I must have explained it badly, right?
The scene: Othello is facing downstage, reading a letter. Desdemona comes up behind him, touches his shoulder, and says, “My lord?” He turns around and slaps her
The rehearsal: We decide that when Othello turns around, he should brush Desdemona’s arm away; this contact will make it easier for them to set the right distance. We talk about the way Othello’s hand has to travel straight between them, not arcing towards her face. We talk about Desdemona making the knap on her upstage thigh, and how she should do this when his hand breaks their eye contact. After a second, she should put her other, downstage hand to her injured, downstage cheek. We practice it slowly, we do it in steps, we do it smoothly, and then we put it in the scene.
The scene: Othello is facing downstage, reading a letter. Desdemona comes up behind him, touches his shoulder, and says, “My lord?” He turns around, brushing her away, and passes his hand through the air, just as he should; Desdemona turns sharply upstage and slaps herself in the face, hard.
Slaps. Herself. And looks a little confused as to how it happened.
I don’t remember the last time I laughed until I cried, and I wasn’t the only one.