Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reading Plays 1: Hamlet & Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

I know that it's cheating to talk about reading plays that I'm doing, but this past week has been entirely filled by reading, re-reading, scheduling, listing, re-reading, and all of the other "first week of rehearsal" things that go with stage managing two shows in rep [point of clarification: I am SMing R&G and ASMing Hamlet].

I don't know about you, but I read Hamlet in high school and studied it until I no longer cared about any of it. I also did a production of it when I was in university where it was cut down to 60 minutes and again, didn't really care. All of this makes it far more interesting to read now and enjoy in a whole new way. The version we are using for the show is cut by our director using the First Folio as well as the quartos...It's not your traditional Hamlet. There are scenes in different orders what what you'd find in most modern publications of the play and as such the character relationships are different. And I like it. I sat at the first read today, finally hearing aloud the play I have been reading all week and the characters came alive for me.

I've always been an auditory learner. I learned that fact in grade 3 and have been forever grateful for it. When I hear something I remember it and if I don't hear it (but rather see it) I am far less likely to remember it. For me this means that plays I have read are not nearly as alive for me as plays that are read aloud.

On the other hand, I had never read R&G before going into this process. Sure, I knew of it, but I didn't know anything about how it fit together, and my god is it brilliant. Every time I re-read it (by which I mean every day this week) I am amazed at some new detail. Today as we read Hamlet aloud, I was amazed by pieces of R&G where words and phrases were turned on their heads that I had not previously noticed.

Both plays are a lesson in solid playwrighting, though from completely different schools. Shakespeare is considered a master playwright for a reason. His words evoke images so beautiful and detailed while still furthering story. Stoppard's post-modern look at the fall of the meta-narrative and the dissapearance of the hero is similarly evokative, but in its simplicity and absurdity rather.

And I'll never look at a coin toss the same way again.

No comments: