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Polonius Production Diary: the read-through

So, Polonius.

The first Read-Through was last night. It went well, all in all—read-throughs are always at least somewhat awkward, and probably more awkward with Shakespeare than with a contemporary text. Our Hamlet and our Ophelia I have worked with before and I have great faith in—they are clearly too old for the parts (tho' much younger than Your Humble Blogger), and the positive part of that is that they have some experience and should be able to handle the verse. Hamlet, particularly, needs to be able to handle verse with real technique, which you aren't just born with. Our Claudius is an experienced fellow, who I believe said had not done Shakespeare before, but is a retired English teacher, so I'm not worried about that. I'll need to have a good working relationship with Claudius—it's good to have good working relationships with everyone, of course, but Polonius must have proper rhythms with only Ophelia and Claudius. If the Hamlet scenes don't quite click comfortably, well, that's all to the better. And Polonius and Gertrude address each other only briefly. Laertes, well, that actor and I will have to come to some sort of conclusion about the relationship there. If we don’t get comfortable together, then Laertes and Claudius won't get comfortable together, and we can work that out. Mind you, Ophelia is never properly comfortable with Polonius, and Polonius is never properly comfortable with the King, but those discomforts are new and plot-driven and come from a background with a proper communicative bond. This could be true with Laertes, but doesn't need to be.

Our Director, other than seeming like a nice enough person, did not overshadow the proceedings. She did not present us with completed set or costume designs. She did tell we would be in modern drag, and that the Mousetrap would be filmed (which could work well), and intimated that she was more focused on the play as a psychological than a political conflict. Personally, at this moment, I am more intrigued by the political aspect, but that's me; part of the job of the director is to direct the focus to the aspects of her choosing.

And—My big discovery from the night is that we will be in a sort of black box room. I have got used to a proscenium, I'm afraid—looking back, I think my last six plays were on proscenium stages. Is that right? 12N and Noises Off were in an old nineteenth-century theater and meeting hall that seats upwards of 200, with a raised proscenium stage and the audience on the flat; Hearts, AYLI and Windermere were all in an old playhouse with a raised stage and risers for the house; NickNick was in a big and moderately modern hall. I'm not counting staged readings, of course, which are different, and I did a short play (more of a sketch, really) in a place without a raised stage four years ago or so. But the last full-length play I did without a proscenium was Rough Crossing back in 2011, and that had risers and quite reasonable lights. This space is a rectangle about 30'x50' (I'm guessing) that can seat perhaps fifty chairs, and has a rather ordinary ceiling with no real room for hanging stage lights. I'm thinking this will be… intimate. Which isn't bad! Intimate can be terrific for theater. But it's going to call on some different techniques that I haven't used in a while. I think my last performance in a setting like this one was in, um, er, 1994?

There's been a big movement, lately, for professional theater that isn't in a theater space—the kinds of things where the audience walk around an abandoned mill, or the whole production is in somebody's kitchen, or a series of hotel rooms or the company does something in a museum. It's not the sort of thing amateur theater does well which if you think about it is kind of odd, because the other thing amateur theater doesn't do well, really, is maintain a physical theater for very long. But it's tough to sell tickets to immersive theater, too, and I imagine that sort of thing can be expensive. Well, anyway, this isn't that sort of thing, but what I'm getting at is that there's a whole kind of theater that I don't have any experience with or technique for, and now and then I think that's not great. So I'm looking forward to this as a different and interesting departure for me.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

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