Tuesday / September 25
Written by Frannie
“So, there’s a Tribe Called Quest?” said one of the guys as we settled in for check-in. “We’re a Tribe Called Will.”
After checking in and talking through some ensemble business, we went through the play’s characters so I could write down who is interested in playing each part. The group has bonded in a way that leads me not to anticipate much tension during the casting process, though I could, of course, be wrong! Some of the guys really gravitate toward specific roles, either because they personally identify with them or because they want a challenge — or both. Others truly have no preference and are happy simply to round out the cast wherever it’s needed.
We played a couple of improv games to loosen up, and then we got out the books to figure out what scene to start our exploration with. The plan had been to begin with the play’s final scene, but many people had left early, so we thought perhaps we should switch it up or narrow the scope.
There was a bit of “head-butting” that I couldn’t quite figure out between a couple of the guys. Man A suggested that we look at the scene when Cordelia returns; he wanted to see Man B read Cordelia, and then he wanted to give it a go. They’re both interested in the character, but it’s my impression that Man A is more interested in another role, and that the suggestion wasn’t competitive. That said, I never know all the dynamics at play, and, for whatever reason, Man B was really irritated. They argued about it enough that I finally asked if we could just find something else to work — rather than choosing scenes for other people, I said, it might be better for each person to suggest a scene that they, themselves, wanted to explore.
Man B finally said he wanted to work a portion of 5.1, from “when the sisters get into it” till the gentleman’s entrance with the bloody knife. Somehow this still led to confusion, but we finally got it figured out and got on our feet. Most of our work was figuring out what each character wants, and how that affects what each actor does physically. Albany in particular switches up who he’s talking to pretty frequently, and the guy who gamely read him needed a lot of guidance finding those moments.
At one point, he stepped pretty aggressively in toward Regan on Albany’s lines suggesting that she propose to him, since Goneril is “subcontracted to” Edmund. The guy reading Edmund said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, what are you getting in her face about? You’re not mad at her.” Albany looked to me and said, “Well, I’m talking to her, right?” “Well, technically, yes, you’re speaking to her, but are you serious?” I asked. That was the wrong word to use — the two men who’d been bickering before picked it back up, even as I tried to explain that what I meant was that the line is said to Regan for the benefit of Goneril and Edmund — and that that impacts the staging.
For whatever reason, those two guys could not stop arguing, and I finally broke in, issued a mea culpa, explained again what I had meant, and asked if we could move on. We messed with the staging a bit more, identified some details in the text that helped with that, and tried out two options for the line, “Ask me not what I know”. I think we landed on giving the line to Goneril, rather than Edmund — it seemed to work a lot better — but we could always change our minds.
We also talked through Edgar’s motivation in this final scene. He’s just come from his father dying in his arms and (depending on whether you’re looking at the Quarto or Folio) Kent’s reappearance, and he’s behaving with more abandon than he has yet. But is he there for revenge? It only took a little discussion to decide that he’s not: what he wants is justice.
Despite the odd tension between two members, it was a good day. I’m not sure how much time we’ll spend on scene exploration — most of the guys know the play extremely well already, and we’ve done enough on our feet to have a good idea of each person’s strengths and weaknesses. We’ll see.
Friday / September 28
Written by Matt
Sometimes at SIP, we need to take some time to discuss current events, when those events are on people’s minds. Today was one of those days. We usually do not include the content of those very personal discussions on the blog, but I can report that today’s session was brave, honest, emotional, and a testament to the deep connection among our ensemble members.
The ensemble is a safe, nonjudgmental place for people to honestly share their thoughts and feelings, which does not mean that everyone agrees with everyone else. Ultimately, the best test of the trust bond between the members of our ensembles is the ability to honestly say what needs to be said and to openly listen to what others need to say. Today saw that dynamic at its best.
Midway in our session, we did the ring exercise, taking extra care to keep ourselves all together. To take a break from the heavy stuff, Frannie talked about watching the National Theatre’s livestream of King Lear the night before, and we all had a good laugh at her vitriolic notes about the direction--she was not a fan.
One longtime member talked about wanting to introduce Shakespeare to an “urban” audience when he gets out. He envisioned a group or organization that would help people without exposure to Shakespeare get over the unfamiliar language to see the themes and characters, which are the same themes and characters they deal with every day. “When you’re black,” he said, “[you think] you’re so different from white people. Then you come here, and it’s all the same people! The same issues, but different language.”
In the final few minutes, we played some tapeball to get us out of our heads and hearts for a moment (a new high! 85!), then put up the ring until Tuesday.