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.