“Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. You must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. Suit the action to the word, and the word to the action…” – Hamlet
Hamlet’s advice to the players holds some extra weight this week, as we ready ourselves for a two-weekend run of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Fenwick Theatre. I think I speak for the cast when I say that we are nervous, excited and eager to make our debut on Mount Saint James. We hope that these seven performances will serve as a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the performing arts at Holy Cross and, perhaps a bit self-indulgently, months of hard work on the part of our cast.
Our time with Hamlet began shortly before winter break. We auditioned on Friday, December 4th in Fenwick Theatre with two prepared Shakespearean soliloquies of our choice. Professor Isser released the cast-list on the following Monday, and we were asked to have all our lines memorized upon our return to campus for the spring semester. Admittedly, I’ve never been the best at memorizing lines – many fellow cast-members and former stage-managers would fervently agree – so I welcomed the additional time to get “off-book.”
Rehearsals began in February, and we have been in continual practice ever-since. The Hamlet rehearsal-process has been a joy – I can’t imagine tackling a play of this gravity without the countless number of laughs supplied by our delightful company. Rehearsals are intense, enlightening, sometimes frustrating, and frequently repetitive (Professor Isser’s favorite thing to say is: “so let’s do it one more time, except why don’t you try it like this…”) however, through this repetition, we gradually grew into the show and found some comfort in Shakespeare’s language.
We were lucky enough to take a brief respite from rehearsal when we performed at the Hanover Theatre on March 31st. The audience of 1600 high school students proved to be an excellent crowd. They cheered the death of characters they didn’t like (guess who), they laughed at elements of our modernization, and (hopefully) enjoyed themselves. We came away re-energized for the home stretch, and anxious to perform for our friends and families at Holy Cross.
Since then, we have been busy putting on the finishing touches for our home stage. We have added video-projections, light, sound, and made some last-minute discoveries about the play and our characters. We’re all ready – now we just need an audience…
If you’ve never seen a Shakespeare play before, leave your expectations with your torn ticket stub at the door to the theatre. Even if you’ve seen Hamlet fifty times, it may be in your best interest to do the same. We are performing a condensed, modernized, fast-paced imagining of Hamlet that aims to grab your attention for “two hours traffic on stage,” and not let go. If you leave thinking, “what the heck did I just watch,” then we did our job.
Hopefully we’ll see you at some point over the next two weeks, and thanks for reading.
– Erik Schneider ’16 (King Claudius in the Holy Cross Theatre Department’s production of Hamlet)
Hamlet is directed by Edward Isser and runs April 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, and 23 at 8 p.m. in the Fenwick Theatre. Tickets are available to the Holy Cross community for $10 and $15 for the general public and can be purchased by calling the Fenwick Box Office at (508) 793-2496 or online at http://HolyCrossHamlet.