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Acting Naturally

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Synopsis of On Shakespeare

I am next cast as The Player in Tom Stoppard's incredible classic: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. This original play (and movie) is set in and through Shakespeare's Hamlet. Which naturally brings up the question: have you done any Shakespeare before, and if not, why not? I explore the special challanges of doing The Bard in this chapter.

Excerpt from On Shakespeare

For starters, I feel you have to be really good to handle a role in a Shakespearean play. I have a bit of experience under my belt, but not enough yet. I know now that I can memorize lines fairly easily, but most of these lines have been in normal conversational English, not the antiquated vocabulary and cadence of Elizabethan England. It would almost seem like memorizing a show's worth of gibberish (and these plays are so long! - 3 or 4 Acts, written to take up an entire afternoon).

I don't know any of the plays well enough to do anything other than start from scratch. John Gielgud, when he directed Richard Burton in Hamlet in 1965, knew every word for every character in the entire play. He caught every line that was left out or delivered incorrectly, no matter whose line it was. All the actors, in fact, were fairly versed in their roles before rehearsals even began, and they were off book within two weeks. I simply don't have that experience.

No, Shakespeare is to American Theatre, as the NFL is to college football - you have to have paid your dues and mastered all the fine points of the game before you're ready for the big leagues. It will be some years yet before I'm ready to "go pro."


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