Session Four: Week 8


The ensemble welcomed several new members today, including one woman returning from our last session. Generally, we have begun with introductions/orientation, but this time the seasoned members suggested that we begin with warm ups and a game. This proved to be a much better way of doing things, and my guess is we’ll stick with it in the future. The game itself was suggested by one of the women, who learned it in her PCAP drama workshop, and it was a lot of fun.

During our orientation, one member who joined at the beginning of this session shared that she finds the group to be very therapeutic – she can be herself here, and that’s not necessarily the case elsewhere in the prison. She had very bad stage fright eight weeks ago, but her confidence has already grown by leaps and bounds, and the ensemble has been loving her gusto and sense of humor on stage.

We continued our work on Act II Scene I, casting it for the day and putting it on its feet. Once we had Bianca’s and Kate’s objectives in the beginning of the scene established, it proved to be a lot of fun. After working more with the Kate/Petruchio “sparring match,” we find we have more questions than answers: Does Kate really like Petruchio? Is she making him fight for her? Is she happy for this challenge? One of our new members, coming into the material totally fresh, thinks that Kate’s behavior is all an act – that she’s not really a shrew at all. It’s going to be an invigorating process as we explore all of these questions and ideas.

Some members of the ensemble are beginning to take ownership of the material and think of staging ideas already; specifically, several of the women think our “theme song” should be Love is a Battlefield.


Before we began today, as people were arriving, I checked in with several of the newer members of the group to see how they think it’s going. They are enthusiastic - one of the women mentioned that she was in Taming of the Shrew in high school, but she didn’t really understand it. She thought she wouldn’t last long in this group, but she is understanding it better now and having a lot of fun.

After a brief warm up, we cast the first three scenes of the play and began to work them. Not only did we get through the material with very few stops, but we are beginning to find some specific moments of comedy and/or clarity, as well as defining characteristics of some of the people in the play. The group was excited – this isn’t something that we’ve been able to do so early in the past, and they are thrilled with each other’s work on the script and on stage. They felt good; when asked why, one woman said she used to think about others’ perceptions of her performance, but now she doesn’t – she just focuses on what’s happening on stage.

At this point, several of the women stated that they feel ready to cast the play and begin working with set characters. After a bit of a discussion, during which I reminded those seeking to move quickly that others might need more time with the material, it was decided by the group that we would alter our plan and leave it a bit open ended: on Tuesday, we will try to read through the rest of the play. We will review and clarify what we’ve read on Thursday, and check in with the entire ensemble to see how everyone feels. Then, if the entire group is on board, we will cast the play a month before we planned on doing so. The last thing we want is to move slowly if we don’t have to – this obviously can cause boredom – but we also don’t want to leave anyone behind.

If it works better to move more quickly, that’s what we’ll do. A handful of women have expressed strong connections to certain characters that likely won’t be altered by reading the rest of the script. It’s a more straightforward text than the last two with which we’ve worked, so it makes sense that we would move faster through the initial phase of analysis. We’ll see how things go next week.

Session Four: Week 7


After our warm up today, the group decided to move right into Act I Scene ii and make sure we really got it. We discussed the need for a “rehearsal schedule” moving forward, as our deadline to cast the play in December is getting closer, and we have a lot of work to do to make sure we understand the story and characters. We broke down the scene bit by bit together, and then we put it on its feet.

Almost immediately, one of the women, who is newer to the group, leaned over to me. “Why is she (the woman playing Petruchio) pointing at the door? Grumio can’t be confused if she’s being so obvious about it.” I stopped the action so that this woman could give that very constructive note and encouraged everyone to do the same if they had feedback. More people entered the scene, and this same woman whispered to me again, “It don’t look right.” I asked her what would make it look better, and she responded, “It just don’t look like a conversation. They shouldn’t stand like that.”

“Do you see in your head how they should be standing?” I asked. She nodded. I called another hold and encouraged her to go ahead and direct the scene, which she did. This was a really exciting moment, as this woman spends a good deal of time talking herself down (I can’t read, I shouldn’t be on stage, etc.), but here we seem to have stumbled upon a strength – and that is being able to identify how actors’ physicality affects our ability to tell this story. She’s got director’s instincts (not to mention the fact that she CAN read and is great on stage!). The group encouraged her to continue giving direction in a constructive manner, as not everyone has this ability. I’m hopeful that she will gain confidence in more areas than just this, as she’s now feeling empowered to give feedback from this perspective and knows that it will be appreciated and honored.

Another participant showed a great affinity for Grumio, as she consistently and hilariously “threw shade” throughout the scene after her “ear wringing” from Petruchio. “I LIKE this guy,” she laughed. We were all thrilled to see her connect in that way.

We seem to have a good grip on Act I Scene ii now and will move forward now, hopefully efficiently enough to meet the casting deadline we set for ourselves.



We began work today on Act II Scene I. We read it through without stopping, then went back to break down and analyze it. The women have some great insight into the characters already.

The first thing the group wanted to discuss was Petruchio’s and Kate’s instant chemistry. They interpret Kate as being very intelligent, and feeling that finally she’s met someone who can keep up with her. “Some people who are incredibly intelligent have no social skills,” said one woman. In terms of their behavior, one woman said, “Maybe they’re both shrews that need taming.” They see Petruchio as being potentially just as rough as Kate in terms of his behavior. One woman introduced the idea that Kate’s shrewish behavior is a defense mechanism to protect herself because she’s so intelligent. Likewise, several of the women believe that, on one hand, Kate behaves the way she does to protect Bianca from marrying the wrong man, and, on the other hand, that she may be resentful of her little sister getting more romantic interest than her. One woman talked about her discomfort knowing she was being pitied by relatives at her younger sister’s wedding.

At this point, many of the women had left because of mandatory scheduling conflicts, and those of us who were still there decided to explore the beginning of the scene with Kate, Bianca, and Baptista, leaving the meat of the scene to explore with a larger number of people. This dynamic is proving to be one to which many of us can relate. Some of the women feel that the “abuse” from Kate to Bianca is playful, while others do not. We all feel that Baptista is a “big powerful presence” that changes that dynamic when he enters. But, as one woman said, “He loves the crap out of Kate.”

We began a brief exploration of the scene between Petruchio and Kate, which we determined needs a lot of movement. We’re all looking forward to exploring it more!