Hello! Sarah Stark here, with a few reflections on my individual acting process in Hamlet. The initial approach I took in the definition of my characters was a literary analysis. I wanted to discover a basic conception of Bernardo, Guildenstern, and Osrics’ unique connections to Hamlet. I first kept my focus on the larger context of the play, rather than each subjective reality. I recorded details such as the given circumstances, atmospheres, and relationships. I next observed how these illuminate various aspects of the humanity and conflict of the character Hamlet. What is so captivating, to me, about Hamlet is his embodiment of the quintessential everyman figure. He is a man who encounters great tragedy which dismantles his worldview and reduces him to a state of nothingness. Within this state is the potential for drastic transcendence; however it requires direct intentionality and hope as an anchor through the despair of suffering. The tragedy of Hamlet is that he shrinks from and fails his greater purpose by choosing alienation over vulnerability, revenge over forgiveness; essentially hate over love. We despise Hamlet in as much as we have shame over ourselves, our own instances of acquiescence to fear. In the famed line “to be or not to be” he presents the essential paradox within the soul of man – the generative and the perverse. The positive urge is spiritual, creative, life giving while the perverse is negative, earthly, and destructive. These conflicting forces seem to be what consumes Hamlet, and I feel they mirror a fundamental conflict of which humanity universally identifies.
With this larger theory of Hamlet’s character in mind, I developed each of my characters by similarly determining the paradoxes which animate them. I pinned down a super objective for each and applied the principal that every force has its equal and opposite reaction to develop a paradox. This allowed me to incorporate tension which is elemental to conflict and required of drama. They turned out to be the following:
Bernardo – Doubt & Belief
Guildenstern – Hope & Despair
Osric – Arrogance & Love (pure)
All of these, I felt, aligned with what Hamlet was dealing with in each different stage of the play. They also signify each character’s private struggle. Bernardo encounters the Ghost and fights to convince Horatio of the incident, and obtain comprehension himself. Guildenstern is divided between a selfish motive to please Claudius and the honest intention to save Hamlet. Osric is highly disillusioned and also the character most removed from the main plot, but in his lavish praising of Laertes I perceived that he atoning for a passionate and unselfish, but wounded love for Hamlet. He parallels Hamlet’s relationship towards Ophelia and that is exactly what seems to emotionally prompt Hamlet into the rapier duel, as Osric literally does his role of the messenger in 5.2.
At this point in the rehearsal period – freshly off book and two weeks away from our opening show – I am most concerned with physicality. The transition from individual scene rehearsals to full runs tuned me into the amount of time my characters use nonverbal expression (particularly Guildenstern). I need to specify and sharpen the physical actions of each character to reveal tacitly their intentions and relationships. So I am currently experimenting with a couple technical exercises I’ve acquired: Laban Effort Actions and Michael Chekhov’s techniques of sensation of feelings and body centers. Come see how it all turns out — Hamlet opens at the Dogstory Theatre soon!