Manhattan Shakespeare Project - Manhattan's All-Female Shakespeare Company
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I have been reflecting on how sometimes you hear a monologue over and over again, and when it’s read or said in a different context or situation, it suddenly starts making sense. Is it because I haven’t been listened, is it because the thoughts weren’t clear, is it a combination of preconceived ideas and/or a tendency to go on autopilot somehow from both the recipient and the deliverer?
Following the recent Orlando terrorists attacks – which were a horrific crime against Humanity, and a clear act of despicable Homophobia regardless of whether the individual claims to do this in name of a religion – two young muslim women wearing a hijab were attacked by a man on the NYC F train. They were insulted by a bigot and shamed but the most of the car train stood up for them, particularly one of them saying“This is New York City. The most diverse place in the world. And in New York, we protect our own and we don’t give a fuck what anyone looks like or who they love, or any of those things” —no need to comment on this, it is ALL there…
Everyone loves a good audience. It’s really the missing part of the rehearsal puzzle. An audience can change everything and not even know it. Take last night, for example. When a young fellow, claiming to be batman, runs after you with a striped (not strawberry!) t-shirt (not handkerchief!) what does Cassio do but accept the token with grace and enter onto the battle field, striped t-shirt and all.
Astoria was rough, but we did it! Rain, threat of rain, blistering heat, dog poo, heckling pedestrians, and worse completely indifferent pedestrians. But we did it! I’m so proud of the entire cast for working through all the new obstacles and doing fabulous at learning how to interact and engage with the audience. It was spectacular to watch and be a part of! And our final show Sunday (today) was a really incredible audience. I felt like the entire week was preparing us for this. Great show great audience, really wonderful feel at the end of our first week of performances. I’m so proud of everyone! And feel so lucky to be working with them!
Our performances of Al’ukhraa: A Study in Othello have started. now that we’re up and running many people think that we can breathe easy and relax now that we’re performing and rehearsals have finished. Just the opposite in fact. We’re working harder than ever. Rehearsals may be done, but our amazing actresses continue to work hard every day polishing their lines, blocking, and fight choreography. The reason? If we stop practicing, then when stop growing, and when we stop growing, our performances lose the quality that our audience has come to expect. Even though we haven’t even finished our first week yet, I have already seen our actresses reach new depths with their characters and strengthened their performances , and I know that we will continue to get better as time goes on. For the production staff too, our work never ceases. We must continue to advertise, to direct, to produce, and to stage manage, otherwise, we lose our momentum and with that we also lose the message we are trying to put out there with our show. Although it may be hard, it’s worth it to see our audience come out to see our show, which is more than we could ever ask for. We don’t do this for the money. We do this so that the voice of our actresses and the voices of women across New York can be heard.
We started this week with runs in Astoria Park – Oh but wait, no, let’s talk about the shower we all took on Sunday at Central Park for our first outdoors rehearsal. We were about 30 min into the run when the Gods of Theater were like “Not now, sweet troubadours, some other time”…It started pouring in Biblical proportions (yes I am a Drama Queen), and we ran with all the props protected in a plastic bag and headed to a coffee shop (that took forever) that had the AC on blasting. We were all soaking wet and taking turns to dry ourselves in the restroom while leaving gigantic trails of water as a souvenir..How we didn’t get sick the following days? That remains a mystery, though that doesn’t keep us from going 😉
Opening is always a tense and nervous time. So many questions, so many fears. Did I prepare enough? Will anyone come? Will they understand it? Will they like it? So much pressure, and especially as artists the passionate desire to reach and engage audiences. The passionate drive to make a difference in our world. This is what I go through every opening. The horrible stress dreams. The inability to sleep. The constant rushing brain never ceasing always thinking I need/could be doing more. I definitely don’t feel ready.
I remind myself to trust the work, the craft, the text, Shakespeare. And I have an incredible cast and crew taking this journey with me. I trust them. And know it’s going to be fabulous!