CYMBELINE – Week 19 – February 22

On February 21 (the day before rehearsal), I had an opportunity to make a public presentation on the Shakespeare Prison Project (story here:  Shakespeare Prison Project Has Connection to Community’s “Big Read”).

At the beginning of rehearsal, I shared my thoughts about the experience.  I mentioned that a man was there who is very interested in our work, and who is interested in possible connections with his own practice.  He has worked with veterans suffering from trauma, using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing).  Foist wanted to know more about this kind of therapy, and also, about the aims of therapy in general.  He had a lot of questions.  This led to a 30-minute discussion, where several men shared their own experiences with a variety of therapies (including, but not limited to EMDR).  On the whole, the men felt that their time in therapy was of benefit – helping them to understand and to work constructively with difficult memories, thoughts, and feelings.  A couple of them said they saw connections with our work in The Shakespeare Prison Project, in that our work encourages them to reflect on the emotional life of the characters they are playing, and how that inner life is similar to and different from their own.

We went on to rehearse 4.2.

As we worked the scene, we came across a sequence that resonated with our discussion of therapy and its benefits.   The sequence begins with Arviragus’ comment on how “Fidele” (Imogen) talks about his illness:

Arviragus.              Nobly he yokes

A smiling with a sigh, as if the sigh

Was that it was for not being such a smile –                                                  30

The smile mocking the sigh that it would fly

From so divine a temple to commix

With winds that sailors rail at.

Guiderius.                                 I do note

That grief and patience, rooted in them both,

Mingle their spurs together.

Arviragus.                           Grow patience,                                                     35

And let the stinking-elder, grief, untwine

His perishing root, with the increasing vine.


Arviragus and Guiderius are commenting on the “noble” way that Fidele manages his emotions, linking his patience, expressed in a smile, to his grief, expressed with a sigh.  As Valerie Wayne explains, they go on to express “a wish that Fidele’s patience will grow and increase, causing the elder tree’s shallow roots, associated with grief, to give way and perish.  Patience was the common name for an edible dock called monk’s rhubarb that had purgative and healing qualities…” (Cymbeline, Third Arden Edition, p. 286, note (lines 58-60)).

“Nobly he yokes a smiling with a sigh” also reminds me of the advice that a revered Buddhist monk offers for working with difficult emotions:

…breathe deeply, and say to yourself,
“Breathing in, I know I am angry. Breathing out, I am taking good care of my anger.”
Do this until you feel a lot better and can smile to your anger.

(Thich Nhat Hanh, A Pebble for Your Pocket, Parallax Press, 2006)



CYMBELINE – Week 18 – February 13

I worked with Patrick (Imogen) and Cory (Pisanio) today, focusing on 3.4, where Pisanio discloses to Imogen that he has been commissioned to murder her.  We worked on the blocking, and on helping Patrick to find more variety in how he uses his hands to express a range of feelings.  Both men worked very hard, and the scene is really coming along!

CYMBELINE – Week 17 – February 6

The Shakespeare Prison Project is dedicated to the development of healthy self-awareness and self-expression.  Our ongoing work with Shakespeare’s language, in all its richness and complexity, is one way we cultivate this development.  We also encourage original writing by our participants.

In this vein, Carl shared several of his poems with us this evening.  Here is one of them.


i remember the days when i

would awaken to the sounds of sade

incense would be wafting through the air

a cigarette would be burning in the metal seashell ashtray

this is the only love i know from a woman

she would hum the melodies

as she cleaned our humble abodes

looking into her face always made me wonder

why i had no freckles beautifully placed on my face

what would you like to eat baby

being so caught up in her aura

i would always reply i don’t care

truthfully i didn’t

just having her around at that moment was all i could care about

because before this morning’s surprise visit

i hadn’t seen her in a week or two

i can tell she hasn’t been eating

the hollowing of her cheeks means she’s ten pounds lighter

this morning she’s in her mode though

sade’s taking her to another world as well as i

when things were good and the sun never stopped shining

when she would lick her thumb to clean my face

draped in gold she reminded me of an egyptian queen

she was the apple in every man’s eye

only in mine she was everything my world

as she took a pull from her newport and greased the pan

i was reminded of the pain she was going through

in my adolescent mind

i thought i was stressing her out too much

why else would she leave us so

she looked so worn

a shell of my beauty queen

yet i still loved her more than anything

even when her baby daddy

sold my backpack on the first day of school

nothing could tear us apart

no tears as they sold my first puppy

they were sick and i only wanted her to get better

as she scrambled those eggs and toasted that toast

i smiled at her but i was dying inside

who knew that in a few years

i would leave her for eighteen winters and seventeen summers

now i can only wonder within my confines

if she is dying inside

now i wonder

but i won’t dwell because now

in my absence my queen shines once again

momma you shining

shining like new gold

and i will too in 6570 days

we will meet again











CYMBELINE – Week 16 – February 1

We rehearsed 2.1 (Cloten expresses his frustration at losing a game of bowls, and learns of a stranger’s arrival at court (Iachimo)), and 2.2 (Iachimo emerges from the trunk in Imogen’s bedroom, or as I referred to it today:  “the home invasion scene”).

2.1:  Since we have combined the parts of the First and Second Lords, Jarkese is (gamely) working with the challenge of playing a two-faced character, at turns a sychophant and a heckler.  We are working at helping Chris (Cloten) to express himself more dynamically.

2.2:  Both Christopher (Iachimo) and Patrick (Imogen) are doing a great job of creating a very creepy scene.  After the first run-through, Christopher said, “OK, here goes.”  Then he removed his shirt.  The second run-through was electric.

CYMBELINE – Week 16 – January 30

We spent most of our time on 1.6: Iachimo’s meeting with (and attempted seduction of) Imogen.  Both Christopher (Iachimo) and Patrick (Imogen) are doing well with their lines.  Their current challenge is to clarify their objectives, beat by beat.  That clarity will support their other choices:  speech measures, key words, focal points, and actions.

People who end up in prison are often well-practiced in hiding their intentions – not only from others, but also from themselves.  Acting Shakespeare requires a clarity, focus, and forcefulness that runs against this grain.

CYMBELINE – Week 15 – January 25

Chris and Christopher got the actors’ measurements tonight (for costumes).  We also had Christopher curl up into a ball and measured the height/length/width of his form in order to get a good sense of the size we will need for the trunk.

For 1.2 – Cloten’s “smelly shirt” scene – we have combined the First and Second Lords into one (played by Jarkese).  As the single Lord, he has the challenging task of performing as a sycophant at one moment, and a jeering critic the next.  This will require some finesse with focus, voice, and rhythm.

For 1.3 (Pisanio and Imogen: “I would thou grew’st unto the shores o’th’ haven”), we paid particular attention to focal points.  I asked Pisanio to use a distant, horizon-level point for his speech, but now I am thinking that a focus on Imogen could work just as well – possibly better.  We’ll play with both and see what happens.

I wanted us to get to 1.4 this evening, but we ran out of time.  We’ll play catch-up next Tuesday.

CYMBELINE – Week 15 – January 23

This evening we had our first formal reading of our new Mission Statement (see previous post). Everyone participated, with each man reading a section.  At the end, I saw nods and heard hums of approval.  During the course of the evening, I witnessed a few small but telling signs that people had these values on their mind.  Carl (for one) came “out of his shell” a bit more and offered feedback to his fellow actors.

We blocked 1.1., beginning the play with a dumbshow, accompanied by music:  the main title from Black Robe, composed by Georges Delerue.  The opening lines of the play, originally a conversation between two gentlemen, are now woven together into one speech, delivered by Christopher, acting as an anonymous narrator.

I am working with Mike (Posthumus) to get a more masculine, genuine-sounding voice (he began with that fluttery affection that actors sometimes slip into with Shakespeare), and with Patrick (Imogen) to get a freer, more expressive use of the arms (he had been clasping his hands in front of his chest, and keeping them there).

The entire cast will benefit from some more work with movement, especially with the arms and hands.