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Polonius Production Diary: Time Passes

I’m not sure one could legitimately call this a diary at this point. If I were a more comfortable tweeter I might have blurted out short rehearsal reports each day, detailing such things as my falling dead in a terrible position and then lying half on one side cursing myself for ten dead minutes whilst Hamlet berated Gertrude and my muscles, such as they are, cramped and died. Or my in-character refusal to sit down until the King gestures for me to, which coupled with my furious refusal to allow Laertes to sit down as well as a sharp-eyed Cornelius adapting to court etiquette meant that the whole court remained upstanding until the King noticed about two pages later. And the poor actor was just trying to get through a longish bit without calling line.

The rehearsal process proceeds apace. It’s a long stretch—community theaters often have something like 8 weeks of rehearsal, and we are five weeks in and have six weeks yet to go. I’m not altogether sure what to think about that. The rehearsals don’t seem to have been particularly inefficient, although as our Director is all the way at the do-what-you-feel-like-doing end of the blocking spectrum we have naturally gone down a few dead ends. I like her and all, and there’s nothing wrong at all with that end of the spectrum, tho’ of course it isn’t exactly where I live by choice. I do not, in general, trust my instincts, or at least not all of them, and often enough my instincts contradict each other, or are utterly different from one night’s rehearsal to the next. In the end, something gets the Director to say ’keep that’ and we do.

Oh, here’s a bit—in II,ii (which is several scenes, actually, and goes on forever) when Polonius re-enters, Hamlet is talking with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Here’s the text:

Enter Polonius.
POLONIUS Well be with you, gentlemen.
HAMLET Hark you, Guildenstern, and you too—at
each ear a hearer! That great baby you see there is
not yet out of his swaddling clouts.
ROSENCRANTZ Haply he is the second time come to
them, for they say an old man is twice a child.
HAMLET I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the
players; mark it.—You say right, sir, a Monday
morning, ’twas then indeed.
POLONIUS My lord, I have news to tell you.

Do you see the problem? Polonius enters and speaks, then stands aside for the exchange between Hamlet and R&G, and then interrupts the Prince. He is either too patient, or not patient enough, and the convention that Polonius cannot hear what the audience clearly does is strained by it. There are fifteen seconds or so to be got through, whilst Hamlet whispers with his friends, during which Polonius does… what? That was my problem. And I answered it (so far) the way I am like to answer such questions, with physical comedy. My idea was that I would come in with a handful of playbills or flyers for the Players, and immediately drop them on the floor. That gives me fifteen seconds to gather them up and then present them to Hamlet as my news.

I tried it for the first time this week and it seems work. So that’s all right.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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