Tuesday / March 19 / 2019
Written by Coffey
We started our session with some good but unusual news. Our Toby and Malvolio painted a closet together during the week and took some time during check-in to marvel at the unusual collaboration. “Malvolio and Toby actually accomplished something today by working together,” Toby said. “It’ll never happen again,” Malvolio laughed.
Another highlight of our check-in was the establishment of the official Shakespeare in Prison Sketchbook. One of the women had the great idea to keep a large sketchbook with our supplies as a place where we could draw out costume ideas, set designs, or any moments or ideas we’d want to draw. The role of SIP Sketchbook Keeper was bestowed upon one of our resident artists, who immediately (and in less than fifteen minutes) graced the first blank page with a beautiful drawing of another woman’s smiling face. A great way to start what we hope will be a long tradition.
In our rehearsal, we tackled the longest scene in the play, Act III, scene iv. Matt read in for Sir Toby, as our Toby had to step out for most of the rehearsal. The other actors on stage looked around for makeshift props, with Sir Andrew opting for a drum stick “sword.” Viola, unable to find a drum stick for herself, rolled up her script. “Wait, but you need a sword!” Sir Toby said. “Um, have you ever had a papercut?” Viola replied.
Weapons of minimal destruction in place, we ran the scene. It was pretty shaky, but the women both on and off stage knew exactly what we needed to fix. Their main point of focus was on Antonio and the officers. “I feel like the officers should be stiffened,” one woman said. “Think like, a soldier type.” The women agreed that the scene needed a little bit more energy, volume, and clear, direct movement.
The second run of the scene was much smoother and displayed some genius on the part of our Fabian. While Viola and Antonio had their uncomfortable exchange, Fabian led Sir Andrew and Sir Toby in sneaking behind our fountain set piece and peering around the corner, their faces forming a classic, seven-dwarves-style totem. This elicited a lot of laughter from the house.
Another strong aspect of this run was Antonio’s work. She is typically shy and quiet, but during this run, she planted her feet, and her voice grew louder and stronger. She was clearly getting into the scene and finding her character and voice. The other women noticed. “I was just really shocked because usually you’re so quiet. This is a part for you to shine,” one woman said. Everyone nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I’m starting to like it now,” Antonio replied. “I have to say I love that I can hear everything you’re saying, and I can understand you’re saying, and that’s really important because it’s a really confusing play,” Frannie said. Another woman nodded, quietly adding, “But I’m beginning to understand it now.”
The third run was even more impressive. Our Olivia really brought Cher Horowitz (of the movie Clueless) to the stage. Her performance was more sassy, colorful, and strong than it has ever been. Entrances and exits were timed just right, and comedic bits landed so well that even the actors broke character and laughed. When we finally reached the end of this very long scene, we cheered, and an officer who’d come into the room just at that moment cheered with us.
As we gathered for notes, it was clear that the women had shocked themselves with how good the scene was. “A lot of hard, frustrating work paid off in a big way,” Frannie said. The women made a lot of headway today. Their growing confidence in their own talent and care for the show will make it a beautiful experience come performance-time.
Friday / March 22 / 2019
Written by Matt
“Guess what I found on the bookshelf?” asked one of the women during check-in this evening. She waved a yellow paperback to the ensemble. “Hamlet!” She had read part of the introduction and was making her way through the first scene, she said, and already getting into it. When someone asked whether she was getting a head start on the play for next year, though, she looked confused. “Is this our play for next year?” She had been absent from that conversation, and no one had told her that we’re doing Hamlet next season!
First, though, we need to get through this one! We picked up with Act IV scene i, which, honestly, very few of us remembered at all. Our Feste read a summary beforehand to get us up to speed. Then we stumbled through the scene once to figure out what it needed. Actually, this is one of those scenes where the summary was as long as the scene itself! There’s plenty of mistaken identity humor, but it’s only a minute or two long in all.
The first order of business was to cut the scene down a little. One woman was even up for cutting out entire roles. “Does Fabian need to be there?” she asked. “He doesn’t speak.” Our Fabian laughed and replied, “Yeah, but I’m always kind of just there in the background.” Sir Toby said that a scene like this one would be perfect for Fabian to focus on physical humor: butting in on conversations, for example, or stealing bits of Toby’s costume. So we kept Fabian and cut some lines.
With the scene a little leaner, we ran it twice again and everyone seemed a little bit more comfortable with it. Even our Feste, who threw herself into the role recently and with a lot of anxiety, seemed to find her footing as she got to know the character and situation a little bit better. “Feste is the scarecrow from Wizard of Oz!” said someone. “That’s funny, I feel like that’s Sir Andrew!” said another. “Everyone in this play is the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz!” said a third.
After that scene, we divided up again--at this point in the season, we have to!--with one group going backstage to make cuts with me, and another group staying to work scenes from Act I onstage with Emma and Lauren. Frannie was mostly off to the side having one-on-one conversations, but she joined in when she could. It’s nice to feel like we have the ability to work in several simultaneous groups now--and that we have a group of facilitators ready to jump in like that!