Tonight I spent most of my time in private conversations with the women who were involved in last week’s conflict. All are staying in the ensemble and working to move forward in a constructive way. This is a great opportunity for all of us to learn ways to work alongside people with whom we disagree and/or have tension, and, while it will be challenging, that’s part of what we do in SIP. I’m hopeful that this all will have a positive outcome.
Matt worked with the others on the Malcolm/Macduff scene. The energy was still somewhat tense, but they did their best to push through it. Things relaxed a bit as they worked, and some of the collaboration they’re so good at began to happen.
Toward the end of the night, I joined scene work already in progress. The ensemble was working on the “double, double” scene, and they were a little stuck. They asked me to dive in with them, and I did! I watched what they had done and then made some suggestions: let go of being pretty! be ugly! pick an animal and roll with that energy! have fun! One woman said she was a gargoyle, another said she was a dragon. “Does it have wings? Does it breathe fire?” I asked, and she excitedly said it did. The third witch at first chose a gorilla, but we went with a spider instead. I asked them to imagine the air being thick and the ground being silt. I also worked with our Macbeth a bit to help her with her character’s fear in the scene. We tried it again, and it began to work much better! One of our witches wasn’t feeling well, and the third witch’s animal didn’t quite work (which was my fault – her first instinct was much better than mine); still, we were excited about the progress we’d made. “I felt powerful!” said one of them. They decided to focus on getting off book so, the next time we work it, they’ll be able to commit more to their physicality.
Tonight’s focus was on giving folks who haven’t had much (or any) stage time a chance to get on their feet! Our Captain has worked with other characters, but not that one. And our recast King hasn’t been on stage at all.
Our Captain had great instincts about what to do in the scene, but she was thinking too much! I tried to coach her in ways that would get her out of her head. Focus on what you want and the obstacle the wound presents. Center yourself in that wound and follow your instincts in fighting through it. Paint pictures – make sure you get that information to the king before you die, because you really could die with an open wound like that. She had a hard time with all of that – she is a thinker! – and then she got distracted when she saw a friend through the window whom she’d been needing to talk to. She eventually let go of the work at hand to try to get her message to her friend with gestures, over-emphasizing her words to make lip-reading easier, and I said, “That’s the urgency! Do that!” Then it seemed to click.
As our king had temporarily left the room, I took over – the others were reluctant to get on stage for whatever reason, other than a woman who’d volunteered to be the Captain’s “perma-helper.” We tried the scene again, and it went a bit better.
I guided the Captain through an exercise that emphasized breathing on punctuation, and the language seemed to fall into place for her. Our king returned, and we tried the scene again, this time with me reading Malcolm. Our king really listened, and our Captain let the language do more of the work. She kept bending slightly at the waist and then coming back up. I said, “Your body wants to fall. Let it fall.” She looked at me, still in the moment. “Just fall?” she said. “Follow that instinct,” I replied, and she did. We all knelt with her.
It was more immediate that way – we all liked it – so we decided to try it one more time. This time it really sank in, and those of us on stage didn’t have to work to stay with her. She pulled us right in. It was great, especially because she’d struggled so much.
Kyle took over scene work at that point, and I pulled one woman aside to make sure I had all of the cuts she’d made to her lines. After we’d gone through those, I asked how she was feeling about the program and the situation. I said I had gotten the feeling that she was frustrated. She said she’s definitely frustrated with the situation. She said she knows all of the women involved, has strong opinions about both sides of the conflict, and she didn’t like that I allowed the group time to reflect immediately afterward, when one of the people involved and left the room (a constructive decision on her part, not a retreat). This woman said she felt like we should have immediately moved on. I said that I understood why she felt that way, but that it’s best practice in situations like that to give a bit of time for people to express any feelings they might be having before moving on. I reminded her that it hadn’t turned into bashing, and that we’d moved on as soon as people had had their say.
She said she’s also frustrated by the pace at which we’ve been moving, which, admittedly, has been a bit slow. We tend to struggle with that in the colder months, when the performance still seems far away. We enjoy each other’s company and can get side tracked, and that means that we aren’t getting as much scene work done as we could with a bit more focus. I said that she’s not the only one who’s frustrated. Sometimes I am, too!
I said, though, that expressing that frustration without a filter is never helpful because it causes people to shut down. “You know… you catch more bees with honey and all that,” I said, smiling, and she ruefully rolled her eyes, saying, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that. I know.” I said that others have been trying to give the ensemble more urgency, and it hasn’t always been effective. I suggested that, because she has a nice, loud voice and is generally bubbly and positive, she could do a lot to keep things moving and structured. I said I thought people would listen and follow her lead as long as she was pleasant, and I asked if she would help us with that. She liked that idea, and I got the sense as she left that some of her frustration had ebbed with that possible solution at hand.