Hamlet – Laura & Dinah share their experiences

Hey all – Socratic Theatre’s gender reversed production of Hamlet is up and running – until November 6: www.socratictheatre.com.

Since I won’t be able to get out to see it till late next week, I asked actors Laura Vincent (Hamlet) and Dinah Watts (Polonius) to give me their thoughts on working on this play. I asked them: How would you describe your experience working on Hamlet/your character? As a result of working on this production, were there any surprises for you – or did you come away with any new thoughts – regarding gender?

Laura: It’s been…interesting. Hamlet is a very difficult character to play I think, so many levels of insecurities and self-pitying. I definitely haven’t quite ‘got it’ yet but I am working on it – maybe I’ll get inside her by the end of the run? In some ways, Hamlet is quite unlikable, and talks waaaaay too much, so the main challenge is simply to keep the audience’s interest during all those goddamn speeches. I don’t think I’ve quite grasped that yet either, but again, I am working on it. Another challenge obviously was the amount of lines to learn. As I went along learning yet another new scene became harder and harder, because there were already so many lines in my head. My brain literally hurt, and I dreamt in Hamlet lines.

Dinah: Shakespeare is always a challenge and Hamlet is particularly daunting because everybody knows it so well. Playing reversed gender has been illuminating at some times and hilarious at others. I have had a lot of fun finding a fussy know-it-all character in Polonius as mother to Ophelia (my son), and would-be psychologist to Laura Vincent’s Lady Hamlet (she is remarkable). And the scenes which really rock are the ones where our female characters exhibit violence!  I’m not ashamed to admit that it is exciting and somehow exhilarating to witness. No innocent female victims here. It’s powerful stuff!!

Laura: One of the main thoughts I had about a gender-reversed Hamlet is that it becomes less about Hamlet. People have seen Hamlet whine on a million times before, out of a million mouths, and many times out of a woman’s mouth. A female Hamlet is not terribly unusual. So, a completely gender-reversed Hamlet shifts the focus a little, or at least brings the other characters more into focus. Characters which, unlike Hamlet, are more archetypal examples of their gender – Ophelia, Laertes. Hamlet is not written in a ‘masculine’ way, (s)he is simply a human, albeit a very complicated one. But his/her foibles, his/her doubts, his/her passionate emotions, they can apply to either gender. However, having said that, it was EXTREMELY hard to get the pronouns out of our heads. Until close to run time when discussing our characters we were all still saying “he” and “his.” Just goes to show you how deeply ingrained in us are society’s rules about gender! Girls wear skirts and boys wear pants!!

Thanks Laura and Dinah! I’m looking forward to seeing Hamlet next week.

Reminder: the evening performances start at 7:30 p.m.

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