Season Eight: Week 29


“You can’t steal my Shakespeare sunshine!”

Tuesday / March 26 / 2019
Written by Coffey

Our session tonight began with a little dramaturgy. One of the women shared with the group the story of the Globe Theatre, one of the crazier Shakespearean anecdotes which goes something like this: When Shakespeare was a member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the company primarily did their work in a theater called simply “The Theater” in central London. The Theater was owned by some of the actors in the company, but the land the theater was on was only rented, and in around 1598 the lease was up. The landlord tried to lay claim to the building in addition to the land, but the Lord Chamberlain’s Men would not have that. Shakespeare and his fellow actors, dressed as soldiers, dismantled the entire theater, brick by brick, and moved it to a new piece of land. This retelling doesn’t have a modicum of the energy and color this woman’s retelling had. Her excitement and amusement were infectious.

Our Maria shared that she was getting ready to be off-book. “I need to get rid of the safety net, “ she said, “Because if it’s there I need to look.” Our Captain shared with the group that she is considering making her character female. “I just think we haven’t done it yet...and I want the outfit to be super cute.”

“Does the gender of the character matter?” Frannie asked. “I don’t think it does,” the woman replied. The group discussed the pros and cons of playing a man and whether changing the character’s gender would have any bearing on the play itself. Ultimately, the Captain decided on being female. “Alright. I’ll just do it.”

We spent most of the night working on Act IV, scene ii. Our new Feste was working through the scene for the first time, and the rest of the team really rose up to help her. Maria stayed with Feste, helping her mark her blocking and entrances. At one point during a run of the scene, Feste was upstaging herself. One woman, without saying a word or disrupting the scene at all, walked onto the stage and gently turned Feste towards the audience. The scene continued without missing a beat. When it came time for Feste to be both Feste and Sir Topas, the women helped her figure out ways to change her voice or her position on stage to make a distinction between the two characters. Feste grew more and more confident as the rehearsal went on and starting bringing her own ideas to the stage. With the space to explore and the support of her colleagues, Feste really started to take shape. It will be exciting to see how the character grows.

At the center (literally) of the scene is the room or cage in which poor Malvolio has been imprisoned by Sir Toby and Fabian. Staging this has been challenging in past sessions, as we couldn’t land on blocking ideas we were thrilled with. Tonight, however, we had a surge of creativity. Our Malvolio began playing with her positioning in the “prison box” and requested that the box be given a breakaway top. Matt advised her to give Malvolio an objective for the scene and to ask herself how Malvolio plans to escape his prison. With a top on the box and an objective for the scene, Malvolio began to move around the small space more “freely,” searching frantically for a door or crack in the wall. At one point she took off her shoe and started cradling it in her arms. When asked what she was doing, she announced that Malvolio had found a pet mouse in prison. “Like in Shawshank?” exclaimed one woman. “Yeah!” Malvolio replied. “Isn’t that The Green Mile?” asked another woman. “Listen, I know my prison movies,” said another member, “and there is no mouse in Shawshank.”

The addition of a top to the prison box ended up inspiring even more exciting ideas. Our Malvolio, Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew collaborated on coming up with a hilarious bit in which Feste leaves the stage whistling “Pop Goes the Weasel”; hearing the song, Malvolio discovers her way out and shoots straight up, blowing the top off of the box with the song’s final “pop” before the curtain quickly closes. The sequence got better every time they ran it and never failed to get laughs from the house.

We ended the rehearsal satisfied with IV.ii, but in agreement that it could still use a megaphone, some extra fake beards on sticks, and some kazoos. The zany creativity is nowhere near over and the collaboration among the women is only getting stronger. Together they are creating one hilarious and smart piece of theatre.

Friday / March 29 / 2019
Written by Matt

Tonight was another divide-and-conquer session, so it was nice that we had all hands on deck! We had all the familiar faces with us tonight--actually, the only facilitator not there was Maria. And a good thing, too; there was lots to do.

The session opened with a major gesture: our Sir Toby had crafted a makeshift “feather-duster” for our Maria as a token of affection. Toby got down on one knee to present the gift, and Maria was ecstatic!

We spent the first part of today’s session talking through our props list, which has gotten a little bit out of control. We needed to know what our ensemble really needed to tell the story, rather than just having some funny ideas. We had some very clear “needs:”

-Inflatable palm trees

-Seaweed boas… AND feather boas!

-Inflatable emoji beach balls

-A life-size cardboard cut-out of Fabio (diligent readers of the blog will be familiar)

-Lots and lots of kazoos

-A cookie (for throwing)

-Lots of other goofy things.

We were willing to give up seagull puppets and toy boats for the first scene because there’s already plenty going on. Somehow, we couldn’t even remember what two of our prop ideas were about: a hot dog with relish (???) and a prosthetic arm (?!?!?!).

Meanwhile, Lauren was helping the women take measurements for their costumes, which is always less drama here than at the men’s prison (take that, patriarchy!).

After props, we split again. Frannie took some folks to the back of the room to make cuts, while the rest of us tried to tackle the first few beats of Act V scene i. It’s a complicated scene, but it starts out simply, with Feste and Fabian. Then, as new characters enter, very few of them leave, and eventually the stage is full of actors. And a life-size cardboard cut-out of Fabio.

Our Feste was out today, so Coffey stepped in as the fool. We don’t love doing this, but it can add a jolt of energy when facilitators fill in, and that’s definitely what happened here! Coffey came in at a run, Fabian trailing behind her, turning the first four lines of the scene into a dynamic, high-energy moment that set the pace for the rest of the actors.

We stumbled through each of the short little beats that begin the scene, adding Orsino, Viola, Antonio, and the zannis to the mix. One by one, we felt our way through each little section of dialogue before moving to the next one or putting them all together. This sort of focus on a thirty-second (or ten-second) piece of the script can be frustrating sometimes, but it allows for a lot of repetitions in a short time, and that allows for a lot of creativity. In particular, our Orsino had fun feeling her way into the scene. When we started, she was wrestling with what the words meant and whom they were addressed to, but within a few minutes, she was totally clear on all of that and free to move dynamically in reaction to the other characters.

Fabian dove into her role, too, working with Coffey’s Feste as a hilarious duo. They chased each other and set each other up for physical comedy. Coffey would look at the “gold coin” deposited in her hand, and Fabian’s eyes would grow big and she would point at the imaginary money. It was great! And in reaction, our Orsino was able to be more frustrated with them, which gave purpose to her performance.

The real stroke of genius, though, came with Antonio’s entrance. We decided to try it with the zanni “officers” walking Antonio down through the house and onto the stage, which resulted in a really nice tableau at the end, using the levels of the stage and leaving half the space open for the next big entrance (well, except for Fabian, who lounged on the fountain set-piece pretending to eat popcorn). The trouble was that the path to that setup hadn’t made a lot of sense. Why was Antonio standing there? Why had the zannis stopped? Why was everyone tripping over everyone else? It was awkward at best.

“How are we going to get Antonio onstage?” I asked, not really having any idea myself.

Instantly, one of the women had an idea. “He makes a break for Orsino, of course!”

“Because he’s not a crook!” shouted another.

“And he sees Orsino, and he needs to beg him to understand his position,” added a third.

One of them jumped up on stage to walk our Antonio through the blocking, which looked even better than it had in my head--it solved all of our logistical and blocking problems while also staying true to the characters and their motivations. In fact, it added tension and urgency to the scene! If Antonio’s lines are delivered after breaking free from his guards and falling prostrate before the man who holds his fate in his hands (instead of just standing between two guards), Antonio’s plight becomes clearer and more intense, and the other actors will have more to work with--how to react? What does their character think of this outburst? It was masterful.

“How did that feel?” I asked after we put it all together.

“You should feel great!” shouted a woman from the audience.

“Oh, man! I can’t believe we’re out of time!” said one member. Indeed, it was 8:15, and we had to hurry! We put up the ring and hustled out after a very productive day.