Audience favorite Griffin Stanton-Ameisen will play Hamlet for DSF in 2014 and Artistic Director David Stradley will direct the production. Once a month, Griffin and David will be getting together to talk about the play, the character, and all sorts of other things. They’ve agreed to share a short “journal entry” with DSF after each meeting.
November 20, 2013
We spoke a couple of times today of “What would Hamlet do here if such and such didn’t happen?” If Rosencrantz and Guildenstern didn’t show up? If the Players didn’t show up? And in neither of those cases does it seem like the answer is Hamlet would storm down the hallway with his dagger looking for Claudius. It seems like he’d be stuck. In stasis. But then something else does happen, and Hamlet tries a new trajectory to figure things out.
One of my favorite things Griffin said today was, “Well, I would have gone and killed Claudius, but these things keep happening!” And isn’t that just like life. Things keep happening to us and we have to deal. No one gets to write the story of our own life just the way we would like it to happen. I mean, just look what happens to Hamlet in Act 2, Scene 2:
- his girlfriend shows up and triggers his disgust and hopelessness at the word (and sparks his fury)
- her father shows up and he has to tap dance to hide his emotional upheaval
- two childhood friends are revealed to be spying on him
- and his favorite actors arrive, stirring up his emotions to further points beyond his comprehension
I mean how is a guy supposed to go and kill his step-father when all that’s happening?
For our November meeting David any I started to pick apart Act II. There’s a ton going on. Hamlet has got this new info that spurs him towards revenge. He’s grappling with huge human issues of life and death, what’s real, what’s not, who to trust, what to trust. There’s that sorta famous speech where he expresses that grappling. We talked a lot about where Hamlet’s at with each mounting scene. Why does he go off on Ophelia? Is she another woman that has betrayed him like his mother? She shuts him down due to Polonius’ pressure, but Hamlet doesn’t get the why. Is he just trying to show his “antic disposition”? Or is it a bit of both?
The best thing about these discussions is that a thoughtful decision could be made, but there are months and months to tackle this text where we may, and most likely will, find that the decision to be made is completely different.
I have been reading Barton’s Playing Shakespeare after watching the tapes a long time ago, and they further emphasized a belief that David and I share about soliloquies, which is that they are meant for the audience. Of course the whole play is meant for the audience, but I mean that these speeches should be directly addressing the audience. That way the audience can really get on the same page as Hamlet and share in his journey with these speeches. He needs to ask himself these huge questions, and I believe, that the audience is there as his partner in these one-person scenes. Doesn’t that make it a more personal experience for the audience?
Stanislavski wrote about “circles of attention,” which is something that has always fascinated me. The actor needs to understand and be specific about who he or she is talking to in every moment of the play. “To be or not to be” could be a question to the audience member sitting in the front row, it could be to himself, it could be to the gods…I feel this is a huge part of figuring out where Hamlet is at in each and every moment.
Other things that we discussed for Act II: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the tragedians of the city, the play within the play. As for R and G, we find out why they are here, but how does Hamlet really feel about them? Does he suspect right away or is he honestly glad to have them there? The players coming into town may be one of the biggest inciting incidents for Hamlet. How does the First Player’s “mobled queen” speech help Hamlet figure out his master plan to expose Claudius? More to come next month with Act III!