Playing Fortinbras, Marcellus, and the 2nd Player

Hello!  This week’s blog comes to you from Jeff Otto.  I’m going to talk about my experience so far acting as many people.  In Hamlet, I play Fortinbras, Marcellus, the 2nd Player (or Player Queen), a pirate, and a pallbearer.  That means that I have to portray five different characters within Hamlet which is a very fun and exciting challenge.  This is my first experience working with the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company, and I have had a great first experience so far!  I love the camaraderie among the cast.  I never get the feeling that anyone is putting in less work than anyone else.  By that I mean that it’s a collaboration, we are working together as a cast to create this amazing performance and it’s very exciting watching it begin to get to its feet.

In portraying my five different characters, Katherine discussed with me differentiation.  I decided that in order to differentiate my characters, I would think about the different social classes that they would be in.  While thinking on that, it really helps with physical movement.  I have thought as Fortinbras being of the highest class.  He is the ruler of Norway, and therefore has a lot of power there.  That makes him more commanding, militaristic, and proper.  This commands walking more upright and with a purpose.  Marcellus is a guard.  Slightly militaristic in the way he needs to hold the watch, but of a lower class.  Marcellus knows that he can be a little more laid back in his talking when he’s with Bernardo and Heratio – but in a later scene when he’s talking to Hamlet, he’s very humble, doesn’t speak much, and always makes sure he addresses Hamlet as “my Lord.”  This makes Marcellus more upright, on his guard yet a bit uneasy at times, and attentive.  The 2nd Player is of the acting class.  A lower class.  What I especially need to keep in mind is that the 2nd Player, since he plays the Queen in the Mousetrap (the play-within-the play), would be very young.  Younger men played women in Shakespeare’s day, so I need to portray that when portraying the 2nd Player.  The pirate I thought of as a slightly older man who has spent many days off at sea.  I haven’t fully decided, but he may have a slight limp from someone injury he received while off on some pirating adventure.  The pallbearer is probably of a slightly higher class.  He’s attending the funeral of Ophelia, so he would have to be in some sort of standing with the Polonius household.  He’s solemn and upset due to the recent death of Ophelia, and I have made the decision that he believes Ophelia’s death to be an accident, not a suicide.

Another fun thing I’d like to discuss was my recent participation in The West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics’ Festival of the Arts.  For the festival, the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company performed a few different scenes from various Shakespeare shows.  Two scenes from Hamlet were chosen, and of those two – Act I, scene i was one of them.  It was fun actually getting to perform one of the scenes from the show already, especially at such an early stage in the rehearsal process.  It was very exciting.  Afterwards we answered a bunch of questions for the students and it was great to see that students that young already have an interest in the works of Shakespeare.  I know that I didn’t even read my first Shakespeare play until I was in High School, and I didn’t understand it.  But these kids knew Hamlet.  They knew the characters and were answering questions Katherine asked them about the plot.  That to me is really cool.  It’s great to see an interest in theatre at such a young age.

Anyways, that’s all for me!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s blog.  Otto out!