We brought in the costumes and props tonight! As usual, it was a little hectic getting everyone oriented and figuring out how to set everything up, but we were still able to start our run at 6:35pm. We had till 8:15pm to get through it, and we nearly did!
One woman told me when she arrived that she’d had some dental work done and was in horrible pain, so she might not be 100%. I asked her if she felt well enough to perform at all – health always comes first – and she said that she thought she could do it; that she’d worked too hard to give up the rehearsal, and that she didn’t want to let the team down. I thanked her for her commitment and assured her that, should she feel the need, no one would blame her for leaving early. But she didn’t. She stuck it out. And, frankly, she fought through the pain to an extent that I doubt anyone would have known that anything was wrong. I periodically forgot, myself.
I’m running sound for the show off of our iPod, so I can’t see much of what happens onstage, but much of what I was able to see was thrilling. Our witches are totally committed to their roles and are incredibly fun to watch. One moment that particularly struck me was when the First Witch showed the others the pilot’s thumb (yes, we have a plastic thumb), she was so gleeful that they couldn’t help but get excited, too. Nor could I!
Our Lady Macbeth was running a bit late, and she wasn’t present when her first scene began. I stood in for her (when we reach this point in the process, we stop for no one!), and, just as I was about to say her first lines, she walked in the room. Seeing her, I yelled, “You’re here! Awesome! Jump in!” And she did, without missing a beat.
Our Porter also stepped up her game in a big way. If you’ve been reading along for a while, you’ll recall that she was very timid until just a couple of months ago; her first try at her scene was very difficult and discouraging for her. But the others rallied around her, building her up and assuring her that she could do it, and she quickly gained confidence with their support. When she had trouble with the lines, I suggested that she do her own thing with them, and she did, largely rewriting the monologue and coming up with some funny shtick for the rest of the scene. And tonight, all that hard work showed – in that it didn’t show at all. Her performance seemed effortless, and it was clear that she was having a ton of fun. Whether we were on stage or off, we couldn’t help but laugh at her; she’s so funny!
Another woman, who’s been a little wishy washy all year, has recently become more focused, which has enabled her to do better and better work. Where she might have been goofing around even a few weeks ago, she now sat at the keyboard back stage, intently going over her script, mouthing her lines. In fact, she was so focused on that that she missed one of her entrances!
We’ve had increasing ownership of the play all through this season, and tonight, that ownership really seemed to solidify. The addition of costumes and props seems to have that effect every year. There’s something about having those physical objects to aid in storytelling – objects that you and your ensemble dreamed up and specifically requested; that you’ve been imagining and miming up till now – that makes the whole thing seem more real. It makes it feel more legit. This is when the whole process begins to crystallize for many people, and it’s a really exciting thing to be a part of.
We facilitators were able to arrive a bit early this evening to set up, and the first things we noticed were the absolutely GORGEOUS backdrops. One of our ensemble members is an incredibly talented visual artist, and she designed an anchor image for these a while back. We’re extremely fortunate (and extremely grateful) to have the support of the prison’s building trades program, which has helped us build and paint our sets and backdrops for years now. The women in that program did absolutely beautiful work; these backdrops are so incredible that, even though we’ve painted over them each year (as per usual in theatre, to conserve budget and materials), we really don’t want to this time. I’m not sure what our storage options are, though. Time will tell!
A few people were absent; we had known that two of them would be, but the others were a surprise (although one turned out only to be late). We decided that things would go smoother if, rather than asking someone unfamiliar with the scenes to fill in, facilitator Lauren (who was on book anyway) would simply read their lines. That worked out pretty well!
Our Lady Macbeth has had a lot going on and hasn’t gotten as far in memorizing her lines as she had planned. Tonight before she went on, as I showed her where some of her props had been set, she said, “I’ve been in my Shakespeare all week. No pressure or anything.” She smiled. “You’re feeling good?” I asked. “Yeah, Frannie,” she replied. “I got this.” She was just about off book for her first couple of scenes – only occasionally calling for line – and after that, though she was holding her script, she hardly looked at it. It was clear that she had, indeed, put a lot of time in, and it’s greatly enhancing her performance.
Our Banquo was one of the people whom we'd known would be absent, and, like I said, since I’m running sound I can’t see much of what happens on stage, so I was surprised when suddenly, instead of Lauren’s voice reading Banquo’s lines, I heard that ensemble member’s. She had walked in, immediately recognized which scene was up, and started saying her lines even from the house. That was a lovely surprise; obviously, we all feel much better when our whole ensemble is present. And she kicks butt in that part.
We made it to the end of the play, when there was some confusion because our Macduff was absent. From where I was, I couldn’t tell exactly what was going on. Then, giving up on finding an actual solution, our Macbeth strode on stage, proclaiming victory (which, of course, is the opposite of how the play actually ends). Any frustrations we’d had immediately faded as we laughed together and just sort of ended the play there.
We were not much over the run time we’re limited to (90 minutes), but it was enough to cause some concern. Based on how things had gone on Tuesday, I’d taken a little time to see how much we could safely cut from Act V (which is where things really slow down for us). I asked if anyone wanted to take a look, with the caveat that I’d made these as a “safety net”, and we didn’t have to use them. Everyone who was in Act V said they were open to this new approach. We’ll see how things shake out on Tuesday.
Our Porter, who also plays Menteith, came over to me as we cleaned up, saying, “Where’d I go in this act?” I replied, “I just cut as much as I could to save time!” She smiled wryly and said, “Frannie, you just made my acting career much shorter!” I told her that we could certainly add her lines back in, but she shook her head and said, “No, no, that’s fine. That’s definitely fine!” She’s got such a great sense of humor, especially now that she’s gained so much confidence – and she has no ego about it at all. She’s conquered the challenge that tripped her up to begin with, and now she’s just in it to have fun and be a solid member of the team. Awesome.