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Polonius Production Diary: wrap

Another show over. The inevitable letdown is compensated for, somewhat, by the opportunity to shave my chin again.

I have attempted, in the past, to write up a wrap for the shows I’ve been in, so I’ll do that for this one, but with the warning that they probably won’t be very interesting, as I didn’t find Polonius very interesting, a fact which will probably come up as I write. But we’ll start with positives, right?

The Positives

  • On the whole, I think it was a good production with a strong cast. In truth, I can never really tell—nobody is likely to tell me the whole thing stinks, are they? And Hamlet is very much a show about a single character, and if you don’t like that actor’s interpretation (and I have the impression that some people did and some didn’t, which isn’t terribly surprising) you’re not going to enjoy the show very much. And of course I never got to see the thing, what with being in it. But as far as I could tell from listening, it’s a strong cast and a good show.
  • While it was not as social a group as some, possibly not unconnected with the building not allowing alcohol, the cast got along quite well. I had previously worked with three of my castmates (and the stage manager) and met a dozen new people, and don’t dislike any of ’em. I am particularly happy about working (again) with our Ophelia, who it turns out lives a few blocks from my house; we shared rides a few times and became (I hope) friends, which is nice. It also helps that I thought she was fantastic in the role, with lots of interesting and surprising choices and real vocal fluency with the verse. I have been lucky, in the last couple of shows, to have shared scenes with female actors that I thought were genuinely excellent. Not that the rest of the cast wasn’t excellent, but in terms of dialogue, Polonius uses other people mostly as straight men, does a bit with Antic Hamlet, and has actual real dialogue only with Ophelia.
  • We sold nearly as many tickets as we could have, given the limits of the space. We had one performance that was sparsely attended (on a Thursday), but the last four performances were essentially sold-out. As far as my personal ticket-sales are concerned, two friends from out of state came to see the thing, which made me very happy, and another couple of local-ish friends I hadn’t seen in years came, which was also lovely. I have never been in shows that sold out so far in advance before, and it actually felt a little odd. I felt that I should stop trying to publicize the show, as anyone who decided to see it at the last minute would have been shut out. I would guess that over the 8 performances, we had somewhere between 300 and 350 in the seats total, in a room that held a crowded 50. And while those numbers are small enough that word-of-mouth wouldn’t have influenced them much, the opening weekend’s technical disasters at least didn’t keep people away from the rest of the run.
  • As for my Polonius, I got the laughs I feel the text deserved. The other aspect of my performance I’m proud of was Polonius’ses’s relationship to Laertes and Ophelia—as we discussed here in the Tohu Bohu, I think it’s helpful to the Hamlet story to contrast his fatherlessness (and more generally his broken relationships with everyone around him) with the other family. Ophelia and Laertes have a loving father, if an incompetent and largely useless one. It doesn’t help them, in the end, but at least Polonius is acting out of an attempt, however misguided and doomed, to protect his children.

    I’m also kinda proud that we did a lot of that relationship with physical business—Polonius fixing Laertes’ tie before he speaks to the King, or mussing his hair as he pronounces the interminable advice. Polonius smoothing his affrighted daughter hair, or patting her arm as she braces herself to see her mentally ill ex. If I can flatter myself to have any particular field of ability, it is in some combination of the intellect and the voice. I find the invention of physical business inspiring and intimidating, and while I don’t think I did anything remarkable, I did like what I did.

The Negatives

  • The technical end of the show was a disaster on the first weekend, and there were some significant problems on the third and fourth shows as well. While the second half of the run had no major sound or lighting problems (no more than I would expect anywhere I have worked, and nothing that I would expect the audience to be aware of) I was not able to relax and trust the tech. That made even the last performances less enjoyable than they might have been, and made me extremely grouchy about the first few performances. The Player’s Speech was performed in the dark, as often as not, and portions of my own dialogue were occasionally drowned out by interscene music that was supposed to fade but didn’t. There were reasons and constraints and so forth, and I really oughtn’t whine, but it did substantially take away from my enjoyment of the performances.

    I had got used to working with largish amateur companies, with substantial infrastructure and support. This group is essentially the passion project of one woman. There are positive aspects to that, but there are substantial drawbacks as well. There were things that just didn’t work as efficiently or smoothly as they might have done at other places. Primarily, of course, that played out in the tech, but there were other aspects where having a large crew of regular volunteers or a substantial budget or even secure storage space would have been helpful.

  • I never really got the whole scenic design vision. I just didn’t. Sometimes I don’t. I didn’t hate it, but I never really got what it was about.
  • As for my own work, which is really what I should be talking about rather than whinging about other people’s, I’m afraid I never found Polonius very interesting. As Gentle Readers may have noticed. My Best Reader said Polonius was in my wheelhouse, and I teed off on it, which is nice of her to say and better than whiffing of course, but not a challenge. I don’t know if this is properly speaking a negative, but it’s not really a positive—unlike Malvolio or Buckingham, I never felt like I had a breakthrough about my interpretation of the character. Or that I needed one. Also, my little scriffly beard was uncomfortable and stupid-looking, and I had to keep it for weeks and weeks.

Another one to tack on to the list of positives was that I really like the Play Playlist List I came up with (it’s possible there are new Gentle Readers who are unaware of my tradition of making a playlist of about an hour of music on some theme related to the show, as a sort of Opening Night gift for the cast and crew; this may have been the sixteenth such, although I lost count at some point) and which I will detail below.

These Few Precepts:

  1. “Everything Possible”, The Flirtations
  2. “Cruel To Be Kind”, Nick Lowe
  3. “Don’t Put It In Your Mouth”, Uncle Bonsai
  4. “Missionary Man”, Eurythmics
  5. “Garden Of Earthly Delights”, XTC
  6. “Most Gentlemen Don’t Like Love”, Cats & Jammers
  7. “Tell Her About It”, Billy Joel
  8. “Blues In The Night”, Peggy Lee
  9. “Teenagers, Kick Our Butts”, Dar Williams
  10. “You Can’t Hurry Love”, Diana Ross & The Supremes
  11. “Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover”, Simon & Garfunkel
  12. “Faut pas faire de la peine à Jean”, Joe Dassin
  13. “All in Together”, Professor Elemental
  14. “In the Middle, In the Middle, In the Middle”, They Might Be Giants
  15. “Prince Charming”, Jim’s Big Ego
  16. “Ver Es Hot”, The Klezmatics
  17. “The Things That Dreams Are Made Of”, The Human League
  18. “Respect Yourself”, The Selecter
  19. “Let It Be”, Paul McCartney
  20. “Too Many Fish In The Sea”, The Commitments
  21. “Try A Little Tenderness”, Otis Redding

…and that’s probably enough about Hamlet. I fully plan to take a longish break from theater, and thus from theater-blogging, now. I hope to return to Ecclesiastes and perhaps even find some sort of way to express my feelings about Our Only President and the rest of our federal government. And baseball will start soon! And there are books and music and other things that I hope will come to mind. And I’ll take requests, too, if there’s something you want me to rant about. Let me know.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

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