I was having a quiet conversation with another ensemble member when I heard her say, “Did you hear that, Frannie?” I gave my attention to her and asked what I had missed. “I’m gonna be Bankroll,” she said (the inside jokes are well underway). “Oh, you’re gonna fill in tonight?” I asked. “No,” she said. “I mean I’m gonna really BE Bankroll.” Simultaneously, Kyle and I shouted, “You are?! That’s awesome!” She began to move on with the scene, but I couldn’t let it go. This is the woman who had only a small role last year, and has blossomed and taken charge this season in a big way. “How are Kyle and I more excited about this than you are?” I exclaimed. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled. She clearly IS excited – we all are – but she didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, so we moved on.
We stumbled our way through the scene, and everyone made great blocking adjustments in real time. Of course, it’s difficult to see the big picture when you’re on stage, so there was a lot of collaborative criticism afterward as we tried to figure it out. One woman thought that the Porter should fall asleep on stage and that Macduff should wake her on “ring the bell.” That works logically, but it made everyone in the audience laugh, so I’m not sure that we’ll keep it.
We tried the scene again, giving our Macduff some suggestions to help her increase her sense of urgency. Our Lady Macbeth had had to leave early, so another woman stood in for her. When she fainted, she did so all the way downstage, clinging to Macbeth as she did so. It was quite effective, but we all agreed that the staging will ultimately be up to the woman playing the role. We’ll show her how this worked, but we’ll all be completely fine if she wants to go in a different direction.
With the time we had left, we decided to work with the ensemble member pursuing acting on her monologue. She’s using “Sir, spare your threats…” from The Winter’s Tale to explore allowing herself to be both vulnerable and powerful. She tried it once with script in hand, and it was a solid reading, but she didn’t feel good about it. “I don’t know,” she said. “I wanted to go further.” She had the piece semi-memorized, so I asked if she might like to try it with me on book. I also helped her clarify the character’s objective and tactics to strengthen her already apt approach. She centered herself and began, glaring at her “imaginary other,” speaking low and with great intensity. Then she stopped. “No! Keep going!” we all shouted. “I didn’t get past the first sentence!” she said. “Yeah, but it was a great first sentence,” several of us said.
She took a deep breath and began again. There was an incredible amount of power in what she was doing. I sat on the edge of the stage to cue her and quietly rev her up when she started to lose steam, saying things like, “How could he do this to you? Rip him to shreds. Don’t back off.” Even so early in her work, she was able to harness deep emotion and pummel the other character with it. When the piece ended, she looked at me. “How did that feel?” I asked. She smiled a little. “It felt pretty good,” she said.
“It was SO good,” I said. “How did it feel to the rest of us out here?” I asked the others. Every person was shaking their head. One woman gazed at the person on stage and simply said, “Chills.” Another said she had been almost in tears.
The woman who had performed described her process thus far. “You know, I thought Frannie was full of shit,” she said, smiling at me. We all laughed. “But you were right. I do use comedy to mask things… And it does sound better in my own voice. I thought I’d need an accent, but this is better. It feels more true.” We agreed with her wholeheartedly. “And I really love this monologue,” she said. “This feels real.”
Another woman approached me afterward and asked if she could do monologue work, too. I replied that of course she could; Macbeth is a much shorter play than we’re used to, and we will definitely have time to do some experimentation. I asked what kind of monologue she wanted, and she said she’d like something out of her comfort zone. I asked her what that would be. “Something I can really put myself into… Something emotional,” she said. I’ll be bringing some options to our next meeting!
We spent the bulk of our time tonight brainstorming on some program development. I can’t share those details yet but hope to have more for you soon!
With the time we had left, we played a very silly circle game. After so much sitting and talking, it was a relief to move around and laugh. It’s a very strong ensemble. We’re very fortunate to be able to work together.