The Fun in Dysfunctional

Thursday, February 26, 2009

posted by Britannie Bond, A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2009

As I am writing this, I am finalizing a mix tape for Jack Willis. Who knew we had eerily similar music tastes? Yesterday, Sharon Lockwood brought all the girls in the cast homemade scones individually wrapped in foil accompanied by lemon curd and butter. And Bob Ernst can usually be caught practicing tai chi in costume and always has a good story or joke for the dressing room.

Philistines is a play full of philosophies, failures, hopes, loneliness, rebellion, suicide attempts, and samovars. Every moment in the play is activated by some sort of argument—most often familial and tense—leading toward someone or something’s destruction. But throughout the rehearsal process and currently backstage during Philistines we’ve learned how to put the fun in dysfunctional.

A cast mate has analogized changing in our dressing room at Zeum to having seven people change in a phone booth simultaneously. But the lack of a proper green room, or for that matter an actual full wall between the men and women’s dressing rooms, has actually made us cozier, closer, more open. The ladies throw extra snacks across to the gentlemen. We hear all the boys’ jokes and umm, well . . . other breaths of wind . . . and the men certainly are keen to the ladies' crushes as we gush over trashy magazines while we put our hair in curlers. We make the best of the tight space. Sharing musical interests, scones, and stories. And I think it would be nearly impossible to perform these often heartbreaking and immensely vulnerable scenes onstage without such a generous and close knit ensemble backstage. A family, if you will.

I always thought I knew what the word ensemble in relation to theater meant, but then I came to graduate school and really learned how it works. Philistines marks the last show of the M.F.A. Program for more than half my classmates and me after more than three years together, 12 hours a day 6 days a week, over 12 rehearsal processes and productions. After spending that much time together working mostly as one group, we know each other’s acting habits, secrets, and personal quirks, and how each takes his/her coffee. We argue and joke just like a family and always have a fiercely fun time onstage together.

And I feel the class of 2009 has added some new family members while working on Philistines with the A.C.T. core acting company and colleagues. I’ve sat in the audience of the American Conservatory (Geary) Theater and admired these well-seasoned and talented actors for the past three years, and now I get to “play ball” (to quote Jack Willis) with them every night. There might be a generational battle of philosophies and beliefs onstage, but there couldn’t be more of a blurred line between the M.F.A. actors and A.C.T. company members backstage. Of course Jack, Sharon, and Bob have all shared acting advice with us, but they have also shared personal advice, as well—ranging from keeping a family together while being a working actor to which organic honey is best and where to find it in town.

The family in Philistines may be at each other’s dogmatic throats over the course of the four-act play, but this cast feels more like home to me, onstage and off.

The Mysterious and the Sublime: Getting to Know Florence Foster Jenkins

Friday, February 20, 2009

posted by Lesley Gibson, Publications & Literary Intern

Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins opened earlier this week. It’s a lovely show, and audiences are going absolutely mad for it. It features Judy Kaye as Florence Foster Jenkins, a tone-deaf Manhattan society dame who, in the 1930s and ’40s, genuinely fancied herself a great coloratura soprano. The play chronicles the trajectory of her 12-year “career” through the eyes of her simultaneously wise, protective, and horrified accompanist, Cosme McMoon (played by Donald Corren), and culminates in a theatrical re-enactment of the infamous, sold-out recital Mme Jenkins gave at Carnegie Hall, in which Judy Kaye miraculously works her way through a series of awe-inspiring costumes in a matter of minutes, including this number. What’s not to like?

I saw the opening night performance on Wednesday, which was fun but a little surreal for me personally, not because of anything that actually happened in the performance, but because of my history with the characters and the world of the play (or at least, the world as I had imagined it). My work in the publications department at A.C.T. lends itself to a very strange and wonderful distance from the work that happens onstage. Because of our print deadlines, we generally finish our work on any given play about a month before the live show opens. For Souvenir, in early January I had a brief and captivating relationship with the mysteries behind the characters in this show when I was assigned to write accurate profiles for the real-life Florence Foster Jenkins and Cosme McMoon. I found myself, in an attempt to uncover the facts about these people who had a brief brush with fame 60 years ago, fairly close to crossing the line into investigative reporting (or so I keep telling myself). A hard-hitting journalist, if you will, digging deep, uncovering the lost treasures of a time and place that existed before the internet (inconceivable!).

What I eventually discovered was that, though everyone seems to know about Florence Foster Jenkins, she has become, in the 60 years that have elapsed since her death, a somewhat mythical figure. She was never a real celebrity or even a notable musician of merit, but more a confection for the Manhattan elite, a comic gem among those in the know. As for poor Cosme, his entire identity had been all but erased by posterity, as most of my sources claimed “Cosme McMoon” was an alias for a rotating series of pianists who accompanied Mme Jenkins but were ashamed to be associated with her.

Throughout this process, a surprising and random collection of sources came forward. I found an elderly journalist who, in his early 20s, had lunched with Mme Jenkins before one of her recitals (he told me she politely asked him to send her flowers for her curtain call). My investigative partner, A.C.T. Publications & Literary Associate Dan Rubin, developed a friendship with Florence Foster Jenkins’s one and only documentarian, Donald Collup, who led him to a grand-nephew of Cosme, Mark McMunn. Between these sources I was able to put the missing pieces together, as surprising revelations about both Mme Jenkins and Cosme were uncovered—including a photograph taken in the late 1970s of Cosme posing with a young, precelebrity Arnold Schwarzenegger (generously oiled and wearing nothing but a Speedo), to which, in a great tragedy of the publications department, we were unable to secure the reprint rights. But we also found this: Florence Foster Jenkins’s recording of The Queen of the Night’s famously treacherous aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Not quite Judy Kaye, but sublime in another way, and complex enough to make me wonder if we’ll ever figure out who Mme Jenkins really was.

What Would Freud Say?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

posted by Edward Budworth, A.C.T. Group Sales
and Linda Lagemann, Ph.D.

“Sweeney Todd has revenge issues.”
“Hedda Gabler suffers from an Electra complex.”
“Maggie the Cat is in heavy denial.”

Since Sigmund is no longer around to comment on the characters in dramatic literature, A.C.T. started a program called Theater on the Couch to explore the inherent neuroses, psychoses, and downright insanity that afflict some of our favorite icons of the stage.

The idea for Theater on the Couch came to us when representatives of the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis (then known as the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute & Society) attended a performance of Eve Ensler’s The Good Body at A.C.T. in the spring of 2004. We hit it off immediately and began thinking of ways our two institutions could collaborate. A.C.T. regularly offers audience discussions with actors, playwrights, directors, designers, etc., so why not, we figured, add psychoanalysts to the mix and have a discussion about the psychological issues of the characters in the play and the psychology of the group experience? It was a natural fit. The psychoanalysts bring another layer of thought that stimulates and engages the audience in lively discussion.

Our first Theater on the Couch was after a performance of a wonderful production, Well, by Lisa Kron. The show deals with physical well-being and family dysfunction, a hotbed of topics! When we came out onstage we were amazed to see upwards of 250 people in the audience ready to join us on our maiden voyage. It was a great beginning, but we had some learning to do to make it a truly interactive experience. We found that the gulf that naturally exists when the panelists are onstage under stage lights inhibited some people from commenting and asking questions. As a trial we moved the discussion to the theater’s downstairs lounge, known as Fred’s Columbia Room. While we sacrificed in terms of the size of audience we could accommodate, the move afforded us a more relaxed atmosphere, and there was a more direct connection between the panel and the audience. Discussions have been energetic! The audience gets so comfortable and eager to participate that they spontaneously respond to each other and interact with the experts.

The psychoanalysts have led discussions on a wide range of themes involving the psychology of the characters, the playwright, and the audience experience. The discussion of Curse of the Starving Class, by Sam Shepard, delved into family dynamics and the theme of psychic malnutrition—the parents do not have the psychological/nurturing goods to give their children (for example, the refrigerator in the play is perpetually empty). As a result the children are psychically malformed; they are not equipped to deal with the reality of their situation; they replicate their parents; and the only way to differentiate is through escape fantasies. Though the play left some feeling bleak, the real hope is manifest in the reality of the playwright who transformed his personal experience through writing.

In discussing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the analysts noted that cannibalism is a primal fear that shows up in infantile phobias (the monster under the bed) and popular fairy tales that include the fear of being devoured (e.g. “Hansel and Gretel” and “Little Red Riding Hood”). This anxiety is a factor in our psychic life and theater provides a cultural ritual where, as an audience, we come together and in the safety of numbers and with the help of the playwright using humor and song, we are able to transform a primal terror into something manageable. The horror of a cannibalistic mother is turned comic via Mrs. Lovett, in perverse domesticity, merrily baking human meat pies.

Interest in Theater on the Couch has snowballed. Not only has it received national recognition (in three publications), locally, we are proud to say, we have “groupies” who attend all of the discussions. It’s great to hear someone say they enjoyed the play more after participating in the discussion, or that their family is going through the same issues and that seeing the play and hearing the panel gave them new insights into the problem. Our Hall of Comedy favorite comment came in the discussion of Edward Albee’s The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? when a gentleman said, “In my country this practice [relations with goats] is so common the play would be meaningless.” We take great satisfaction in knowing that we present a program that enhances the audience’s theater experience, entertains, and at times really touches and enlightens people.

We hope you will join us for our next two Theater on the Couch discussions this season: following the performances of Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins on Friday, February 20, and At Home at the Zoo on Friday, June 19.

Lagemann, Freud, and Budworth

Playing Teaches Us the Game

Thursday, February 12, 2009

posted by Mark Jackson

When Beth Wilmurt and I were in Germany a couple of years ago, she had an idea for a show about the question as to what extent an individual’s survival and identity are dependent on one another and other people.

The show would explore this question through a kind of abstracted vaudeville world. There would be a washed-up solo Headliner endlessly repeating his long-since-perfected act, and a Duo struggling to create their perfect act. We played with the idea for a couple of weeks at Mime Centrum Berlin, where we were in residence. Now we’re exploring it further here at A.C.T. in a two-week workshop with M.F.A. Program students, A.C.T. Associate Artist Jud Williford, and sound designer Jake Rodriguez.

The goal of the two weeks was to solidify the question, anchor, and structure of the piece. Precisely what about identity and survival is the piece asking? Are the Headliner and the Duo indeed the right anchor for the piece, or should there be more characters? How much should we hew to and diverge from traditional vaudeville structures?

To get answers, in our first week we generated a heap of material with the students, and in our second week, Beth, Jud, Jake, and I worked together to pull from that heap an assemblage of what the show might look like. Whether any of the material we create in the two weeks eventually makes it into the final piece is another matter. The main thing is to clarify what exactly the piece is trying to do, and how.

The work with the students was very exciting and brought up new questions. The tower of possibilities kept growing. Although it felt a bit overwhelming at times, things also became gradually clearer. Now we have a much stronger sense of what is and what isn’t “vaudeville” in terms of structure, subject matter, and performance style. This has given us a better sense of our desired aesthetic, in which we want to smear vaudeville, blur the line between off stage and on, blend past and contemporary aesthetics, and confuse conscious and subconscious events.

In terms of the piece’s form, we’re looking for an expression rather than an illustration. Instead of any linear, literal sense of narrative realism, we’re looking for something that follows the logic of one’s inner life, emotions, and dreams. Dreams have dramatic arcs without relying on consciously conceived notions of plot, dramatic structure, unity of time and place, etcetera. The seemingly chaotic logic of the subconscious arranges recognizable images, sounds, and dramaturgical structures in ways that make them unrecognizable, even jarring. Dreams leave mysterious gaps, and when we wake up we’re fascinated by these gaps and struggle to understand them.

This is what we want to create for our audience, something that compels them to engage in a struggle to understand not only what the piece is but how it’s played out. The form is the content, and the content is the form.

Toward this end, the material the students generated was wildly eclectic. A musical comedy blurred into a suicidal tragedy, and we felt afraid of this dark turn. A duo’s discombobulated, rambling fragments of an argument devolved into a bittersweet love song that brought tears to our eyes. We watched with a mix of disgust and delight as an unnerving masked figure had a questionable sexual encounter with a teddy bear and gave birth to a tennis ball, which a lost magician, tangled in a rope, then struggled to juggle and in doing so managed to free, and find, himself.

Wha-?! We don’t understand it either. But there are times when we can point to what’s happening onstage and say, “There! That’s it!” We’ll worry about understanding it later. For now it’s enough to feel that sudden spark of excitement when our guts recognize a truthful, human moment—despite the failure of our intellects to make logic of it. Logic is for sissies anyway. In the long run, it’s mystery that makes us stronger.

In a way, our process is to play our game first and learn its rules second. The playing teaches us the game. By starting with only a fragment of an idea, we’re doing together what playwrights usually do alone. Working alone, playwrights become alcoholics. Working together, we become lost, found, stuck, free, and more of who we are. It’s a slow, mysterious, at times uncomfortable process, and in the end the most rewarding because the work is inevitably more organic, specific, surprising, and exhilarating.

What exactly this work will eventually be remains to be discovered. So, back to Studio 8G we go.

Love the One You’re With

Thursday, February 5, 2009

posted by Mary Birdsong, Rich and Famous cast member

Let’s face it—we live in a time in which one of the most prized possessions can be an autograph, preferably of someone rich and/or famous. Want an autographed football with the signatures of the entire Pittsburgh Steelers team? No problem. It’ll run you about $3,000 on eBay. But if you don’t have that kind of money lying around, and want something a bit . . . sexier, how about a Tomb Raider movie card with Angelina Jolie’s autograph? That’ll run you a mere $389.99. (Do you think Miss Jolie feels insecure when she sees that she can barely fetch 10% of what the Steelers can? Don’t feel bad, Angie. Even Chuck Heston only grabs $50.00 for his autographed movie card, and he played Moses for criminy’s sake! He parted the Red Sea!!! What seas have YOU ever parted, Angie? Hmm? What about a lake? Ever parted a lake? No? All right then, how about a fjord? Hmmm? No? No. I didn’t think so. So stop your belly-achin’.)
If the thrill of obtaining an autograph on the internet makes people giddy with fame-phoria, just imagine what it would feel like to get that autograph in PERSON! Imagine thrusting a plain white index card into the talented hands of your favorite thespian or athlete and demanding that they sign it for you, then watching in real time as they put pen to paper and prove that they’re at least smart enough to write their name. Now that would be something to write home about, or at least blog about.

Girl, are you in luck. What if I told you that Angelina is singing the entire Gershwin canon at an intimate cabaret venue in the Castro? Wouldn’t that be something? Yeah.

Well, that ain’t happenin’. But! Even though the four-person cast of John Guare’s Rich and Famous may not be either rich OR famous, we have something else going for us. We’re here. We’re willing. It puts me in mind of a lyric from the Stephen Stills song:

“If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with. Love the one you’re with. Love the one you’re with. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo. Doo doo doo. Doo doo doo.”

I just wrote “doo doo.” Like… a hundred times. Hee hee hee.

And if it’s autographs you’re seeking, I’m pretty sure that all of us in the cast can write our names. In fact, I don’t wanna brag, but I have notoriously excellent penmanship. Yeah, I know. It’s pretty cool. I try to downplay it a lot because I don’t want the common folk to feel bad when they see me signing an autograph using my near perfect “Palmer Method” technique with my just-sharpened #2. Seriously, don’t get down on yourself if you don’t have this gift. And it is a gift. I can’t take credit for my neat handwriting. It’s just something the good Lord graced me with I guess. Do you think it’s great acting chops that helped me get ahead in this business of show? Nope. Good looks? Unh unh. Hilarious comic timing? Nah. It’s penmanship. Or as we postfeminist feminists like to call it: penchickship. There was no audition required for me to be cast in the awesome roles I get to do in this show. I simply had to take a written exam. I had to write my own name, and the name of each of the five characters I play (Leanara, Veronica Gulpp-Vestige, Allison, Mom, and the “Lookalike.”) Needless to say, I aced it. I’m awesome.

Anyway, for all of you seeking autographs of the “rich and famous,” I’m afraid you’re shit out of luck. But what would you say if I told you it’s very likely that you could get four autographs of the “financially solvent and occasionally recognizable?” I thought so.

To ensure certain success, here are a few pointers . . .

1) Do your homework—no actor can resist a fan who is familiar with specific roles we’ve played. The more obscure the reference the better. So before approaching an actor, do yourself a favor and Google them. Then lie about how much you loved us in X, Y, and Z. Even if we know you’re lying we’ll still love you for it.

2) Tell us you came from very far away just to see us. (Even if very far away to you means you came from Chinatown. That counts. You don’t have to give us specifics. Distance is so relative. Maybe you have really short legs.)

3) If you don’t have a program for an actor to sign, print something out from the internet with our picture on it, preferably from several years ago. We’ll get distracted by how thin we looked back then and sign anything you want us to.

4) Get in on the ground floor. Think of this like playing the stock market. Buy low, sell high. If you spot someone who has that je ne sais quoi (or someone who is just plain HOT), but is not yet famous, go for it. Chances are that if you wait long enough, their ship might come in, and won’t YOU be sitting pretty if it DO?
All of the above tips are primarily for approaching an actor at the stage door of a live theater event, where autograph requests are expected and encouraged. Amateur stuff, really. Almost anyone can get one there. But to get a celebrity scribble elsewhere, you’ll need to develop your fan “technique.” Very important. These are best used when spotting an actor outside of, say, the American Conservatory Theater (our natural habitat). Let’s say you spot one of us in the snack food aisle of the CALA Foods supermarket grazing for Wheat Thins, or buying a round of “last call” drinks at the Hi-Tide bar for a grateful but leery college soccer team. What to do? How to best approach these local thespians without scaring them, or worse . . . having them hit on you in an embarrassing and transparent manner to the point of needing a restraining order?

It’s not unheard of (even in this celeb-saturated age) for actors, as a group, to be described as animals. Beasts! And since I am an actor, I couldn’t agree more. Best to approach us with the stealthy precision that one would employ while sneaking up on a wild animal. Let’s take Brooks Ashmanskas for example. Think of him as a rabid hyena. Is he famous? No. Rich? No. But he does play the lead role in Rich and Famous. (Brooks has also appeared to great comic effect in several Broadway shows, and was recently nominated for a Tony Award for his work in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me. If the Broadway community is high school, Brooks serves as its class clown.) He thumbs his nose at the fame game constantly. He claims to want to just act. But I know better. He wants you to ask for his autograph. Approach him gingerly. Sidle up to the bar (I mean, uh . . . to wherever he happens to be) as if you don’t even see him, then do a sort of modern-day double take and ask him if he is Ethan Hawke.If you are attractive he will most certainly say yes. If not, he’ll probably still say yes. DO NOT BELIEVE HIM! DO NOT FALL FOR IT! IT’S A TRAP! Once you have inflated his ego, then very excitedly say, “Oh my God, wait . . . now I know! You’re the star of Rich and Famous! I love your work!!! I love everything you’ve ever done ever ever ever and I think you are the most attractive and talented person I have ever met in my entire life ever! I especially loved you as . . . Bob Fosse and Tommy Tune in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, which played the Curran Theatre in 2006, for which you received a Tony nomination!” (See what I did there? I employed the tried and true Googlefication tool.) Then tell him he looks shockingly thin, and manly to the point of being intimidating. If that fails, buy him two Tanqueray and tonics, give him a couple of cigarettes, and tell him your favorite dish is “Nana’s Chicken and Prunes” (pronounced with a B, as in “Brunes”). Just trust me on that last bit. You will get your autograph. And if you have not yet seen the show, go. All I can say is that there are few actors that can keep an audience laughing even when he is in the wings. His offstage vomiting bit alone is worth the admission price.

Stephen De Rosa is a different animal altogether . . .
(Stephen is doing his best Billie Holiday impression.)

He requires very little manipulation or trickery. Think of him as a puppy. Or a bunny rabbit. Or the family hamster. No technique necessary here. Just say “Excuse me, do you have the time?” He will tell you what time it is not only in your time zone, but in Eastern Standard Time, Central, and yes, even Mountain Time. Then he will ask in an adorably desperate voice if you want his autograph. You could say no thanks, but then again, it’s a nutty business . . . and you never know what can happen to launch ANY of us animals into superstardom at any moment. Just think—you can get in on the ground floor! (Remember? Tip #4?) I have a theory that Mr. DeRosa is gonna be HUGE when he is 73. He is gonna explode! You will thank me some day. You will. I mean . . . have you seen him play Anatol Torah, the charismatic composer in Rich and Famous? He is unbelievably good. What I admire is his ability to play a role and be big, deep, insane, hilarious, dark, and truthful all at the same time. The way he does jokes is no joke. And his portrayal of “Dad” will break your heart while it squeezes laughs with every tug on your ticker.

Gregory Wallace is a tough one to tap for his John Hancock.
He has a cloaking device and can become invisible whenever he so chooses. Fans here in San Francisco have been admiring his work for so long that he seems to exude a certain Madeline Kahn,“I’m tired of being admired. I’m bored of being adored!” attitude. The only thing that I think might work to draw him closer to you to obtain an autograph is to flash something sparkly in front of him. It needn’t be “bling” or even fine jewels. Drugstore glitter will suffice. He can’t resist it. It’s like his kryptonite. One word of caution . . . do not under any circumstances call him Jeffrey. And once you have the autograph, make sure you get a ticket to the show, because Gregory’s take on the role of Aphro and the play within the play (a 1970s off-off-Broadway experimental Greek drama) will make you wish that John Guare would write a spin-off of this play Rich and Famous called Aphro—for Love!

And then there’s me. Mary Birdsong. I guess the best advice would be to follow the same instructions I gave for approaching Brooks. But insert “Rachel Weiss” for the Ethan Hawke line. And offer me two cranberry and seltzers in lieu of two Tanqueray and tonics. Or peanut butter will do.
Oh! I did think of one last thing . . . I’ve always had a fantasy that I’d meet my dream man someday like women did in the old black-and-white movies. I’d come out of the stage door after a hilarious show and have a sad, far-off look in my eyes after hoofing it up in the madcap comedy. And just when I’d resign myself to another night spent at the Walgreens seeing what new kind of ramen noodles are on sale, your tasteful but luxurious car pulls up and your driver opens the door for you.

Here is what you say:

“Pardon me, but I caught the second act and I think you’re enchanting. I like your rough-and-tumble, devil-may-care spunk. I’ve grown tired of all my stuffy rich society types. You! Your tawdry demeanor and cheap, whorish clothes are like a breath of fresh air. Won’t you dine with me in my room this evening? I’m staying at the Deville.

Me: “Uhhhh. Did you just call me a slut?”

You: “My card.”

Me: “Did we meet on JDate?”

You: “I’ll have my driver fetch you. Adieu, my sweet.”

And before you drive away, leaving me alone on a poor and anonymous street corner, you add:

“Oh, say, Sally . . . can I get your autograph?”

Thirty Pages of Hamlet?

Monday, February 2, 2009

posted by Tobie Windham, Master of Fine Arts Program Class of 2010

Risk. Fail. Risk again. I have tried to live by these words for about four years now, but as time goes by the struggle to keep the second word gets increasingly difficult. Fail. When acting, I have discovered that I am a person who likes to risk everything, but when it comes to failing, I want to cushion the blow. Or: I will jump off the cliff, but when I see how far I might fall, I try to reverse the jump. I think this has held me back from truly achieving my goals.

I had to face this idea of risking and failing when my M.F.A. Program class [2010] recently completed a workshop of Hamlet with A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff. Carey came into rehearsal the first day with an energy that infected us all. If we did not like Hamlet before we started this process, we sure do respect it now. The plan was to follow the main story arc of Hamlet by performing only eleven scenes. The casting was rotated for each scene, and we each had about two scenes apiece. She had great ideas of how we might tell the story, a stack of books of what scholars thought about the play, and a list of questions to further investigate what the story was about. Ultimately, the Class of 2K10 embraced the task of telling one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, cut down to 30 pages. No pressure, right?

So we jumped in and started working night and day to get off book [memorize our lines]. Carey really had a dialogue with us about what was going on in each scene, instead of just telling us what her vision was. I love directors that allow actors to risk big, and I felt that this type of exploration was encouraged. I also enjoyed watching my classmates work; it was very different watching them work in a workshop setting as opposed to a classroom setting, mainly because we were all involved in telling the same story, and also because many of us had the task of playing Hamlet. In order to get a sense of his through-line we had to watch one another with more attention than usual, in the hopes of picking up where the last person left off, or as we put it, “passing the baton.” Watching my classmates make outrageous choices and take huge risks (and sometimes fail) allowed me to see that it was okay to step outside the box.

I cannot talk about Shakespeare without mentioning the language. It was difficult, but in a different kind of way. I found the language in Hamlet to be complex, but not complicated. For example, I understood what Hamlet was saying, as if I could put it in my own words and really say, “Hell yeah dude, I understand you; I want to kill him too.” But the way in which the language was phrased or how thoughts followed one another was very complex. I mean, he would say a thought, and then go off on a parenthetical for about two lines, then go back and finish the thought he had before he started the parenthetical! Yeah, complex but not complicated.

All in all I had fun working on this project. I learned that fear of failure only delays success; I learned that the Class of 2K10 has 14 amazing actors (I swear to God we a problem, somebody betta solve us); and I learned that I look damn good in a black doublet!
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