Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hilberry Does Hamlet

Yes, the Hilberry Theatre CAN do Shakespeare well (on occasion). 

I know this, having just attended a performance of Hamlet yesterday. It was directed by Dr. Blair Anderson, who is the Chair of the Department of Theater at Wayne State University. For the most part it was a very nice text-driven production with only a few slightly odd cuts and rearranging of scenes (or parts of scenes). It was well-cast (except perhaps for the part of Polonius who seemed too young for me). In the play-within-a-play scene the dumbshow (something I have real trouble with-Does Claudius see this?-Doesn't it give the whole "catch the conscience of the King" plan away?) was done very well (without "giving the plan away"),  although it was a little jarring for me (I hope I'm not being too sexist) that the Player Queen was a "full-figured" tall woman and the Player King a slight, shorter man. Nevertheless I do recommend going to see this production (I may even want to see it again-how about it, Oberoners?  Another road trip?)

The Hilberry is also doing Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, although not usually on the same day as Hamlet. They were doing both yesterday, but I was unable to attend the evening performance (a dinner for my sister's birthday took precedence). There is one more day when both productions are on offer. This is January 14 (a Saturday) when R&G is the matinee with Hamlet in the evening. Maybe we can plan on this for a group outing.

I'm not sure of this, but I believe that there is cross-casting with the same actors taking their same roles in both plays (although of course R and G are the main roles in one play and are minor characters in the other and vice versa with Hamlet, Claudius, and Gertrude). I suspect this because of the reaction of some members of the audience when R and G came out in Act II, scene 2. Unless they knew the play really well, I think the reaction was because they had seen the two actors already in these roles. Unfortunately, one of the lines cut from Hamlet (indeed the entire role of the speaker along with the whole Fortinbras subplot) was the English Ambassador at the end of the play saying "...Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead." This would probably have drawn a good audience reaction (maybe the director wanted to avoid it).

But probably the best thing about going to the Hilberry yesterday was the opportunity to go with my cousin Dana, now a freshman student at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY (she and her parents are now visiting here for Thanksgiving). I find to my delight that Dana is a budding Oxfordian. This is partly due to me, but I also have to give credit to one of her professors, Lary Opitz, the Chair of the Theater Department at Skidmore. I gather from Dana that he is partial to the Oxfordian theory and mentions it in class. She is now taking what sounds like a fascinating Freshman seminar called "Shakespeare was Jewish?" They are predominately studying Merchant of Venice, but are doing other things as well. I have asked Dana to send me information on this class (course syllabus, any handouts, etc) by E-mail when she gets home, so I might have more information on this later. I note that Professor Opitz is not yet listed as a signatory on the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt. Perhaps we can work on him a little (maybe he simply doesn't know about it).

I am looking forward to communicating with Dana in the future about Shakespeare and the Authorship Question. I am extremely sorry that I didn't know that she was so interested in these things (I had only had limited conversations with her when I used to visit her at her parent's house in Houston or see here in Michigan at holiday times) as she could have come to our last SOS/SF conference (which was only three hours away by car from where she is in school). Well, maybe she will want to visit her parents in Houston next November when the next Conference will be held.

Of course, I can't see Hamlet without being bombarded with the parallels with Oxford and how this play is so important in the whole Authorship Question. I won't go into any of it here now, but I do have to say that I can never help getting choked up when I hear Hamlet's last words (or almost last words) to Horatio: "...report me and my cause aright To the unsatisfied...what a wounded name (Things standing thus unknown) shall live behind me! If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, Absent thee from felicity awhile, And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, To tell my story" 

I am confident that, with the help of Dana and others of the "next generation", we will finally succeed in doing this.

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