Teresa’s Weekly Update: Prince Of Denmark Edition

by Teresa Eyring

in Fall Forum,Meet the Members,Weekly Update

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I’d like to call your attention to a resource now posted on the TCG website. One of the very popular sessions at our National Conference in June was a series of “Manifestos,” which were delivered by artists, administrators, researchers and politicians. These brief speeches, based on the four topic areas of the Conference: Race and Gender, the Arts Learning Continuum, Artists and Artistry and the Creative Ecology, were complemented by presentations of relevant case studies. This case study, from anthropologist Robbie Blinkoff (who spoke at the Fall Forum on Governance this past weekend), is a place to start, but I suggest you take time to view the other videos.

We’ve just ended a busy weekend at our annual Fall Forum on Governance, (if you are on Twitter, you can view the Fall Forum proceedings at #TCGFF) which is followed today by the TCG board meeting—our first of the fiscal year. We also had a number of visitors last week. Thanks to La Jolla Playhouse and the Cleveland Play House for stopping by the office to participate in our “Meet the Members” program (#meetmems). Among other things, we learned about some innovative programmatic ideas being developed at La Jolla, as well as the exciting and collaborative new building project in Cleveland.

The “Scottish Play” is the inspiration for Kurosawa’s film, Throne of Blood, which, in turn, is the inspiration for Ping Chong Company’s theatrical production of Throne of Blood at BAM—which opened last week and was developed with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I’ve also been thinking about Hamlet lately as I seem to have amassed a bit of a “Hamlet experience” over the last couple of years. It started with an extraordinary production from Israel’s Cameri Theatre that was presented by the Cleveland Play House in 2008. Many Hamlets later—on Broadway, in Central Park, at the Wooster Group and beyond—I came across this quote, fragment No. 455, in David Shields’ book, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto:

Hamlet, dying, says, “If I had the time, I would tell you all.” The entire play is the Hamlet Show, functioning as a vehicle for Hamlet to give his opinion on everything and anything, as Nietzsche does in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The play could easily be broken up into little sections with headings like “Hamlet on Friendship,” “Hamlet on Sexual Fidelity,” “Hamlet on Suicide,” “Hamlet on Grave Diggers,” Hamlet on the Afterlife.” Hamlet is, more than anything else, Hamlet talking on a multitude of different topics. (Melville’s marginal comment on one of the soliloquies in the play: “Here is forcibly shown the great Montaigneism of Hamlet.”) I find myself wanting to ditch the tired old plot altogether and just harness the voice, which is a processing machine, taking input and spitting out perspective—a lens, a distortion effect. Hamlet’s very nearly final words: “Had I but the time… O, I could tell you.” He would keep riffing forever if it weren’t for the fact that the plot needs to kill him.

I’ve often thought this is one of the many reasons that the role of Hamlet is tricky to play well. The speeches can create a sort of jarring discontinuity to the action. I shared this thought with Michael Halberstam of Writers’ Theatre, who had a great response: “In my opinion, Hamlet’s great dilemma is that from the minute his father’s ghost tells him he has to revenge his murder, he knows that he is almost certainly going to die in the attempt. He spends the rest of the play trying to avoid that inevitability. Claudius is seemingly strong, popular, and in the first couple of acts, at least, to all appearances, a good king. If Hamlet accuses him without evidence, he will be ridiculed and quickly dispatched: ‘A ghost told me….’ If he tries to kill Claudius outright, he will, in turn, be killed by those loyal to the King. Also, he doesn’t really WANT to kill anyone. It’s not really in his nature.” What do you think?