Session Four: Week 36


Today was an exciting session, as we were able to work with props and costumes for the first time. Things seem to work for the most part, and we had a lot of fun trying items on, exchanging things that didn’t fit, and problem solving around items that had been forgotten (and we have a solution for that going forward!).

Several of the women shared new cuts that they had made, and then we began working through the play from the beginning. We made it nearly halfway through with very few lengthy pauses. Some of us are working without scripts, while some are still shaky and holding onto their “blankies,” as one woman put it. That said, success in this program is very individual, and no one feels pressure from anyone but herself to be completely off book when we perform.

Some parts of our play are working extremely well, while others are further from what we envision. All in all, though, we left feeling extremely good about our work, energized by the new materials, and pumped up to power through the end phase of our process.


We dedicated most of today’s session to working with our Gremio, who was not satisfied with her work on her “wedding story.” This was a lot of fun, as she has gone from someone with severe stage fright to a performer who seems to have no fear about pushing herself out of her comfort zone, playing her character truthfully while going for as many laughs as possible. Working together, we brought her monologue out into the house, with Tranio and Lucentio following her closely. Our Lucentio made the enormous contribution of giving her physical checkpoints to help her remember her lines, i.e., “You’re here when he gives a cuff, then you move here and the priest falls down.” We had a blast working through it, and our Gremio now feels much more confident.

We spent the remainder of our time working lines in the final scene. Another productive day for everyone present, with great team work all around.


We finished our first dress run of the play tonight. There were a few more hiccups than we would have liked, but we made it through and are confident that we can get through the whole thing at our next meeting.

Unfortunately, due to our interrupted run, there was a misunderstanding between two of the women about a costume piece that they need to exchange. As I mediated the conflict, it became clear that it was not a personal one, but the type of conflict many seasoned actors might recognize as familiar from past productions – unfortunately our time with props and costumes is limited, it’s a stressful part of the process, and so the miscommunication boiled over more than it probably had to. We figured out what needed to be figured out, though, both women agreed to move past it and find a way to continue to work together, and I think we’ll be okay.

One of the positive outcomes when we have such a conflict is the opportunity to reflect on better ways in which it could have been handled – not sweeping it under the rug or ignoring the issue, but, in this case at least, allowing the other person to finish what she was saying before responding. Part of the reason things got heated is that they weren’t truly listening to one another. Being able to talk that out afterward and offer other options for the future (because none of us can avoid conflict 100% of the time) is what we hope our takeaway can be, and it was this time.

Session Four: Week 31


We were pleased today to welcome back two members of the group who had had scheduling conflicts but worked them out. Both of these women were in the group in its first session and provide great perspective on the work this ensemble is doing, not to mention wonderful individual contributions. It’s good to have them back.

We tried splitting up into two groups with mixed success. The group in the back of the auditorium made good progress on a very funny scene, but that meant that they were often so loud that those of us in the front of the room couldn’t hear each other! We didn’t want to try to decide which scene was “more important” (the answer truly is neither), so we muddled through it.

Kyle worked with that group in the back, while I worked with the others. We worked on the “seduction” scene between Katharina and Petruchio, clarifying the meanings of certain lines and working to make the scene a sparring or chess match – since we are limited in what we can do physically, we need to be creative, but this actually proved to be less of a challenge than we thought it would be. The woman playing Kate is very thinking-centered, and that’s the way she’s playing her character – which we all think is completely accurate to the text. We’ve been discussing for months that the reason she goes with Petruchio at all is because, in this scene, he proves himself to be her intellectual equal. To that end, we just need to work the scene to be sure that all of the barbs land each way. It works.

We continued on with the scene and discovered a funny bit in which Gremio and Tranio shove each other around a bit as they vie for Baptista’s permission to marry Bianca. The ideas flew among the ensemble, and the groundwork of the scene has been established.


We took time today to run lines and do detailed scene work. We were very proud of one ensemble member who, despite nagging self-doubt about being able to read/understand Shakespeare and memorize lines, has her lines nearly memorized, and they are nearly word perfect. We were very vocal about our excitement – this is a big accomplishment for her, and one we’ve been encouraging her to be open to since we began in September.

We returned to Act II Scene I, specifically the end of the scene featuring Baptista, Gremio, and Tranio. We got into more detailed work on the scene. Although our Gremio was very tired, she kept plugging away, not wanting our time together to be wasted.

We ran into some challenges with the word “argosy.” For one thing, the ensemble realized that no matter how our actors play that word, our audience may not get its meaning. For another, our Gremio is consistently mispronouncing it. Rather than give up on this part of the scene, though, we arrived at two solutions, both of which add to the scene enormously: First, we decided to embrace the mispronunciation, as Tranio can follow it up by pointedly pronouncing it correctly. Second, our Gremio is going to pull a cartoonish picture of a boat out of her pocket to show Tranio and Baptista, and then the audience; Tranio will then take out a bigger picture of the same boat and show that off.

I love these solutions because they were arrived at in the spirit of teamwork and effective communication, both of which are skills we all hope our ensemble will improve during their time in the group. Additionally, rather than finding a solution that might have made our Gremio feel badly about stumbling over such a foreign word, we found a way to take that “mistake” and build on it rather than condemn it. That’s a really important part of what we do.

Session Four: Week 19


Written by Dominique

We had a pretty good turnout this evening - only a couple people missing. Yet somehow it was still difficult to find a scene to work on that involved only characters of available actors. We carried on, with people volunteering to fill needed spaces.

After initial frustration at not being able to just "go in order" as originally planned due to absence we forged onward - begin with Act IV Scene iii. A first run/read-thru on its feet was made. We stopped to sort out exactly what was going on in the scene - not an easy thing to do! We laughed at how complicated the comedies can be with mistaken identities and characters running on and offstage. Who exactly was being who at this point and who believed them?? We looked to the text for clues and backed it up with Spark Notes (no shame in that at all!!). Once we figured out where the deception was, the lines in the scene began to bloom, particularly for Tranio, being read by the woman who is cast as the Widow but frequently fills in for others. Once again she gave a good solid reading and really dug to figure out where the character she was reading was coming from. And once again she, with good humor, insisted that she was the Widow and the Widow only. It's becoming a kind of running gag. Other cast members remarked on the strength of her reading, but we pointed out that the whole play was leading to the entrance of the Widow at this point, so she was wise to stick with that.

The other aspect of the scene to be broached was the "love making" of Bianca and Lucentio. We talked about how to approach it, what would be appropriate for play and audience, what kinds of things could be broad enough to read for audience. We talked about while in this play many of the jokes are accessible it is the physical comedy that really brings the humor to light for a modern audience so we continue looking for those moments wherever possible. Even to the point of suggesting that although Gremio doesn't join the scene's dialogue until much much later her presence on stage could leave open some opportunities for fun…

Kate and Petruchio also gave us a taste of work they had done on Act II sc 1.  They are both such good actors it was fun to see them dig in to the verbal jousting. We talked about ways to break up the "jests", different approaches Petruchio might take, who really has the power in the scene and when. They were also encouraged to use the entire stage, to really physicalize the language to help bring the jokes to life for the audience. There should be no problem in that! The show is already off to a rollicking start.


Written by Lauren

Today was pretty low-key. We started with the ring and some stretches and vocal warm-ups. One woman taught us a warm up (more of a game). We used it instead of tongue twisters and everyone seemed to like it! You start with the letter A and tell everyone your name, your husband's name, where you live and where you work and all starting with that letter (ex: my name is Alice, my husband's name is Albert, we live in Alberta and we sell artichokes). You go around the circle with a different letter each time.

After that we worked Act 4 Scene 1, which has already been blocked, but given the women we had available, that seemed like the best scene to do. It ended up being fine since they said needed a refresher of the scene. Our Grumio was feeling pretty down today but didn't really get into it. She still worked through the scene twice, but was definitely done after that. The ladies wanted to play some improv games after that. One woman was pretty outspoken about how she didn't understand the point of the games. I explained how they could be helpful, and then she got really into it. We played a couple rounds of Party Quirks, which they were all really into. I had a hard time getting the ladies to be physical when we ran the scene, so I thought that game would help them act silly and over the top, and it worked.

The same woman who was initially against playing games also mentioned that she would like to challenge herself and take on the role of Biondello since it's available. I took both of these things as good signs and was glad that she's willing to challenge herself and try new things.

Session Four: Week 18


We returned to Act II Scene I today, plugging in our Petruchio, who has missed the last couple of times we’ve worked on it. We found, though, that our focus shifted to Hortensio – she has been having a difficult time finding her way into the character, and Sarah suggested that she try a different approach. Instead of downplaying Kate’s flaws, as she has been doing, the woman playing Hortensio tried the scene with in a straightforward way. She found that this works better for her, and it makes sense, given how logical Hortensio is about so much in the play. She’s feeling a bit better about the character now.

We then read through Act III Scene I, in which Lucentio and Hortensio take turns surreptitiously wooing Bianca. The woman playing Bianca said that she was torn between the character being sweet and naïve or being a tease. She mentioned that one of the women in the group feels strongly that Bianca is “loose,” to put it mildly, and several of the others jumped in to caution her against trusting anyone’s instincts over her own. Sarah shared an anecdote, then, about a time when she listened to her cast-mates’ instincts about a character rather than her own, never felt good about the performance she gave, and only realized after the show had closed what truly clicked for her about the character. This story bolstered Bianca’s confidence in trusting herself here, and it’ll be interesting to see in what direction she ultimately goes.


One of the women in the group came in today bursting with excitement about some reading she’s been doing. She got a copy of Othello, which she loved and summarized for the group. The thing she loves most about Othello is how familiar she found Iago – she’s witnessed manipulation like his and feels that the play is very true to life, that it still has relevance for all of us. She’s also been reading a book called Shakespeare’s London, which has given her more insight into the plays we’re working with and the man who wrote them. She’s excited by what she’s learned and encouraged all of us to read this book.

After nerding out for awhile, since it was clearly a low-attendance day, we decided to give individual attention to a couple of women who had specific challenges they wanted to address. We began with the woman playing Gremio, who has a lot of questions about her character. We decided to focus on his speeches following Kate’s and Petruchio’s wedding to see what we could find out. We read through the scene to make sure we understood it, and then we tried it on its feet. She felt confident that he is appalled and shocked by what he witnessed, but she was frustrated by having to rely on her script and felt hampered by it. I volunteered to back her up in a drop-in exercise – I stood behind her and read her lines to her so she could have her hands free, not have to read, and maintain eye contact with her scene partner. When we did this, her approach changed a bit – it became more physical, and she used her hands a lot. The others found her interpretation funny, and her biggest discovery was that Gremio is direct – he says what he wants to say.

We then worked the end of Act IV Scene IV with Lucentio and Biondello. The big question became: what is Lucentio nervous about? He says he’s nervous, though he’s just gotten what he wanted – so why? The woman playing this character feels that, in this moment when it all becomes real and official, he is overwhelmed. We talked about this being a universal feeling, not just associated with getting married, although that is the experience upon which she is drawing. Another woman suggested that an additional layer could be the fear of what happens now that the deception is about to be exposed. There’s a lot going on here. We found that Lucentio’s interpretation works here – it’s a quiet moment in our play, a frustrating one for Biondello, who doesn’t understand, and something we’ve all experienced in our lives.

Session Four: Week 14


We stuck to our plan today, moving on to Act II Scene I. But first, the woman who has been cast as Grumio let us know that she will be released earlier than she expected and will go home in January. This is, of course, great news! It does leave a casting gap, and we decided not to make any decisions today – to give ourselves until Thursday to think over our options. In the meantime, the woman who has been cast as Pedant volunteered to read in for the day, since she is interested in the role (and several others are interested in casting her there).

We began to introduce some storytelling concepts today that are also basic acting concepts. The woman playing Gremio asked right off the bat “how she should play her character” – as she put it, she’s not sure right now whether he is “cocky or soft.” I shared the idea of “given circumstances” in the play, suggesting she focus not on “how” to play Gremio, but on what is evident about him in the script that can inform her interpretation. I suggested that, since her instincts right now are not leading her in one particular direction, she comb through the play to see what Gremio says about himself and what others say about him. Off the top of our heads, we know that he is old and rich, and that people poke fun at him a lot. Looking into this in more detail may give her some solid ideas of where she wants to go.

Another thing that came up is the importance of how we walk. We specifically talked about Petruchio’s walk – we know from the text that he is very sure of himself, that he is physically fit (at least enough to frequently smack others around), and that he may be somewhat self-centered. So how is this reflected in his walk? A long, swift, sure stride seems key, and posture will also contribute to our audience knowing immediately what kind of person this is. We didn’t dwell too long on this, since we had a substitute Petruchio, but everyone is now thinking about her character’s walk, and we’ll be able to move forward from here, having established the idea.

Our Hortensio had a lot of fun playing contrasts in this scene – from alarm initially about the fight between Grumio and Petruchio to asking how they are doing and welcoming them – to baiting Petruchio about Kate until he bites and then quickly reeling him in. This was an absolute delight to watch and gave us some great ideas for how to enhance our story. Another great discovery, since the group is enthusiastic about breaking the fourth wall and engaging their audience, is how well it works to have Grumio retreat into the audience and heckle Petruchio from out there for most of the rest of the scene.

We’re talking constantly about clues in the text that inform our staging, encouraging each other to speak up with creative ideas for telling our story the way we want to tell it, and the work today was fun and exciting. It was a good session.


Attendance today was low, and the energy was kind of down as well. This is a very hard time of year for everyone, so the facilitators didn’t push anyone who clearly needed a little space.

The people who were present decided, after a brief discussion, to cast the woman who read Grumio at our last meeting permanently in the role. She is ecstatic, as she fell in love with the character during that reading. She’s a very good fit there.

We plugged in a couple of people to Act I Scene II who were absent when we last worked on it. We are not yet “done” with the scene, in terms of basic staging, due to the large number of absences, but we decided to leave it for now and return when more people are present. Otherwise we will have to review it again and again, which has proved frustrating in the past.

We plugged in our Biondello to the end of Act I Scene I, as she was not there the last time we worked on it, and then we moved on to the issue of the Pedant, as this role is now vacant. There is a newer member of the group who is currently cast as the servant Peter, and we asked if perhaps she would be interested in reading the part to see how she felt about it. She agreed to try it, and as we worked the Pedant’s scene, she seemed to grow more comfortable and enthusiastic. She has great energy and seems to fit the part very well. She is going to look over it in more detail before committing for sure.

Due to the holidays, we are only meeting once each of the next two weeks, so this blog may be a little quiet through the new year. Things should pick up in January, after we get through a season that is very rough on many of the women in our group.