Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hamlet begins

My newest theatrical project, as I think I mentioned in a previous post, is a production of "Hamlet" that will be touring as a school production. I'm returning to a previous realm of being the morning Shakespeare assembly for bleary-eyed high school students. But instead of touring the country as I did as Mercutio in R&J, I will be touring the Philadelphia suburbs as both Claudius and The Ghost in a 4-actor version of "Hamlet."

We met for the first time last Monday, where we read through the current version of the script, talked about the overall production, and got the first "how to speak the Shakespeare" lesson while we ate our lunch provided by the theatre. (Free lunch!) Then we were set
loose for another week before we begin our rehearsals this coming Monday. Even though we had been working on the script by ourselves, it was great to bring the whole band together and get everyone in the same room.

Because our rehearsal time is limited, the director has asked us all to come to the first rehearsal off-book, with all our lines already memorized.
This is not normally something that actors are asked to do, and in fact the performer's unions expressly forbid producers asking actors to do this. But, non-union as we are, I understand the request given the rehearsal time involved. However, it's not the way that I prefer to work. I've always found that memorizing completely in a vacuum limits my creativity and flexibility when it comes time to rehearse the show. A little bit of familiarity is helpful, but too much knowledge with them can actually be a hindrance as much as a convenience. For that reason, I try to memorize as I actually rehearse as much as possible. But to honor my fellow actors (and also not be the only delinquent member of the group), I am steadily working my way through the Hamlet script to beat as many lines as possible into my brain.

At the first rehearsal, however, we were told that our cutting was still 15-20 minutes too long, and we should expect more lines to be cut from it. A few days later an email brought a new draft of the script. Suddenly, lines that I had learned and lines that I had loved were no longer in it. This is one of the unforeseen dangers about cuts to a script after the actors have their hands on it. Over the last month, I have started to feel possessive of the lines I have; to cut them now invites question and concern. I have two or three lines that I am planning to ask to be put back in, because I've learned the speeches with those changes of thought. To suddenly take out a transition is to force me to stumble my way through the speech again, which in effect defeats the purpose of preparing it in advance in the first place. Tis a sticky situation, but a trap that actors need beware of.

Now if you'll excuse me... I have one more scene to learn.

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