Archive for the 'analysis' Category

hung jury

March 16, 2007

Just when I thought Blogging the Dane was over and done, this comes in.   Ah, well.  Expect extremely sporadic Hamlet posts here for the indefinite future.  My new blog, with new posts at least twice a week, is here.

Hamlet on Trial

February 9, 2007

A real Supreme Court Justice will preside over a trial; real lawyers will argue whether Hamlet was insane when he murdered Polonius.

Link

I love this. But there’s really no question. Hamlet has to have been sane — conscious of and responsible for what he did — or nothing is at stake dramatically.

I’m not reviving this blog. Just couldn’t resist posting this. But I may soon start a new blog for my new job… I’ll post details here within a few weeks…

Lucas on collaboration

September 17, 2006

Nice post from Lucas on collaboration and getting hired again to work with the same people, from a lighting designer’s point of view.

Everyone speaks their own language and thinks in their own way. Some people I work with can only talk in terms of images, and so we share images back and forth. Some talk in terms of music and we play songs for one another. Some talk through the language of the play and we discuss the meaning of words and syntax. Usually it is some combination of these three with differences in balance of the one and the other. One director I have worked with a few times talks very literally, in terms of what kind of light or scenery or costume he wants. It is a game of translation. I think very abstractly. But the way I think for myself is not conducive to collaboration. So I must translate. Often I translate into pictures or music.

Nice follow-up from Scott, too.

Video: Act II, Scene 2

September 12, 2006

This is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s first scene with Hamlet. In this production, this was their first entrance; the earlier scene with the King and Queen was cut.

My goal here was to set up a strong relationship between Hamlet and his old friends — see this post on my analysis of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and this post about directing this scene.

A bit about the technical aspects of the video below.

This is cut together from two different performances. I shot one with my shitty camera, sitting close to the center front part of the audience. I borrowed two cameras from actors in the show to shoot another performance with a total of three cameras — the nice camera (thanks, Crystal!) was house left, another was at the back of the main audience area, and my crappy camera was house right and gave me almost unusable footage (you can see a few shots that I had to rebalance the contrast in Final Cut to use at all). There was heavy wind the night we had three cameras, which plays havoc with the sound. And theatre on video always seems to magically sap the chemistry and vitality that makes live theatre work.

Still, I think I’m fairly happy with how this turned out, all things considered. This was one of my favorite scenes in performance: I love what the actors do with the language, and I’m happy with the rhythm and staging choices we made. Hopefully some of that comes across in the video.

The Nunnery Scene, Part Two

September 1, 2006

We left off with Hamlet asking Ophelia whether she is honest — which, in this production, means whether she is returning his love letters on her own volition or because her father told her to. She has held out the letters, and he has grabbed her arm instead, pulling her in for a closer look. Ophelia breaks eye contact, unable to give him a direct answer.

OPHELIA:
My lord?

This answers Hamlet’s question — she is not honest. He now knows that she has been acting on orders from her father, though he still hasn’t figured out that he is watching even now. Hamlet lets her go and moves away, circling upstage. He starts a new beat, as if just asking an innocent question:

HAMLET:
Are you fair?

In other words, “Since you can’t answer whether you’re being truthful, can you at least answer whether you are pretty?” This is a concious set-up for what he’s about to say, which will twist the meaning of the word “honest” into something he had not intended when he first said it a moment ago. Ophelia sees that he is making a left turn, but is nevertheless lost for a moment here.

OPHELIA:
What means your lordship?

HAMLET:
That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.

Which means, “If you are both chaste and attractive, your chastity would trump your attractiveness and you wouldn’t let anyone fuck you.” This resonates on multiple levels. First and foremost, Hamlet is pushing Ophelia away. “If you’re a good person, you wouldn’t let yourself be with me.” But he’s also talking about his disappointment in Gertrude for failing to be both fair and honest. So in a way, he’s trying to make Ophelia understand that his loss of faith in love and loyalty (first occasioned by his mother’s marriage to his uncle, and now reinforced by Ophelia’s loyalty to Polonius instead of to Hamlet) will make it impossible for their relationship to work out. If they have already had sex, this line is especially hurtful.

Ophelia crosses towards him on her next line. She acts as though she misunderstands, deliberately choosing to miss Hamlet’s twist on honesty to mean chastity.

OPHELIA:
Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty?

Again, she uses a more rhetorical language in an attempt to disarm him. Beauty and honesty are both virtues, so why shouldn’t they go together? I think she’s trying to get him to drop the doubletalk and speak plainly with her. Hamlet takes her question at face value, though, while continuing to use honesty as a synonym for chastity.

HAMLET:
Ay, truly, for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness.

Beauty is more powerful than chastity — a beautiful woman will become a whore before a virtuous woman will lose her beauty. This is a rough thing to say to the beautiful and virtuous Ophelia, the more so (again) if they have already had sex. But it’s also a confession, and maybe even an apology. He’s saying that this is how he now sees the world, and it’s making it impossible for him to be with her. He takes this confession/apology/explanation further as he continues:

This was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof.

It’s hard to imagine that this is not on some level a reference to Gertrude, though I believe it also applies to Ophelia’s betrayal here.

I did love you once.

We’re playing this as an admission, as Hamlet letting himself slide back into the love he once felt and continues to feel for Ophelia. In trying to say goodbye, he gets caught up in the attraction. She has crossed to him, and they are holding each other here. Ophelia is caught in it, too.

OPHELIA:
Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

This line is active — she’s trying to get Hamlet to continue with this, to tell her more about what he’s feeling and why he’s doing this. But then Hamlet breaks away. He can’t let himself give in to love. Ultimately, in this scene he is trying to end the relationship — primarily because he believes neither he nor anyone else deserves to be in love in a world in which the kind of change that he’s facing (his father’s death and his mother’s remarriage) is possible. I believe that he does love her, and that makes pushing her away all the more difficult.

HAMLET:
You should not have believed me; for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I loved you not.

The general sense of the line is fairly clear (“I didn’t love you after all”) but the specifics are complex. The Arden is helpful, as usual, pointing out the horticultural sense of “inoculate” — Hamlet is creating an image of grafting a branch (“virtue”) onto a tree (“our old stock,” which refers to the original sinful nature of mankind). The actor playing Hamlet and I went back and forth on the meaning of “relish” — if it means “give full expression to,” then the “it” on the end of the line must refer to “our old stock” — no matter how much virtue you try to graft onto our sinful nature, we’re still going to act like sinners. If “relish” means “devour lustily until nothing remains,” then “it” can refer to “virtue” — no matter how much you try to graft virtue onto our sinful nature, our nature will overcome that virtue with ease. This manifested itself in the amount of stress placed on that final “it.”

This line cuts even deeper if Hamlet and Ophelia have indeed already had sex. “You shouldn’t have believed I love you; there’s no way that virtue could possibly overcome sin. I didn’t love you — if I did love you, I wouldn’t have had sex with you.” Again, he’s saying this partially to hurt her and entirely as a way to push her away. He breaks away from her.

OPHELIA:
I was the more deceived.

I love this line. “Well, you sure had me fooled.” Ophelia reverts to formality again, letting Hamlet know she knows he’s lying when he says he never loved her. She’s trying to get him to drop the bullshit, letting him know she can see through it. It’s another example of Ophelia’s underrated strength.

Hamlet can’t let himself acknowledge her, however.

HAMLET:
Get thee to a nunnery.

The Arden does a great job of proving the case against the bawdy interpretation of “nunnery” that I’ve occasionally heard defended — Hamlet is literally telling Ophelia to go join a convent and never get married. In a way, this idea is a great example of Shakespeare’s genius. It serves so many purposes. Hamlet is getting Ophelia out of the way of the brewing violence at Elsinore; he loves her and he knows if she stays around she could easily get caught up in the revenge plot in one way or another. At a nunnery, she’d be safe from all of that (this interpretation was very important to the actor playing Hamlet when we first began talking about the play, but seemed to lose its urgency as we fleshed out the scene). Also, nuns don’t get married. Hamlet loves her dearly but feels unable to continue his relationship with her — but he doesn’t want anyone else to marry her instead. And joining a nunnery preserves her virginity (if she still has it) and innocence — in a way, it keeps her young and changeless. If the main action of the play is To Deny Change, this is another example of it.

More soon in Part Three.

 

 

Shakespeare In The Bush

August 29, 2006

Someone forwarded this to Shakespeare-by-the-Sea’s Artistic Director, who passed it along to me. It’s an account of an American spending some months with a remote West African tribe, and winding up trying to tell them the story of Hamlet.

I protested that I was not a storyteller. Storytelling is a skilled art among them; their standards are high, and the audiences critical–and vocal in their criticism. I protested in vain. This morning they wanted to hear a story while they drank. They threatened to tell me no more stories until I told them one of mine. Finally, the old man promised that no one would criticize my style “for we know you are struggling with our language.” “But,” put in one of the elders, “you must explain what we do not understand, as we do when we tell you our stories.” …

The old man handed me some more beer to help me on with my storytelling. Men filled their long wooden pipes and knocked coals from the fire to place in the pipe bowls; then, puffing contentedly, they sat back to listen. I began in the proper style, “Not yesterday, not yesterday, but long ago, a thing occurred. One night three men were keeping watch outside the homestead of the great chief, when suddenly they saw the former chief approach them.”

Link

This reminds me a lot of my attempts to summarize the story of the play as a pre-rehearsal directing exercise.

Are Shakespeare’s stories truly universal?

the nunnery scene, Part One

June 19, 2006

“The nunnery scene” is Ophelia’s confrontation with Hamlet, in which he tells her “get thee to a nunnery.” Polonius and Claudius are listening in — they’re using her in an attempt to determine whether love for Ophelia is the true cause of Hamlet’s madness.

This has been the toughest scene in the play. This morning, we finally nailed down the blocking. In this post, I’m going to attempt to break the whole thing down.

What makes this particular scene so difficult is the sheer number of possible choices it presents to the actors and director. Here are some of the questions that Shakespeare leaves open to interpretation:

-Does Hamlet know that Polonius is spying? Does he figure it out within the scene? How much of what he says is intended to be overheard?

-Why does Ophelia try to return Hamlet’s gifts? Is this part of Polonius’s plotting, or is she doing this on her own accord?

-What is the nature of Hamlet and Ophelia’s previous relationship?

-What are Hamlet and Ophelia actually trying to get from each other over the course of this scene?

Every production of Hamlet can find answers to these questions that are both completely legitimate and vastly different. Here’s a list of the circumstances that we decided on.

-Hamlet and Ophelia knew each other since childhood; Hamlet is several years older.

-They had no romantic entanglements before he first left for school.

-When Hamlet returned for his father’s funeral, he and Ophelia both visited Old Hamlet’s grave at the same time, a day or so after the formal funeral. They got to talking, and kept talking, and began to fall in love.

-Over the next few days, their relationship began. He gave her presents (including a medal that belonged to his father) and wrote her a couple of love letters.

-The night before the beginning of the play (which in our production is Claudius’ first formal address to the court after the coronation), Hamlet and Ophelia had sex. It was late at night, on the spur of the moment, and they did not use any protection.

-They haven’t had a chance to talk since then — the next day (the first day of the play), Polonius commands Ophelia to repel Hamlet’s advances. When he tries to visit her, her servants do not allow him in. His letters are returned. He doesn’t know why, and probably guesses that it is either because they had sex or because her father got wind of it.

-After two months, during which time he has established his act of madness, they finally come face to face again when he confronts her in her chambers. This happens more or less as she describes it to Polonius — he doesn’t say anything, but gives her a couple of very meaningful looks as if to say goodbye. That’s the only contact they’ve had (other than seeing each other across a crowded room at one or two court events) since they had sex.

-Polonius has more or less convinced Ophelia that her rejection is what has driven Hamlet mad.

-Hamlet sees Ophelia’s rejection of him (and her attempt to return his letters during the scene) as the same kind of change that Gertrude has demonstrated in marrying Claudius — a betrayal of love and loyalty. This holds true regardless of the reason for Ophelia’s rejection (even if it was on orders from Polonius).

Polonius hears Hamlet approaching, and the two old men hide just offstage (with Osric as well, in this production). Ophelia is left on one side of the stage as Hamlet enters on the other. He delivers the “to be or not to be” soliloquy — we’ve decided that Hamlet doesn’t yet notice Ophelia, but that she does hear this entire speech. At the end, she makes a noise (a footstep as she moves down a level) and Hamlet notices her.

Again, please forgive the funky formatting necessitated by WordPress.

HAMLET:

And lose the name of action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia!

That last is to the audience. He’s standing stage left, she’s several platforms away and a couple of levels lower, all the way down stage right. They look at each other and can’t help but smile; it’s a moment of reconnection. They are still, despite everything, in love. He turns their shared smile into a little friendly joke.

HAMLET:
……………………..Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.

“Orisons” means prayers, so he’s asking her not to forget to pray for him as well. In the full text, Polonius has given her a book to pretend to read as Hamlet happens upon her, and many productions make this a prayer-book. Sometimes she’s holding it upside-down, and Hamlet turns it around for her as he says this line. I’ve cut that line and the book — in this production, she’s just holding a packet of letters and trinkets he’s given her. She smiles in response to his line, and says

OPHELIA:
…………………………………Good my lord,
How does your honor for this many a day?

…as an honest question. It has been many days since they last spoke, and this becomes a reference to all that has passed between them. At this point, both of them are caught up in the moment of really talking to the person they love at last, and they’ve each temporarily forgotten all the plots and politics of the court. He makes the long cross towards her as he says

HAMLET:
I humbly thank you, well, well, well.

The repeated “well,” which could be used as part of the act of madness, or to mock Ophelia in one way or another, we’re playing as another reference to all the time that has passed and how complicated everything has become — as if he’s saying, “There’s so much to talk about, but all in all I can’t complain, especially now that I’m talking to you again.” Their happiness to be together builds as he moves towards her, but at the last second she remembers her father and the King. As he reaches for her, she holds his letters and gifts up towards him, warding him off, keeping him at arms’ length, and says

OPHELIA:
My lord, I have remembrances of yours
That I have longed long to redeliver.

I believe that this is a lie. She has not “longed long” to return his gifts, nor does she want to now. Returning the gifts is a ploy devised by Polonius to get a reaction out of Hamlet. If he freaks out, Polonius will have proof that Ophelia’s rejection caused Hamlet’s madness. Also, though, Ophelia is upset with Hamlet for his behavior towards her in her chambers just the day before, so there may be some desire in her to punish him for that, or at least to make him understand that he can’t treat her that way. She continues

I pray you now receive them.

I love that line because the “now” can work either with “I pray you” or with “receive them.” Either it’s “I’m now asking you to do this,” or it’s “I’m asking you to do this now.”

HAMLET:
……………………………………No, not I.
I never gave you aught.

This is also a lie, though it can’t be intended to deceive — they both know he did give her the letters and presents. (Unless she has fabricated the whole remembrances thing as a way to pass him a secret note without Polonius knowing what’s really going on — an idea I like for the strength it implies in Ophelia, but that is ultimately too obscure and complicated).

Why would Hamlet say this? It could be part of his act of madness, but I like the idea that he’s more just playing off of what he’s getting from her. “Oh, you longed long to redeliver these? Well then, I never even gave them to you. Top that!” It could be playful, gently teasing her for her lie. Or he could be trying to hurt her feelings in return for hurting his. With all of this, I think his intent is to get her to reveal what she’s really thinking and feeling here.

OPHELIA:
My honour’d lord, you know right well you did,

It may be that she takes literally what Hamlet intended as a joke. More interesting, to my mind, is that she is calling him out, telling him that she wasn’t joking and that she wants him to take her as seriously as she is now taking him. Her language then gets a little lofty, with a little alliteration and a bit of imagery:

And with them words of so sweet breath compos’d
As made the things more rich. Their perfume lost,
Take these again; for to the noble mind
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.

In other words, these gifts really meant something to me, but your recent behavior (the perfume that was the sweet breath of his words having dissipated) has made me re-evaluate everything that has happened between us. The rhymed couplet reinforces the formality of her poetic language here; she’s using it as a wall to keep him out.

She holds the remembrances out; he looks at her, trying to see what she’s really up to. He’s not buying this.

OPHELIA:
There, my lord.

That’s a partial line, or a shift into prose from very formal verse. She again holds the packet out at arms’ length. He grabs her arm instead, though, and pulls her close, looking into her eyes.

HAMLET:
Ha, ha! Are you honest?

Lines like “Ha, ha!” can be fantastic opportunities or big stumbling blocks for actors. I usually find that they should be read as indicating a non-verbal grunt or vocalization of some kind, not necessarily directly pronouncing the letters spelled out on the page. Regardless, it’s a sign of some kind of shift or realization on Hamlet’s part, and we’re playing “Are you honest?” as meaning, “Am I really talking to the Ophelia I know and trust or are you acting on Polonius’ orders right now?”

Continued in Part Two.

inspiration and analysis; freezing time

June 9, 2006

I've written before about the interaction between analysis and inspiration. I find that good analysis gives rise to better inspiration — often directly, as when I'm struck by inspiration for a bit of staging or what have you in the moment of doing my analysis, but also by allowing me to determine whether a piece of inspiration is worth exploring. Sometimes the gap between the inspiration and the analytical understanding of it is several weeks long.

Case in point. At some point while cutting the play I made the decision to open the show with the "too too solid flesh" soliloquy, and then go into the first court scene. This decision was all about mechanics — it's a clean way to start the show and it shaves off a couple of valuable minutes from a production that has to come in at under two hours. Right away, I imagined Hamlet delivering that speech as the rest of the cast enters for the court scene, with everyone but Hamlet frozen or in slow motion. It's a nice, strong image, but I had no idea what it meant or whether or not it fit with my ideas about the play. It was around this time that I was narrowing in on my main action ("to deny change"), but I didn't at that point make any connection between the main action and this idea for staging.

The image in my head was so compelling, though, that I knew I was going to try it out. I staged it with the actors, getting it working reasonably well on the second attempt (I described this in a post last week, sorry for the repetition) — now the full cast starts to enter from all directions at once, then everyone but Hamlet freezes. Hamlet speaks (to the audience) as he moves through the frozen bodies. At two points during the speech, everyone unfreezes, takes another step or two in the direction they're heading, and freezes again — punctuating the speech and providing variety. Hamlet gestures directly at the King and Queen when he refers to them, maybe even lifting up her dress to show the audience her shoes on "or ere those shoes were old / With which she follow'd my poor father's body." It's slick, dynamic, and fun to watch, and starts the show off with a bang.

It wasn't until I watched it that I realized how well it fits with my main action. Hamlet is freezing time — he's stopping the progress of change. What started out as a technical idea turned out to be entirely grounded in the analysis as well. If I hadn't stuck with it despite not knowing how or whether it fit the analysis, I may never have made the connection.

Sometimes this works out the other way: in trying something out, I discover that it contradicts my analysis. At that point, either it's a sign that the analysis needs to change (the subconscious inspiration telling the conscious analysis to make some adjustments), or the idea needs to be dropped. As my grad school professor would say, ideas are cheap — you'll come up with another one.

But now I knew the idea was a good one. It's a big stylistic choice, though, and it would be strange and unsatisfying to use it at the top of the show and never again. Ideas like this need to be paid off later in the play. Ideally, it would happen once more in a similar way, and a third time with some kind of twist. I started looking through the play for spots that would lend themselves to Hamlet stopping time.

"Rogue and peasant slave" is the next one we're going to try. As with "too too solid flesh," it will require adjusting the text to move the soliloquy earlier in its scene. In this case, we're going to try having Hamlet freeze time a line or two after the Player's speech, before he sends everyone off. He delivers the soliloquy (minus the ending) with everyone frozen onstage, referring directly to the Player as he describes him. This means that he discovers the idea of the play-within-the-play as a trap for Claudius within the soliloquy, before telling the Player about it — it actually makes more sense on the surface this way than in the original. I have ideas about why Shakespeare has Hamlet seem to discover this idea twice (I think it connects to the delay), but I think this could be a change worth making.

Also, in the "too too solid flesh" soliloquy the Ghost is onstage, alone on a tall platform all the way upstage, watching. He's just standing still up there, but he might not freeze like everyone else. Hamlet doesn't see him, and doesn't refer to him when talking about his father. This gets interesting: the same actor plays both the Ghost and the Player, so there's a kind of subtle added connection between these two moments in this production.

The same actor also plays the Gravedigger. The more we work on the show, the more I love this bit of triple-casting. The same actor is present for three very important stages of Hamlet's arc. So the ideal place for the third (twisted) use of this frozen-time convention would be in the Gravedigger scene. There's no soliloquy there, however, and I can't think of a soliloquy that could be easily moved to that scene. Some of Hamlet's lines there could be turned into a soliloquy, but that robs them of their action towards Horatio and the Gravedigger, and I think undermines Hamlet's relationships. I'm thinking about the twist being that Hamlet freezes time, starts to speak to the audience, stops himself, unfreezes time, and continues the scene — but that's pretty fucking subtle and I'm not sure whether I can make it read. It might also be something that happens a bit later, during the funeral, with the Gravedigger still on stage along with the King and Queen and Laertes and everyone.

It would have been better if my original inspiration had been something for the end of the play — coming up with ways to set it up would be easier than coming up with ways to pay it off.  Unfortunately, inspiration doesn't always make it easy.

rethinking Polonius

June 5, 2006

Before rehearsals began, I wrote this post about my take on Polonius. I'm still taken with those ideas about the character — essentially, that he is emotionally withdrawn, using wordplay and cleverness to keep actual emotional contact at arm's length. However, I developed this take on the character before casting, and the addition of the actor can change the whole equation.

I know some people in the cast are reading this, so let me quickly say this: I am EXTREMELY happy with our Polonius and all the work he's doing. Directors always adjust their ideas to fit the actors and designers; that collaboration is what makes theatre so exciting, and I'm choosing Polonius here as an example of something positive that happens all the time.

There were two guys at the auditions that I seriously considered for Polonius. One of them would have worked perfectly with the somewhat non-traditional ideas that I had about the character — he's a strong actor who takes direction and makes big choices. The other was a natural Polonius — his first cold read of the scene with the King and Queen and the letter was spot-on and laugh-out-loud funny. I ended up casting the first of these two in another role, and the second as Polonius. He's a wonderful actor, delightful to work with and to watch, and his take on Polonius is completely different from how I originally envisioned it.

And that's fine. At the very first rehearsal, I talked to him a bit about my ideas. He was game, but it quickly became clear that those ideas were holding him back instead of turning him loose, and the magic that happened in his audition didn't have room to flow.

That's a crux that every director faces all the time. There are two choices. Either you can push the actor to deliver your ideas, what is sometimes called "building the performance on the actor." This can mean long hours of rehearsal in which the director ends up making the actor's choices and staging everything in minute detail. Sometimes, with a poor casting choice and an important enough idea behind it, this is necessary and is worth the extra time and frustration and ill will it generates in the actor. Usually, though, it's far better for everyone and for the show when the director can let go of the original idea, adjusting her take on the play to fit the actor that has been cast. If the director and the director's vision are flexible enough to allow this, it gives the actors a chance to do their best work, and for the creative juices to keep flowing.

In this particular situation, it was an easy choice. The actor's natural instincts are a much more traditional take on Polonius anyway — a take on the character that has worked in countless productions. And he is a wonderful actor who brings true warmth and charm to Polonius; his blustering is endearing and his death is much more tragic. The next time I direct Hamlet, maybe I'll end up making my original choice. For this production, I'm thrilled to be able to adjust my analysis to fit such a delightful actor.

staging and more staging

May 31, 2006

Lots of fun staging tonight. It's staying light later; we're starting rehearsals in beautiful warm horizontal sunlight. By 9, the sun is down and San Pedro is chilly again, and we're working under lights pulled out from the scene shop. Everyone has learned to bring both sunscreen and sweatshirts.

LaertesAfter an early publicity photo shoot with just Hamlet and Ophelia in their costumes, we started with another fight rehearsal, blocking the second chunk of the fencing match. The fight director's idea was that the formal match involves three different challenges. The first point is fought with just rapiers — Laertes is overconfident, and Hamlet scores a hit. They put on a heavy gauntlet for the second round, using it to parry — at one point they grab each other's swords, and Hamlet playfully doesn't let go when Laertes thinks he will. The third round is the rapier and dagger that Osric talks about, and it's here that the formal match becomes a real fight. The actor playing Laertes has a strong stage combat and swordplay background (he's performed in stunt shows and so forth), so the fight director has been standing in for Hamlet to work out some of the moves, plugging Hamlet in once the beat has a shape. But Hamlet's getting in there as well, and having all sorts of ideas. It's going to be a fun fight with a lot of storytelling and acting opportunities.

Next we staged the scene in which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern bring Hamlet before the King to reveal the hiding place of Polonius' body. I've stolen an idea from the Campbell Scott Hamlet — Ophelia overhears Hamlet's joking about her father's death. I have Ophelia downstage right, partially blocked from Hamlet's view by Osric. She listens to all the talk of worms and heaven, and then Osric is the one sent off to recover the body. Hamlet is upstage when he says, "He will stay till you come" to Osric, and Osric moves past Hamlet to his exit — revealing Ophelia. Hamlet realizes how the preceding conversation must have sounded to her, and she turns and leaves. The King then tells Hamlet that he's to go to England, and Hamlet readily agrees. It's a hot little moment, driving home Hamlet's responsibility for Ophelia's subsequent madness.

We staged a couple more scenes, including the opening of the show — which in this cut of the play is the "too too solid flesh" soliloquy followed by the first big court scene. As of now, this is the most stylized bit of staging I have in the show, and much as I love the way it looks I know I'm going to need to find a way to pay it off later on. I have the full cast entering from every direction and moving towards their positions for the court scene; everyone slows and freezes at the same time except for Hamlet, who keeps moving (walking around and through the frozen pattern of people across the stage as if he has stopped time) as he begins the soliloquy. Twice during this, the rest of the cast begins moving again, moves a couple more steps, and stops — providing punctuation to the speech. Hamlet refers to the King and Queen when he talks about them, and addresses the audience directly. The Ghost is alone on a tall platform upstage throughout this, not seen by Hamlet or anyone else. At the end of the soliloquy, everyone unfreezes and finishes moving into positions as Hamlet says, "But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue" and moves into position himself. It's a nice piece of staging, very dynamic, and it will start the play off with a bang. But it risks being too stagey, too flashy and show-offy, especially if it never connects with anything else later on.

More staging tomorrow, then our first stumble-thru on Thursday.