We open in a month, a little less than a month, a little month...
A little month, or ere those shoes were old, with which she followed my poor father's body, like Niobe all tears.
The little month line is one of my favorites, and a masterful examples of one of Jose Rivera's 36 assumptions about playwriting: "Each line of dialogue is like a piece of DNA; potentially containing the entire play and its thesis; potentially telling us the beginning, middle, and end of the play." Embedded in the little month line is a large question: do we move on, when do we move on, how long do we grieve, and what is left of us or of our grief? Niobe, following the death of her children, never ceased her tears; her weeping continued even after she turned to stone. And so she stands, a perpetual monument to grief. (Yes, there's a Twelfth Night allusion there.) The Niobe line also takes me to one of my other favorite plays in all of early modern drama, The Maid's Tragedy, in which Evadne vows: I will redeem one minute of my age, or like another Niobe I'll weep till I am water. Sigh. Hamlet does this to me; to be in Hamlet's presence is to associate far and wild and wide, as Hamlet's mind is like that and part of the thrill of the play is to be invited into such a noble mind. It's a whirlwind, and in a little month you're invited to the party! Wedding? Funeral? Wake? No matter. You should come. Tickets are available now and are offered at five different price points so you can pay what is affordable for you. Even better, Enso Theatre Ensemble is performing The Romeo and Juliet Project at Shaking the Tree for the three weeks prior to our opening. If you purchase a ticket to their show, you will receive a discount code for ours, and vice versa. So book your tickets now before they fly away.
Two kinds of time are on my mind: rehearsal time and the imagined-inferred timeline of each show.
From a rehearsal standpoint, we are nearing the halfway mark and things are about to accelerate. For the first half of the rehearsal process we have dropped in the text in as close to chronological order as we could achieve with everyone's schedules. This means we have moved at a delicious and deliberate pace - eye to eye, breath to breath - letting the language reveal our hearts to us. Dropping in is a technique developed by Shakespeare & Co. that replaces table work with a kinetic experience of text in which actors are asked a string of questions which the director and their assistant(s) are improvising so that a twofold free association is going on: that of the person asking the questions, and that of the performer answering them. The key is that the answer is expressed on the word, and so everyone receives a rich and varied hearing of the words, words, words that are our primary materials in these stories. Now the next set of concerns are upon us - movement, props, music etc.
Often in rehearsal the time-line has come up. How many months from Hamlet's funeral to Gertrude's wedding to the play within the play? How many weeks has Feste been roaming, and how long since Olivia's brother's death at the start of Twelfth Night? How long has Sebastian been in Antonio's care when he decides to set off on his own and explore Illyria?
The exact answer to each does not matter; it is more relative time and the attitude of the play toward time. Hamlet takes time. He had to get home from his studies at Wittenberg to attend the funeral, though the wedding apparently took place that same weekend (should we decide to trust his narration.) He then in a matter of days meets the Ghost, pens a new scene for the Murder of Gonzago, breaks his girlfriend's heart, and murders her father. And then he is sent off to England to be executed on the order of his uncle. Of course, that does not come to pass. Still, he does go abroad, and one feels he is gone rather a long time, as the Hamlet who returns is so transformed from the Hamlet who ventured forth. The sense of time in Hamlet is part of the play's power; time is so measured and rational, an order built upon fundamentals of the natural world, and yet our experience of it is so subjective, emotional--indeed, out of joint. In Twelfth Night time is more compressed, but not to the point of continuous action. We have talked a lot about island time, about a small community in mourning where life has been put on pause by Olivia's observance. Just as the aftermath of death is a force that slows time down, love is a force that speeds it up, that disrupts all order so that love's night is noon. Time is also circular; it comes round setting things aright--or as Feste would put it, "and thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges."
No wonder one of the songs on my playlist is Bob Dylan's Oh, Sister with the amazing line - "time is an ocean but it ends at the shore, you may not see me tomorrow." Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. Oh wait, wrong play, though that one certainly is on our minds as we progress through Hamlet. Opening night may not be tomorrow, but it will come soon and when it comes, we will be ready. See you then.