A Player’s Diary: Hamlet

Oh, the spectacle that is the Hamlet cast! If you are ever fortunate enough to stroll into Tang (admissions tours usually come in just as something unbelievably bizarre is taking place), you might see Ms. St. Pierre, Instructor in Theatre and Dance, gripping the edge of the stage with white knuckles as one of the more dangerously fatigued cast members teeters threateningly on the edge of the marbled platform. Mr. Heelan, Instructor in Theatre and Dance, wearing a profoundly quizzical look on his face and intently chewing gum, might be sharing his vision with us. The two directors nod vigorously at one another or look around for a chair to throw. It is a mere three weeks untill opening night and moral is high. The cast continues to work vigorously to translate Shakespeare into English, though I have yet to learn what the word ‘fishmonger’ means. Rehearsals are, in a word, intense. I have no doubt that between the surreal concentration it takes to listen to Polonius’s excruciatingly dull tangents (made downright comical by Meg Dallet’s ’04 extraordinary delivery) and the reflexes honed from dodging violent jabs of vicious dueling adolescent monsters, we will, each and every one of us, have developed the matrix-like skills of a well trained Jedi. Mr. McGraw, Instructor in English and one of the talented members of the Hamlet cast, paces quietly back and forth backstage muttering the entire play to himself as several extras shake their heads in wonder. Dr. Wilkin, Instructor in English, gallops wildly around the set with a three-foot long sword clasped menacingly in his hand. From time to time the room dissolves into hysterics over mundane facts uncovered during the course of class. Example: the definition of the word “capon.” “Stuffed, castrated rooster,” Taylor Allbright ’04 exclaims, utterly beside herself. (A little prospective freshman blushes and a supremely embarrassed tour-guide ushers her family out into the lobby, where upon the laughter intensifies into silent, crazed epileptic fits.) That same Friday the 13th, the weary troops staggered in with the energy and zest of heavily sedated cattle. Some, like Susannah Gund ’04, were barely recognizable beneath gaudy, blue-key lipstick. Tired and bedraggled at the end of a terrifically draining week, we continued to make progress with the play. I couldn’t help but feel a surge of pride. Hamlet promises to be especially in your face, action packed and full of surprises…never a dull moment. Between the acting,, which seems to find new dimensions every rehearsal, and the lighting and sound effects, which add to the excitement, this show is going to be a keeper. How could it not be? We’ve got the huge benefit of working with two types of genius (with Ms. St. Pierre and Mr. Heelan’s unique directing styles)! The combination is wonderfully explosive. Generally, rehearsal is a quite energizing experience. Last Tuesday was an exception. Working hard on blocking, rehearsal was actually going relatively slowly for the first time. However, the Tuesday double period was soon over and, amidst the hustling of students grabbing their backpacks, Mr. Heelan posed an unexpected question: “Where’s Annie?” All eyes whirled to the sleeping,, drooling mass at the back of the theater. I twitched, sputtered, and asked “Where are we?” Needless to say, I was thoroughly ashamed of myself. With the exception of my sleeping episode, I have learned that doing homework backstage is utterly fruitless because rehearsal is so entertaining. If I don’t become engaged in a rousing conversation about laundresses of the early 1900s, I become fully engrossed in the dramatic brilliance of my peers. Last Friday during a sudden lull in a scene, Steve Travierso ’04 ,in a skirt, in lieu of speaking his line, emitted a sound one might expect to come from a dying sea cucumber. So there, in winding, strange, and random fashion, is Hamlet. Adieu, Adieu, Adieu!