Sunday, July 26, 2009

King Byron, and the Clown

The Hamlet Tour started a week ago, and has eaten my life. Not to mention last weekend my sister and parents came up to see Geoff do "The Winter's Tale," which turned out to be amazing in ways that I will write about later because I'm still processing my thoughts about him and his experience.

Hamlet @ The Orfeo TheatreTomorrow is our last day of the run. Final two shows. I will not be scheduling 12 gigs for "Twelfth Night" in August.

Heck, I would rather just schedule 8... fewer shows, better audiences, methinks. Anyway.

This experience has been rough on the kids, and me, and our director, and the parents. And while it is a relief that it is coming to an end, there are some amazing memories already and we're not done yet. We had one show where 1000 people were there, and we had another show where there were mostly parents and 5 "strangers," who were friends of Hamlet's Grandma.

Lots of ups and downs, lots of chaos, lots of amazing amazingness. The kids are growing more and more comfortable in their roles as the run goes on. Our gravedigger scene is usually very very funny, but today's show took it to another level that leaked into Ophelia's death scene and had audience members laughing hysterically when they should be crying for Laertes and our poor Hamlet was watching me trying not to laugh and she almost lost it. Good times, gooooood times.

We have two Hamlets switching back and forth, and a 90 minute cut and a 2.5 hour cut. We did the 90 minute cut in locations that required it -- performing with the Orfeo Group Theatre, Arlington Massachusetts' Shakespeare in the Park festival, and at the Park where we did Romeo and Juliet last year.

Tomorrow we do the show twice, both are 2.5 hour shows, so each Hamlet gets to go off with his or her big role in big fashion.

Jess had two friends from school who joined our merry wanderers this year, Byron and Nick. They were cast in rather huge roles for kids who had no experience in the company, but they both had plenty of experience in theatre at High School and other programs... Byron is Claudius the usurper uncle aunt mother father king, and Nick is Laertes, with a heavy Revere Massachusetts accent. Both of them have been so incredibly good in their roles that I cannot imagine anyone better for them, and I am so glad that they joined up.

Our last show is on Jess, Byron and Nick's home turf, and I am truly hoping that their friends and family turn out en force with a vengeance and we have a bazillion people on hand.

If you're in Boston, southern NH, wherever ... our last two shows are Haverhill and Andover and details/directions are here. Maybe try and come?

The weather played unfairly with us on Tuesday and Thursday, but today mother nature made up for her meanness by giving us an amazing day on the Boston Harbor Islands. A huge crowd, enthusiastic, amazing... and we had a great day. Today wins. Today we came in first at awesome and having fun. I'm still smiling from how awesome the day was... amazing.

Unlike last year, I am not going to do a full write up of each show. Instead, I will share these gems.

At Arlington, I spent a lot of time watching from afar and didn't take a lot of photos. I sat way high up on the hill, with the masses, and watched the players tiny on this large field with this amazing view of Boston behind them. Huge puffy white clouds, vivid green grass. The contrast to the content of the text and setting was evident and to some unnerving (like the critic from the Arlington Paper who couldn't quite deal with that juxtaposition) or invigorating (to the cast, and to me).

Before the fencing duel, I went down to the front of the house and sat down amongst a gaggle of little 6-9 year old girls who had abandoned their families to go down right in the very front. I had my camera handy, and they gathered close and whispered little questions. They knew exactly what was going on. They knew one foil was poisoned and were trying to guess which one. "Who has it? I bet it's the red one. But NO! Hamlet has it!"

They were totally making me smile. "Oh no. The king put something in that wine glass and the queen took it! She drank it!" the girls all gasped, and our Gertrude, Zoe, for a moment looked fine as she mopped her son's brow. Laertes swiped Hamlet's back, our Hamlet being Mia that day... and the girls said "he cheated! He did it to guarantee Hamlet would be poisoned!"

I was impressed. They totally knew the story and the score.

Our fencing duel raged on, and Hamlet gets Laertes' sword and swipes him. Laertes confesses, the queen falls, and the girls say "oh no... the queen is dead? So who will be queen now?!"

Hamlet is told he is poisoned, he kills Claudius and dies.

"Now, who is king? Now who is queen?" they asked. We cut out Fortinbras and ended the show with Horatio holding Hamlet and saying "Good night sweet prince..." So I told them what happened after the play ended and they had a lot of questions about how these things would be. What happened to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? (We basically cut that out of the 90 minute version too, because really... who cares!)

One of the moms talked to some other girls and asked what they thought of the show. "I loved Hamlet! A girl can do ANYTHING!" one exclaimed.

That's right, baby.

MJLee 22 We also performed with the Salem parks and rec department in their summer camp program. The 90 minute version of the play with our Frazier Hamlet as star.

There were three or four boys right up front the whole time, and they'd ask me questions like "why she crazy?" which cracked me up. They hung on every word. We took an intermission as the local food pantry provides lunch to the kids each day. I walked around and asked the kids, "so, do you get it? Do you know what's happening so far?" and we talked about the play, the ghost the uncle usurper, and one said "who cares if the uncle married the queen, doesn't Hamlet get the throne ANYway because he's the king's son???" So we talked about succession, deceit, cheating, and why Hamlet had a good reason to be pissed.

They loved the swordfight, and at the end, they came to me and said "can we go talk to them?" meaning, my actors. "Can we?"

Yes. go talk to them!

They bolted over and were jumping up and down "Aw mannnnnnn! Wicked! You were AMAZING!" Dancing all around them and freaking out.

Our kids then conducted a workshop with the park and rec kids. There was another group from a theatre summer camp at a local private school who brought 14 girls to the show. So they all joined in and our kids did a bunch of warm up exercises, vocal exercises and other games.

MJLee Everyone

All the kids had a blast and humored me long enough to allow a photo of all three groups together. Before they left, three girls from the theatre camp that came to visit thanked me and one of them started crying. "I loved the play, and I loved that workshop. Thank you so much for doing this for us."

You're welcome. You have no idea how happy this makes me. I gave her a huge hug, and asked her not to cry or she'd make me cry. And they went on their way.

I think that even if there were not 1000 people at one of the shows, that if all we did was make that one girl cry, or the one little boy from the Salem parks in the white T-shirt jump up and down with that much joy, honey. We done good.

The Winter's TaleAnd on that note, Geoff and Doug leave in the morning for Scout Camp. I don't know what I'm doing with Geoff AFTER he gets back... so I do need to get that all figured out.

I will share this one photo with you of him from his performance in The Winter's Tale.

He played Clown, the son of the Shepherd who finds Perdita on the beach. He is getting pick pocketed by Autolycus here, played wonderfully by the boy who played our Henry V last year... Jackson.

Geoff is usually rather tactile-averse. He doesn't like to be touched, so to have THIS happen, this to me is amazing. I cannot believe that they got him to go for this, and not run screaming out of the scene. He had such a rough start to camp this year, and it was hard for him and me, and his teachers. But the end result was some comedy that no one will forget. Especially me, his old mum.

On that note, I'm off to check laundry, shirts, bags, etc... and get things ready to get going.

I will try and write more this week now that I have a lull in the action. Thanks for abiding, my friends.

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