Monday, June 13, 2011

To A Nunnery Go

Last night we blocked out all of Act Two. At least as much as we could with again so many people missing. (The entire cast has yet to meet at one time.) This was particularly problematic during one certain scene. A troupe of traveling actors is present, as they are in Hamlet. This scene involves one of their rehearsals for the show they will perform for the Danish Court. There is much moving around on the part of these Players as their director narrates the story they are silently performing. It requires about six people.

Last night we had but one of the "traveling players" present. Needless to say, this presented difficulties.

Not for myself, though, as I am not in that scene. I am however in several scenes in Act Two. (There are three acts, remember.) In fact now that I think about it, Act Two is the section of the play which intertwines most obviously with the actual Hamlet. The whole play does of course, but there are more occasions in Act Two when the Shakespearean characters, particularly my own, wander in and out of scenes as they carry on their Hamlet business.

Some of that business is quite intense. I get to run in shouting "It hath made me mad," at Ophelia. (The end of the "Get thee to a nunnery" speech.) So that is pretty intense if only for a moment. It doesn't matter that the scene in the play is not intense. My character at that moment is intense.

Then there are times when I am silent but still acting. At one point I walk on unawares of the title characters, as I am delivering "To be or not to be..." Nobody can hear me doing so of course, but seeing as how I know this speech, I was able to mouth it to myself as I made the entrance, and as I stood off to the side. I want to try to time it so that I am actually ending that speech as Ophelia enters, just as happens in the real Hamlet. Don't know if there will be time to iron that out, but I am going to come as close to it as I can.

There is another scene like that. Hamlet sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern off ahead of him in Act IV Scene 4 of the original play. They go off and he delivers the "How all occasions do inform against me" speech. This one I do not have memorized, and probably cannot have by opening night. However once again Hamlet is seen mouthing this speech, (or at least could be) as the two leads are talking. I'd like to memorize at least some of that speech and mouth it to myself in the background. Adds realism. The best part about that one is that the leads walk off and leave Hamlet there still talking to himself when the lights go off. I wouldn't need more than a few lines of the speech.

Why do I do this? Put in some extra time to memorize lines nobody will hear me delivering? If you are a regular visitor to Always Off Book, you know the answer. I take my work on stage seriously. I want to give the extra push, offer the extra shine whenever I can. The timing may not work out perfectly, but I refuse to be on stage and utter "peas and carrots, pea and carrots" to represent talking to myself. (By the way, an actor should never do that.) If I didn't know the actual lines this character spoke at those moments, I'd invent realistic ones myself. A character in the background is still a character.

Another reason is that it's Shakespeare, and of course beyond that, it is Hamlet. I intend to perform Hamlet in Hamlet in the next few years, but this play offers me my first actual chance to be the Danish Prince on stage. I am but a background role in this show, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy playing Hamlet.

And of course in some ways, I enjoy the extra challenge.

Another of my challenges in Act Two will be dragging the actor playing Polonious down a large ramp and around a tight corner to the backstage. It would appear the scene is optional in the script and the director asked both "Polonious" and myself if we were up for it. We both gave our assent though we didn't attempt it last night. There was even talk of Hamlet's dragging him via a cart or wagon of some sort. A humorous visual. It remains undecided at this point.

Next rehearsal will be brief for me, and unusual; I have zero lines in the long scene I will be blocking tonight. I think that is a first for me. But in Act Three, Hamlet has a large amount of stage time, despite having no lines. So I might as well be there for the rehearsal to at least get a feel for where I will be, and how I will move.

It continues to be an interesting experience, this play.

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