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Polonius Production Diary: six down, two to go

I have two more performances as Polonius this weekend, and then it’s all over. I am, as usual, experiencing both a powerful yearning for the whole thing to be over so that I can get some rest, and a fierce desire to have a few more cracks at it now that the thing is starting to play properly. We had many fewer technical problems in the last show or two, so that’s all right. And I feel a bit looser in some of my scenes, a bit more able to work the rhythms within the lines. I don’t know what it would be like after thirty performances, but I think twelve would be nice. Except that I do want my evenings back. The reading of LotR has stalled, just when my kids met Treebeard.

I have not printed a plot for this one. I’m not sure why. The plot, in the way that I use the term and have occasionally, at least, heard other actors use it, is a printed list, kept backstage, of my entrances: where I’m coming in, what I’m wearing, and most important what I’m carrying. I can also use it as a sort of list to check my props before the show, whether as in some shows they are preset on stage, or whether they are on a props table for me to bring them on with me. There’s nothing preset in this production, so I just check the props table. For my first entrance, in costume A, I bring on an envelope addressed to Old Norway; for the second, still in costume A, I have no hand props; for the third, I am in costume B and have a book; for the fourth, still in costume B, I have the packet of letters; for the fifth, still in costume B, I have a handful of pamphlets; for the sixth, I am in costume C and have a pocket-handkerchief and a book (the same one from earlier); then I wear costume C and have no hand props for the rest of the show. The plot would essentially have that information, but in a legible format, possibly with page numbers for the entrances. And I might put the list of things to check at the top of each act, depending on the play and its needs. This one is fairly simple, but the props are mostly important, with lines about them and everything. Well, this is the last weekend, so I won’t print one now. I hope I haven’t just cursed myself to forgetting something.

I do—here’s a minor anecdote about props, anyway. When I enter at the start of II,ii I have Hamlet’s letters to Ophelia not in my hand but hidden in a pocket. The letters are torn out of a small hip-pocket notebook that we see him scribbling in back in I,ii, so they fit nicely in any of that jacket’s three inside pockets (I have eleven pockets altogether, I believe, in my Act Two costume, and ladies I am not gloating). I developed a small bit out of checking one pocket first and then another before finding the packet, and largely amused myself by varying which pocket they actually were in. I caught our Claudius one night off-guard, when they weren’t in the pocket I had gone to the night before, and he thought for a moment that I had actually left them off-stage. That amused me, too. Then on Saturday night, I actually did have trouble remembering where the letters were and then getting them out of the pocket, which was much less amusing for me. Tonight I will be less adventuresome, I think.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

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