The Hamlet Project: Getting Inside Hamlet’s Head
What’s your favorite play? Or book if you don’t have a favorite play? What’s the one piece of literature you would choose if you could only have one the rest of your life? For the actors and directors out there, if you could only work on a single play your entire life, what play do you love so much you could imagine doing that single work for the rest of your life?
Go ahead. Really think about it.
For me, the answer is really simple. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
For me, Hamlet is the play of plays and the character of all characters. I could act in Hamlet everyday for the rest of my life and be happy. Every character, when you really dive down into the text, is important. Yes, it is true that Hamlet is somewhat the bouquet of roses and the other characters are just the vase, but the play’s brilliance and beauty is more complex than that.
From Hamlet to Claudius to Ophelia and Horatio, every character is important and has a moment to contribute to the overall landscape of this amazing play, even tiny characters like the Players, Reynaldo, and Fortinbras. I’ve been in one production of Hamlet with one line as the Player Prologue and it was still a great experience I would repeat again.
Ever since my high school senior English AP teacher had us read and dissect the play I have, over the years, fallen more in love with this play. Above all others, it is my favorite play, book, movie, entertainment spectacle. It is meaningful, explores deep and important life philosophy, and for a good chunk is actually funny, despite what many might think.
And there is no play I know more about than this play. I have read every commentary and essay on Hamlet, watched most versions on film including the obscure ones, and for the last couple of years I have read Hamlet at least once a year.
I love this play.
So why blog about it?
About two years ago some friends and I gathered together in the hot outdoor summer, called ourselves the East Bay Shakespeare Company, and performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream for a two-week run. We sweat out in the excruciating heat to perform for the few friends and family that showed (and one stranger – yes we did a show in the outdoor summer heat for one person – DEDICATION PEOPLE!) just for the sheer joy of acting and performing.
Immediately my co-architect of the project, my friend Sam Logan, made three vows.
One, we would do another show. Two, it would be indoors. And Three, it would be Hamlet.
Well, it’s been about two years and here we are, ready to finally accomplish our dream. Sam proposed that he would direct and I would be Hamlet. As a Hamlet nut, there is no one I would rather embark on this adventure with than Sam. You see, every way I love Hamlet, Sam loves just as much.
We are close to finding a home and when we get dates nailed down we WILL be embarking on our dream of working on Hamlet. It isn’t at the Orpheum, on the big stage in Ashland for the OSF, or at the Globe in London. It won’t be a big cast and it won’t be for huge crowds. But sometimes there are circumstances where none of that stuff matters. Sometimes, the act of doing it, no matter how big or small, is the most important and rewarding thing you can get.
As we go along in this process I will blog about our process and my journey into Hamlet’s Head (inside joke for you Sean Jay). It is a journey many actors have made and to be able to say you have done it places you into a type of club with those actors. When you have played Hamlet and you meet another fellow Hamlet, you have an understanding and connection to each other. And to be able to join that club of actors is going to be hard work, but a dream come true nonetheless.