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The Experiment: HAMLET in 4 days

The Experiment:

HAMLET in 4 days.

And perform a premiere on the 5th day. Madness.

Hold on the experiment goes further.

12 actors to do 34 characters total.

7 Main roles: King Claudius, Queen Gertrard, Prince Hamlet, Polonius, Laertes, Ophelia & Horatio all get their parts a month in advance. The cut being the ‘Dan Beaulieu’ special. Actor’s choices honoured (honored) from the get-go i.e. plead for lines cut to be reinstated, ask for someone to say that speech you don’t think fits your character etc.

5 Players: take on the other 17 or so roles left over in the cut. And they don’t start learning their lines until the first day of rehearsal. And then, they switch tracks every pass-through of the show. (A track is a given, or chosen, set of characters that can be played by one actor). A pass-through of the show could be either a line-run,  or an on-your-feet (with minimal props) run of the cut of the play.

There is no director, or blocking.

And the actors all remain on the periphery of the action from beginning to end alongside the audience.

Costumes are the clothes the actor wears, many actors are barefoot, (cue reader prejudice) and props change per pass-through (Ophelia’s herbs ranged from sticks to candles).

And all this with a minimal budget, spent mostly on actor comforts (good housing & good food).

Our visually-impaired Polonius,

also happens to be an emeritus Shakespeare Prof with a penchant for Q1 Hamlet.

My dependable Gertrude, his colleague at UNH.

Our Hamlet a buff fellow from the Dominican Republic.

Our Horatio a Clark Kent type from OH10.

Our Laertes a clown & puppeteer implant Brit from Chicago.

Our Ophelia an adorably-kooky waiflet from Oklahoma.

And us, the King from Ham-sterdam.

The FIVE Players:

an observant DUMB clown

a bearded madman who cut the script

a ginger hunk

a cerebral Brooklynite

a jazz steeped ingenu

All wanting to be in no other place than the space we were in;

working towards a premiere pass-through of unknown proportions.

It should be a train wreck.

But the back end of any production is as important as the front end. Our stage manager was the humblest lovingest selfless type. Our general manager shuttled back and forth between NYC and Portsmouth holding down a job as well as on top of sponsors, publicity and audience co-ordination.

The Puppeteering co-ordinated (rather nauseatingly in my case) by a Fens born redhead, who together with a little help from Laertes whipped 5 non-puppeteers into a fine frenzy.

Fight directing was done by Superman.

How can I help?

The most operative phrase in this production had to be How can I help?

Quickly followed by: Okay let’s do it, let’s make it happen etc…

The Circle

Trust and openness are words easily spoken and as easily sidelined. Each day we met, opened and closed with a circle. The circle was non-exclusive. Whoever had observed a pass-through was welcome to be part of and comment.  There’s a Band of Brothers (and Sisters) aspect to any production, which can inhibit interaction with the outside world, or allow for bonding and inclusion of outside influence.

Grateful

Gratefulness to be in the process poured from us all. Our process was observed by an MA student from Univ of Reno doing her theses on Original Pronunciation and the physiological changes that incurs. (Only the puppets spoke in OP). She became our book keeper and prompt up until premiere when she left us. She span out of the circle. And was replaced by nightly different audiences.

Location

The location for performance was an historic barn in Portsmouth NH

and for accommodation at Mayfair House in Old York, MN:

https://www.7stagesshakespeare.org/hamlet

Photo by Clark Kent at intermission.

tbc…

 

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