Session Five: Week 4


Tonight as we waited for people to arrive, a long-time member of the group gathered those of us who were there for a “creative minds meeting.” She shared that she’s been getting ideas for how the characters in our play would behave from watching TV shows and movies set in similar time periods. She also floated an idea of recording some of the characters’ “thought” monologues as MP3s and playing them during our performance while the actors on stage do whatever we feel is physically appropriate. This is definitely an idea we’ll be exploring with the rest of the group as we go.

We played a couple of games and then continued our work on Act I Scene III (it’s a long one!). We are still working on the idea of reining in our enthusiasm so that people can be heard when they speak – there is still a lot of talking over each other. This is going to become increasingly irritating to those with quieter voices if it continues unabated, so we need to keep reminding each other to take turns.

We read the “middle” of the scene and then put it on its feet. Some aspects of it worked, and others didn’t. After a lot of discussion, I noticed that the group had organically done something that many directors are trained to do – they adjusted the set (a table and chalkboard) and our blocking to create two distinct zones – one for the personal drama, and one for the war talk. They did this without stating outright that that was their intention, I pointed it out to them because I wasn’t sure they realized they had done it – and these are moments that are important to note because of how much they boost the ensemble’s confidence and ability to take ownership of the material.

We continued to adjust what we were doing to give the right emphasis to the most important lines and characters. We discussed taking this further in the future, although we also decided to move forward because we are at risk of becoming bogged down in this scene. Our exploration at this point is so valuable in terms of getting us oriented to the play, its characters, and its themes, but if we get hung up on things like detailed blocking, we begin to get impatient to get through to the end, and we have lost members in the past who felt we were moving too slowly. Our goal is still to cast the play before the December holidays, and in order to do that, we need to keep pushing forward.


Kyle and I arrived just in time for check-in tonight. The ensemble shared news good and bad, and then we lowered our ring together and got to work.

We honed in on the last part of Act I Scene III, in which Iago and Roderigo have so much back and forth… and Iago’s language is so evocative and complex. Although some members of our ensemble were visibly intimidated by the language, we worked together to eke out its meaning. This led to a lot of animated discussion – what is Iago really talking about? What are his objectives? Why does he talk to Roderigo this way? “It’s like a chess game,” said one woman, “You use all the pieces to your advantage – even the little ones. People learn a lot about you from the way you play chess.”

We then turned our attention to Roderigo. It’s so easy to fixate on the main three characters, but in this play the “minor” characters are potentially just as interesting.

A woman who has been in the group since we worked on The Tempest posed the question, “Is Roderigo like Caliban?” Others who were also in that ensemble were perplexed – what did she mean? She stated that she sees Caliban as misunderstood, seeking attention, and savage, and she thinks there’s a touch of all that in Roderigo. “He’s not on the same intellectual level as everyone else, so he’s easy to manipulate,” she said.

“I don’t think so,” said another long-time ensemble member. “I think he’s just naïve – not dumb.” Another woman said she relates to Roderigo and thinks he’s more like her interpretation of Gremio (in The Taming of the Shrew) – “blotted out right away,” with no one giving him a real chance.

Another woman said, “He’s really in love – look at how much he sacrifices for Desdemona.” In the end, he gives all of his possessions and money in his pursuit – and ultimately his life. “But is that love?” asked Kyle. “What does he hope is actually going to happen?” This led others to postulate that what Roderigo feels is not love, but obsession. Still others came back with the idea that it could be obsessive, but could also be unrequited love. We eventually agreed to table the conversation for now, as Roderigo’s words and actions in subsequent scenes are likely to continue to shape our ideas.

We closed by playing our first improv game, and the game was “Yes, and…” In this game, every line must begin with “Yes, and…” in order to get us used to the ground rules of improvisation, which help us so much throughout the year. This proved to be a lot of fun, with some scenes working better than others, and some people who were clearly very nervous getting through their scenes without giving up – a huge accomplishment.

We all agree it’s time to start doing more of this, and we’ll continue with it next week. We also agreed that our plan for Tuesday is to put the end of Act I Scene III on its feet as many times as people wanted to (many of us are itching to play with this scene), then to run the entire scene, and then to move forward.

Session Four: Week 34


We decided to dive in tonight and begin “stumbling through” the entire show. This is often done in rehearsal processes and is a great way to identify a show’s strengths and weaknesses while solidifying transitions and firming up lines. Although this was challenging, we had a lot of fun with it – those of us who were working without scripts felt very supported by the rest of the ensemble, taking the pressure off and allowing us to relax about not being perfect. We also made some interesting discoveries this way.

We got more than halfway through the play. Some members of the ensemble feel better about this than others; those of us who have been through this process before reassured the newer members that stumble-throughs often take much longer than the play does in the end, and that they’re supposed to be messy.

Our plan moving forward is to finish staging scenes that have recently been recast and then focus on running the entire play as many times as we can so that everyone has an equal opportunity to work lines on their feet. This isn’t always the best approach in a traditional rehearsal process, but our program isn’t traditional in that sense. It’s most important that all members feel as supported and confident as possible, and this particular ensemble is pretty unanimous that what they need to get there is to just keep running the show once we’ve got the kinks worked out.


We began today by working the brief scene between Grumio and Curtis prior to Petruchio and Kate arriving at his house. The woman who was playing Curtis and the Pedant recently got into a program that is taking up a lot of her time, so she gave the role of Curtis to a newer member of the group. That meant that the scene needed to be revisited to catch her up. This went smoothly, and she and I had a lot of fun playing off of each other. I’m excited to see where these characters’ relationship goes!

We then settled in to work lines with one ensemble member who is having a hard time finding time to work on them outside of the group. We made sure she knew that we were there for her, gave her some ideas of how to approach people she lives with to help her, and then worked through a scene that was giving her some trouble. Within a short amount of time, with our encouragement, she had nearly a page memorized. She teared up, saying, “I’m going to cry. You guys are just helping me so much.” She knows now that she is able to memorize; and on top of that, she knows we’re here to do whatever we can to support her.

Although it has been frustrating in some ways that our attendance on Thursday afternoons has been light, it has also allowed for moments like this that have been helpful for the people are have been there. Any opportunity we have to work together on something, we take it. This is a very tenacious ensemble.


We recently asked if the facility could provide us with additional rehearsal time, and we were thrilled that we were given permission to rehearse the final four Fridays leading up to our first performance. This extra time is not being taken lightly: all but one member of our group were present tonight, ready to work and driven to make the most of the rehearsal.

We addressed the scenes that were shaky or unworked, which happened to be all in a row. We began with Act IV Scene I, after the part of it that was worked on Thursday, and set the stage combat and more refined blocking that we wanted. The women who were not in the scene paid close attention and helped us figure it out. Although I only become a member of the cast to fill gaps left by people who leave the group, in a way it’s a good thing when I’m taken out of the mix as one of the “directors” – with me on stage, asking the ensemble to take the lead on direction, they proved to be extremely insightful, encouraging, and even nit-picky about details they deemed important.

Our Petruchio had some growth tonight, as we servants asked her to give us a reason to be afraid of her! As I wrote earlier in the blog, she approaches Petruchio with a lot of warmth – she comes from the heart – but in this scene, it’s important that she put some of that aside and play his game. She proved willing to do so, and the scene took off. It was very exciting.

We then moved on to the next scene. In this, Lucentio and Bianca had been dancing during some dialogue between Tranio and Hortensio. This, however, proved too distracting, as they were swing dancing and the music would be necessarily loud and fast-paced. We couldn’t focus on the dialogue, which is important. We asked them to adjust their dance to something more “lyrical” and goofy, and we think that that will work.

This added rehearsal was a very productive one. Having this much extra time together is already proving to be a boon to us.

Session Four: Week 28

Tuesday Written by Kyle

Tonight was my first night working as a facilitator; I went through the orientation and so missed the opening/warm-up aspect of the session. I wondered whether I was going to jump right in or hang back and observe. The former won out in short order! When I arrived the company was warm, welcoming and eager to know about me. We went through what I came to realize are the questions that all new company members are asked. What brings you to Shakespeare? Why do you want to do Shakespeare? What do you hope to get out of this experience? etc. Simple questions all, but questions I could talk about for hours. I was as eager to answer as they seemed to ask, and it felt like a nice sort of initiation to get the ball rolling.

The group set out working Act 1 scene 2; it’s a long scene with lots of entrances, exits, shtick, and lots of people on the stage. It can get a little messy with the staging and so the company had to stop and discuss many times just how we wanted to make it work. I suggested that we bring the most important elements of the scene downstage center. This prompted many more questions of the company that seemed to lead into one another: How were we going to use staging to highlight the important part of the scene? What was the important part of the scene? Why? All good critical questions that as they unravel can give the distinct impression that the scene is unraveling. They hung with it though, and took direction well. One of the newer members in the company who has a smaller part had the benefit of watching the whole scene, and she was able to voice some great ideas about staging. We were able to take those ideas and build on them in a really wonderful way. At one point they used the steps on the stage to express one character’s dominance over another; it was a really wonderful idea that utilized the space in a really organic way- it would have been a good idea in any playhouse! By the end everyone was tired, but morale seemed high for all who stayed to the end.

On a personal note, as it is my first time working with the company, and I wondered how the night would go… It was humbling, exciting and most importantly, I found the experience a little common place in the most wonderful way. Very quickly we become people doing theatre, the same as I have done my whole life. It not as if you can ever forget where you are, and frankly, it would be inappropriate to try. The point is however, that for most of the night the prison was not downstage center- it was the backdrop of the show at best. What was up front for me was the fact that there were the same hopes, fears, company archetypes, and the willingness to make something out of nothing that has been the spirit of all my experiences in the theatre- in short, I’m hooked.


Written by Frannie

Attendance was light today, but this enabled us to give a lot of attention to a couple of scenes that really needed it.

Most of our work was done on Act IV Scene I – just the first part of the scene when Grumio enters and has a conversation with Curtis. The woman playing Curtis has been patient as we’ve rotated through Grumios, but at a certain point she was not eager to continue working this scene with stand-ins, so we let it alone for awhile. Now that I’m in the role, we decided to really dig in to make it easier to for her to learn the lines.

We made a lot of discoveries together – she proved to be very flexible and a great improviser as we tried different things. We discovered that Curtis and Grumio are rivals of sorts – they needle each other throughout the scene. We found that the scene worked best when Curtis repeatedly interrupted Grumio, pushing him and getting under his skin.

Something else that has been very striking lately, but was especially in focus today, is the growing confidence of one of our ensemble members, who is playing Vincentio. She joined the group well after its start date last year, and, despite extreme stage fright and shyness, pushed through her one scene with lines as Balthasar and emerged with a new feeling that maybe speaking in front of people is something she can actually do – and do well. This year, she rolled with the punches on casting, ending up with Vincentio and deciding that it was meant to be – that she was meant to take on this role, which, for her, is quite “large.”

Since then, she has been a constant and constructive voice in the group. She’s become a self-professed “Shakespeare nerd,” reading about him outside of our group and bringing us pertinent ideas that she’s come across. She’s also emerged as an insightful and compassionate director, guiding scenes and actors to find better ways of working with our material. This has been a truly exciting change to witness, and I can’t wait to see where she is on the other side of our performances. She’s always been a great asset to the group, but her recent emergence in such a positive leadership role is remarkable and inspiring.

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!