Written by Kyle
We started off the session on a high note, finding out that one of our ensemble members got her GED, which had been a real source of frustration for her. Everyone was ecstatic for her and cheered immediately. She has checked in about struggling with the math section for weeks, brought her math study materials to the group, and frequently left worried about the test; so we all felt like we were part of that success and were happy to share in her accomplishment.
After check-in, we began to work the scene with Malcolm and Macduff. It is, in my opinion, one of the hardest scenes in the play. It is long, involves someone pretending they are something they are not, and difficult to cut because it contains big plot points – in short, it’s a doozy. To be frank, the ensemble members in the scene struggled with it; they felt wooden and disconnected, the blocking felt stuck, and the rest of the ensemble agreed. “I’m not putting enough feeling into it,” said our Macduff, and we set out to talk about what each of the characters want. We tried approaching it in a few different ways, till finally Macduff said, “I think we need to go work on it in the back and bring back.” We all agreed to move on and circle back to Malcolm and Macduff when they were ready.
The next scene we worked was the scene where Lady Macduff and her son are murdered by Macbeth’s henchmen. To be honest, I always worry about this scene. It has a lot of violence that happens on stage, some of which is inflicted on a child. The scene is pretty unsparing as far as it goes, and I always feel like I need to tread lightly as it is approached. That being said, we worked the scene successfully, without incident, and no one voiced any sense of discomfort with the scene’s content. After a little confusion about who was playing which bit part, we really got moving. The scene sparked a really rich discussion about the nuance of our timing as actors. It seemed apparent to the group that a split-second could have a pretty profound effect on the overall success of the scene: the henchmen don’t move until a certain word, and the curtain begins to close only after the sword is drawn, etc. A millisecond too late or too early seemed to throw everything off, and each run incited debate as to what the final product should be. We made our Macduff’s son rehearse her falling over at least eight times before we felt like we had gotten it right. She was a very good sport about it until about the sixth time through, when she decided not to get up again, making us rehearse around her. It was a funny way to finish an otherwise difficult scene.
After the Lady Macduff scene, we circled back to Malcolm/Macduff. They had gone to the back and worked with another experienced, enthusiastic ensemble member; though I did not hear the direction she gave them, it must’ve been good, because they returned with the scene on a completely different footing. They incorporated a real sense of emotional connection, and that seemed to recharge the whole room. Everyone seemed to lean in to see where the scene was going to go and cheered them on as they went. We tried to refine the blocking a bit, but it seemed to be overloading them with direction. In the end, we moved on and promised to come back to it.
At that point, we figured that we would wrap a little early, as most people were leaving. Three members said, “I’ll stay and keep working till 8:30!” which I thought was great. One of our members, who will be paroled very soon, said that she would love to work a monologue she has been exploring from The Winter’s Tale. We were ecstatic to see her perform; she has an incredible command of the language and the stage. We talked about her trying to find some dynamics in the text and crescendo to a climax, corresponding to what her character wants to achieve. We’ve been working with her on finding her own voice in her work as opposed to a character-voice. I think it’s empowering for her to see different iterations of herself expressed in these characters. She struggled with the lines a little bit, and so we finished with me “dropping in” and feeding her the lines so she could focus on her emotional commitment. Each time, she tried it a different way, with a different objective; it was, as always, an electric moment of theatre happening on our stage. She has expressed a desire to pursue theatre professionally once she is paroled; I’m so excited for her, and if she can continue the work that she has done in the group she will undoubtedly go far.
Written by Frannie
Tonight was mostly spent on further brainstorming about the sonnet project that we’re filming on Tuesday. I’m going to save all of that for now so the final product won’t be spoiled!
When some group members pretty clearly wanted to do something other than continue to brainstorm, a few of us huddled in the back of the classroom to wrap up the process. It was a lot of fun. We frequently leapt to our feet to demonstrate our ideas, made sure we all understood each other, and riffed off of each other. Sometimes one of us, watching the others intently, would gasp as an idea came to us, and the rest would stop short to listen.
These ideas are cinematic, exciting, and emotional. I truly hope we can capture all of them!
Before we left for the night, our small group joined the rest (who’d spent the night playing theatre games and talking), and we talked about which plays we were interested in exploring next season. I’ll be bringing in summaries of the following plays for consideration:
• As You Like It
• The Winter’s Tale
• Twelfth Night
• Julius Caesar
It’s incredible to already be thinking about next season. This one is just flying by!