Your Humble Blogger will be starting a new role soon—playing the ghost of John Barrymore in I Hate Hamlet.
I don’t hate Hamlet.
It’s a terrific part, the ghost of John Barrymore, funny with a touch of pathos, big and broad and outrageous. There are a lot of lines—a lot of lines—and a fair amount of physical stuff, including a swordfight. The part is designed to lure an actor, and it did lure me. The first time I read the play, I didn’t much like the script; rereading it pre-audition, I enjoyed it a lot more. But the first time, I was the right age to play the lead, and now I am the right age to play the ghost. It’s a much better part.
The plot, for those who care and don’t already know, revolves around a young actor who was until recently the star of a television prime-time soap, and is now preparing to make his stage debut in the titular role for Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park. John Barrymore’s ghost assists in that preparation as the lead struggles with the various temptations of art and commerce. There isn’t much to it, as a play, but it’s an entertainment. Perhaps twenty-five years ago I had a lot less respect for an entertainment that’s entertaining. Now, if fifty or a hundred people are willing to come to a show and leave feeling entertained, as far as I’m concerned something has been achieved, even if the play doesn’t have much more than that to offer.
I don’t expect to do a Production Diary for this one, though. I didn’t actually even mention the last show I was in, it seems. That one was also an entertainment, and while I had a lot of fun doing it, it wasn’t something that I needed to think through in any way that would be interesting to read about. This one might be like that, too. Or perhaps not. We’ll see.
In David Weston’s Covering McKellen, he writes about being at the read-through thinking will this be my last play? and realizing that everyone else is thinking that, too. It means something different when you’re twenty-seven from when you’re seventy-two, though—I’m not fifty yet, and I do sort of expect that people will keep giving me parts, but you never know. And of course middle-age is the time when you stop waiting for those things you’ll be able to do in the future and start worrying about those things you won’t be able to do… this could well be my last swordfight.
It will, however, be the first time I’ve had a swordfight onstage that didn’t result in my character’s death. I mean. It’s kind of cheating when my character starts out dead and all, but I’ll take it.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,