Griffin and David Talk HAMLET – December 2013

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.

December 27, 2013


My meeting with David this past week got me thinking about some really important acting craft topics–given circumstances being the biggest one. At the beginning of Hamlet’s journey, as the audience sees it, he is coming off the marriage of his mother to his uncle. Rough. Two months after the death of his father. Rough. I like to think of the given circumstances of a character as the weight that he or she carries into a whole play or individual scene. Hamlet has a heavy weight on his shoulders as his journey in the play begins and that weight only gets heavier as the play progresses.

In addition to the given circumstance Hamlet has before the show, there are also those that happen in the middle of the play that the audience doesn’t actually see, but may only hear about, or not even that. David and I chatted a lot about Hamlet’s ongoing struggle with just going ahead and killing Claudius. The age old qualm with Hamlet is he does not take action. In Act III Hamlet has the opportunity to do just that. However, “that would be scanned.” If all of us lived solely on impulse the world would be a much different place. More dangerous, most likely. The mind is a tricky thing and likes to play with us.

Over the past few weeks I have been watching the TV show “Sons of Anarchy,” which is loosely based on Hamlet. The main character deals with some scenarios comparable to those of Hamlet. Putting myself in those shoes is a fascinating thing to do. To me, Jax on “Sons” is much more impulsive in his decision making than Hamlet, but hey, that makes for an action-packed, uber-violent TV show. The world the show depicts is a very scary one. One that I couldn’t say many would care to be a part of. To me, that’s why Hamlet’s journey and the choices he makes are that much more universal.


We focused on Act 3 today, which seems to be an act where Hamlet finally takes action. He gets the Players to perform The Murder of Gonzago which will prove once and for all whether Claudius is guilty or not. And it works to perfection. It then seems like an adrenaline rush takes over similar to watch an actor feels on opening night. In this rush, where, as Griffin said, he feels he’s the smartest guy on the planet who can accomplish anything, he decimates Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and then he goes and kills Claudius, right?

No, life intervenes. His mother calls. And is this where Hamlet “jumps the shark” again? Would he go and kill Claudius if Gertrude doesn’t call for him? Or is he already starting another series of machinations that will pause his revenge?

The issue gets muddy again towards the end of the scene with his mother, where it seems like Hamlet is perfectly fine with the idea of being sent to England by Claudius? Why does he accept this detour? If revenge is what you want, stay and get it!

It begs the question – is revenge Hamlet’s through-line? Is it more about figuring out how “to be” when you’ve got the most incredibly spiraling mind in the history of western civilization? When faced with a set of dizzying complex circumstances, how do you act in such a way that is true to yourself and true to what you owe to others?

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May 2014
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