We made it halfway, to the play within the play!
The scene where all of our actors appear onstage at once and the truth is revealed. Which truth? Come and see!
Ever since a small child in the front row of a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream called out to me: “No, it’s the wrong one!” when I, as Helena, was about to wake Lysander, with love potion in his eyes, and start the chaos of confused pairs; I hold out hope that each performance of a Shakespeare play is the first time the plot is unfolding for at least one person in the audience.
How thrilling to experience these centuries old stories for the first time!
Will someone in our audiences in a few months question right alongside Hamlet whether or not our convivial King Claudius is guilty of the crime a ghost accused him of committing? I sure hope so.
Our ensemble made many, many different choices on behalf of the players making choices. On the whole, we tend to add some levity to the middle of this tragedy with hilariously bad-on-purpose clowning around.
Dominic Dromgoole, author of Hamlet Globe to Globe: Two Years, 190,000 Miles, 197 Countries, One Play seems to agree with our collective decision to poke fun at ourselves. In a passage highlighting the humor of the play, he states:
“The play within the play, or at least the lines that Hamlet has written with some clumsy moral lessons for his mother, are so eye-wateringly bad, their intention must be humorous.”
Humor lives alongside tragedy, laced together with mountains of hard work in our process.
Most of us color code our scripts to keep the ten tracks built from twenty characters that we’re learning distinct in our minds.
Ensemble member AC Rakotoniaina and I once had an extended conversation about the logic behind our choices for assigning colors to characters.
We even got a little emotional when I shared the unexpected poetry that because I highlighted the ghost of King Hamlet in yellow, but couldn’t exactly write in yellow for my handy dandy memorization tool, I used a pencil instead which mirrored the black ink of Hamlet’s track in a delightfully poetic way.
That level of nerd-ing out is a surefire way to know you’ve found your people. That, and our collective willingness to dedicate months to learning an entire play with no guarantee that we’ll get to play the lead.
Some might even call this insanity.
Speaking of insane, that memorization tool I mentioned, it’s a color coded collection of the first letters of every word in the play. If you’re ever wanting people on public transportation to look at you like they’re wondering if you’ve lost it: I suggest scanning a paper that looks like secret code and muttering to yourself, occasionally making faces.
But hey, we’ve all gotta keep this whole story about our brains one way or another!