June 16, 2019
Day 22: Reading Hamlet on Father’s Day….. hm….
I’m tired today and not just the usual tired. But rheumatoid arthritis tired. I seem to be having a bit of a flareup. I’m not a nice person anyway, but when I’m in pain, I’ve very snappish. I’d like to believe that something gets triggered in my brain that makes me act this way. I can’t seem to will myself to behave nicely. And no doubt, this gets worse as I get older. Something for my partner to look forward to!
I’ve never learned how to properly prepared for the dramatic changes in the weather that takes place in southern Oregon. It can rain on one side of the street. And when there is thunder and lightening during a snowstorm, you think the world is coming to an end. But in an hour, things change.
Anyway, I’m determined not to be cold at CSC today. So I’m dressed for Norway. i’m wearing a white turtleneck with a cotton sweater. But today it isn’t cold in there! ARGH!!! So why don’t you take off your sweater, Lue, one might ask? Because the only clean bra I had is black, and it will be seen through the thin white turtleneck I am wearing. Hoisted by my own petard! Finally, I understand that phrase.
For some reason, I ask the box office for the ticket to the seat next to mine. I think I wanted to give it to a friend, but Megan says to me that it isn’t available but that I will be pleased by who it is that will be sitting next to me. That’s intriguing. So I’m wracking the few brain cells that are functioning IN THIS HEAT about who it might be, when in walks my cousin Peter. I can assure that out of all the people in my world this is about as far-fetched a situation as there could be. I love my cousin Peter – I love all my cousins, in case they’re reading this – and this does indeed bring me great joy. The last time I saw him, I was telling him and his mother and father about the project, and they were curious but skeptical.
I’ve been trying to lure him to Oregon for years. “I’m coming,” he’d say. And then we’d go through this ritual the next time we would meet. How he ended up on 13th Street in Manhattan on Father’s Day is a typical Peter story: he just needed to get out of Dodge for a bit and his cousin Lue was the excuse. I’m fine with that.
We hug in the lobby and he says, “This is the one with ‘double, double, toil and trouble,’ right?” I reply, “Uhm, you have come to hear a famous play but this is the ‘to be or not to be’ one.” “Right,” he replies as he tries to find the Hamlet card in his mental rolodex. He is slyly quite astute and smart, so I’m not really fooled by this act. I’m quite interested to hear what he thinks about all this later.
It’s a really fine reading. I swear, if we can just follow the political machinations of these plays, we would be so much more relaxed to follow the personal journeys. Lisa has done a superb job making that Fortinbras storyline not only make sense but how it is woven into this family dynasty story. The simplest staging of the ghost works perfectly. Awok just walks across the space and then sits down. I can follow that in my mind’s eye.
My friend Raffi is reading Hamlet and was so pleased to have this opportunity. And maybe because it was Raffi and I knew how much it meant him, but I was very sad at the end when he died. I’m not always sad. And I think I should feel what the loss of that human being will mean to that society.
Translator Lisa Peterson was able to attend the reading (we always knew she wouldn’t be available for the rehearsal process) and in the talkback afterwards, she talked about her careful process. Each draft she would get bolder about changing things, and she said that this reading helped her assess where there might be some spots to chip away at.
My cousin tells me later that it was really interesting because of how clear it was. He too hadn’t quite understood what I meant by translation but he gets it now, and thinks it’s cool.
Before all this, there is TROILUS AND CRESSIDA to bring into the house. It is the beginning of what I am calling “the ick week.” Dave Hitz will say to me later that that probably isn’t a good term for marketing these plays. These are the gnarly, dark, nasty plays of the early 1600s. I don’t like to speculate too directly about an author’s biography showing up in their work, but you do have to wonder what was going on with Shakespeare in those early years of the 17thc. Yikes! These are dark plays.
The translator Lillian Groag, who is also directing the reading, thinks that one of the big themes in his plays is about how a centralized monarchy is a relatively new concept for the English. I mean, think about those 8 history plays, in which noblemen are constantly fighting over who should be king. The feudal aristocracy were resisting centralizing the monarchy, because it would diminish their power, and pocketbooks. It is the rising middle class that wants that stability.
It also seems that Shakespeare has a distaste for the mercantile class. One could draw that conclusion from The Merry Wives. And I have always felt that he has a nostalgia for the chivalric past. Hector’s challenge to Achilles is chivalric. What Achilles will do to Hector is not. There is always loss with gain. The world spins forward and things get discarded. The question is how fast should things spin forward. Sometimes destroying everything is the only way for change to happen. Sometimes change happens imperceptively and incrementally. But mostly I think the rules change in the middle of engagement. And I think Shakespeare dramatizes the outcome of those moments of shift.
Tomorrow: “What you, Will”