Archive for February, 2010

This week, our Horatio, Kat Hermes, shares her experiences from the first weeks of rehearsal.

Hello, Blog Readers! I’m Kat Hermes and I’m playing Horatio. I’m also the costume coordinator, so I’ll be working under our designer, Roz Mayberry, directing the costume construction crew. Once we go into production week and the costumes are handed over to the wardrobe crew, I’ll be acting as Fight Captain and making sure all of our onstage violence stays safe for the actors and audience.

One of the things that I find most rewarding about working with an original practices company like Pigeon Creek is the opportunity to work on multiple parts of a production. We’re not relying on a separate team of set, costume, and sound techs to create the world in which we play, we’re building it ourselves. If there are people in the seats, it’s because we went out with posters and postcards and did our own marketing. Also, I love that I don’t have to chose between acting and costuming. I get to do both, and let my work on one inform my work on the other.

Right now, we’re nearing the end of our second week of rehearsal. While last week was all about introductions, this week we got to get out hands dirty and work on some scenes. Generally, scene work goes like this: we read through the scene, talk about any textual questions and then put it on its feet. Our director, Katherine Mayberry, will stop and start us to adjust our positions onstage. Once we’ve got a shape for the scene, we run it again and start to layer in character, intentions, atmosphere (you know, the “acting” part).

The first scene we worked was, appropriately enough, the first scene of the play. Guards Marcellus and Bernardo bring Horatio up to the battlements of the castle to watch for the ghost of Hamlet’s father, who has appeared to them twice before. After we read through the scene, Katherine asked if I thought Horatio actually expected to see the ghost, and I answered definitely not. In fact, I think he’s a little annoyed that he’s been dragged out in the middle of the night, in the freezing cold, because Marcellus and Bernardo got spooked by something that was probably an owl flying by, or a coat on a chair.

After we’d walked through the scene once and everyone had a general idea of where they were supposed to be in each moment, we ran it again using the cold as a point of concentration. I found that focusing on the cold effected both my breath and movement. Next, we turned out the lights in the room and ran the scene again in total darkness (reading out scripts by flashlight). The characters’ lines indicate it is too dark to see each other clearly. “Playing the darkness” can be tricky in an original practices production, with both the stage and the audience fully illuminated all the time, but I think we made some progress toward finding the “creepy” atmosphere Katherine wants in the scene.

Outside of rehearsal this week I’ve been working on my musical parts (I’m playing the bass guitar for the first time) and doing text work, looking at the way my character uses language, scanning my verse lines and thinking about what that tells me about him.

So, that’s a little glimpse into my rehearsal process.

Here is the first in our series of actor and director blogs regarding our production of Hamlet, which began rehearsals on February 15.  Check back each week for another actor’s perspective on the production!

This is Joel L. Schindlbeck.  I’ve got a couple different hats that I’m wearing for Hamlet, which is normal for my work with Pigeon Creek.  Currently, I’m playing Polonius/1st Clown, directing the music, sitting on costume crew, as well as my normal board work with the company (e.g.: PR/Marketing management, sitting on various committees and all those other beautiful and clandestine inner workings of the modern theatre organization.)

Thus far, in rehearsal, we haven’t spent too much time at all on character.  This first week has been mostly introduction to the different production aspects (i.e.: music, combat, text and housekeeping.)  We start all rehearsal periods with orientation to the company and the specific production, integrating the company of actors, which often includes a combination of veteran company members and actors who have not worked with us before.  Not only does it offer us the chance to spread our mission statement to other people, and therefore increase our presence; but it also gives us a chance to refortify our philosophies and beliefs in ourselves via constant training to others.

But, anyway, you want to know about the actor’s experience.  Fine.  I’ll take off all those other hats for a moment (which in all honesty, is difficult to do!).

I think it’s no mere coincidence that our director and artistic board has doubled Polonius and the 1st Clown.  (They’ve also gone and doubled Ophelia and the 2nd Clown.)  Pure genius, in my opinion.  In my research and analysis so far, Polonius acts as a bit of a minor foil to Hamlet, but also (more importantly) as a comic parallel.  Yes, yes, we all know about Shakespeare’s genius way of juxtaposing stark images of comedy and tragedy next to one another.   Both Polonius and Hamlet offer such stark and juxtaposed images, often inside of scenes or monologues themselves.    But, I’m digressing.  I want to focus on the parallels of Polonius and Hamlet.

Both characters are in similar pursuits of the truth.  Mind you, Hamlet actually knows the truth and is trying to get the world to admit it; whereas Polonius doesn’t know the truth, but is trying to seek it out tirelessly.  Whatever the foundation of their pursuit, both Polonius and Hamlet share the same strategy, which is best summarized by this speech of Polonius:

Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth:
And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,
With windlasses and with assays of bias,
By indirections find directions out:
-Polonius, Hamlet, II, i

Both characters strongly feel that in order for truth to best be discovered, one must create an atmosphere of falsehood and white lies in order to bring honest confessions.  Both Polonius and Hamlet set up plays of different sorts (e.g.: Hamlet with The Mousetrap and his madness, Polonius with Ophelia and Gertrude) in order to get others to dictate and pronounce the truth.  So, why have two characters attempting the same arc?

As, I stated before, Polonius is a comic parallel to Hamlet.  They are both attempting the same means of discovering the truth, however Hamlet’s is mostly serious and delivered with speeches and soliloquoys of sincere self-judgment and pondering, whereas Polonius’ is seen as a buffoon and an old fool (in all senses of the word.)  Inside of these two characters, we can see the same story being followed along different paths, and in my opinion, the jocularity and drollness of Polonius’ path only strengthens the seriousness of Hamlet’s in the audience’s eyes.

What I guess the real question is, is since both characters meet their death somewhat via these “indirections”, is that the moral of the story?

Now, these are all preliminary thoughts, mind you; and judging by my own perusal of all I just wrote, it seems that Polonius was a bit of a typecast for me, but whatever.  I’m at the beginning of my discovery process with this play, and only time and rehearsal shall tell.  I’m going to start my process by focusing on this mirror between the two characters, and well…just see where it takes me.

Our production of Hamlet begins rehearsals on February 15.  Check back each week for rehearsal and performance blogs from our acting company.