So, we blocked Hamlet in four days. And that includes the fights. I’m going to give you a chance to think about that again. Hamlet is one of the longest and most complicated of Shakespeare’s plays, and we blocked it all in four days. Granted, we’re only doing a 4-actor, 75-minute version of the play. And if that sounds almost impossible, it’s because it is. The first set of challenges is learning how to run around backstage in order to make all your costume changes as well as play musical cues, and then still remember which side of the stage you enter on. Then acting happens on top of all that.
Because of how quickly we have to work to get ready for the show, the pace in the first few days was hurried and somewhat hectic. As we struggled to remember the lines we had learned on our own, the work on each scene was necessarily brief and perfunctory, consisting mostly of ideas of the “you stand there, then move over here, then exit” variety. While I understand that is the best way for us to start because of our schedule, it is a style of rehearsing that really doesn’t work well for me. When the process starts with detail work so early, I sometimes feel like a puppet. It robs me of some of my creative impulses because I feel that they aren’t really wanted yet.
Luckily, the fourth day of work did involve some work on quieter character moments, and we changed the blocking accordingly when we found something didn’t work. So our uber-specific beginning isn’t an insurmountable obstacle, but it certainly took some of the wind out of my sails right from the beginning.
Every artist (actor, director, designer, writer) invariably has their own rhythms and their own preferences when it comes to how they work on a show. One of the biggest and least understood challenges in theatre, however, is that those artists need to learn how to work together and allow those rhythms to complement each other, instead of letting conflicting patterns shake the entire production apart. It’s a challenge that each artists needs to address in their own way, and it’s one that I’m not completely confident with yet. I haven’t yet figured out a good way to deal with that sort of conflict, but I’m trying to figure it out.