Hamlet: April 21st, Farrah Hall 214

Improbable Fictions presents a staged reading of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a play that needs no preamble: the play’s the thing.  The rest is silence.

April 21st, 2011, 7:30 pm.  Pre-show music at 7:00.

Farrah Hall 214, just southeast of the Quad.  There’s plenty of parking behind Farrah Hall after 6:00.

Free and open to the public.  Be sure to check us out on Facebook: the event and the page.

~Cast List~

Hamlet…………………………….David Bolus
Horatio………………………..Amber Gibson
King Claudius…………….David Ainsworth
Queen Gertrude…………Deborah Parker
Polonius……………………..Charles Prosser
Laertes………………………….Michael Vine
Ophelia……………………..Jess Richardson
Ghost…………………………….Steve Burch
Rosencrantz…………….Jonathan Hinnen
Guildenstern…………………….Jen Drouin
Player King……………Mark Hughes Cobb
Player Queen………………..April Dobbins
1st Clown…………………Cooper Kennard
2nd Clown/Lucianus……….Joey Gamble
Ensemble………………………Alex Franklin
Director…………………………….Nic Helms
Music……………………Mark Hughes Cobb
Sound Design………………Jerrell Bowden

As always, many thanks to the Rude Mechanicals and the Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies for their support.

Shakespeare’s *Love’s Labour’s Lost*

Improbable Fictions presents a staged reading of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, Thursday March 10th, 7:30 pm, in Farrah Hall Room 214 on UA’s campus.  Pre-show music begins at 7:00 pm.  Free and open to the public.

~ Cast ~

Ferdinand…….…………………Charles Prosser
Princess….……………….Sara-Margaret Cates
Biron………….……………………….David Bolus
Rosalind…….………………..Jean Fuller-Scott
Longaville….………………………Russell Frost
Maria….….………..…………………Abby Jones
Dumian…..……………….Lawson Hangartner
Katharine…….……………..Meredith Wiggins
Costard ………………………………Steve Burch
Boyet ……..…………………….Deborah Parker
Messenger……………………David Ainsworth
Pre-Show Music………..Mark Hughes Cobb
…………………………………………….Nic Helms
Director/Dramaturg…….…..…….Scott Free

Program notes included below.  Scott’s words here are a great overview of Improbable Fictions’ aesthetic.

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Love’s Labour’s Lost and Found

(or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bard)

When I was in 8th grade English, we had to read two Shakespeare plays each year. That year, they were Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth. For Romero and Juliet, we read it to ourselves and I promptly got nothing out of it. It just lay there on the page and I slogged my way through it. But for Macbeth, we read the play aloud in class. Suddenly, I got one of the jokes (yes…there are jokes in Macbeth) and I started to laugh out loud. Needless to say, I was a bit embarrassed but I had made a discovery: Shakespeare is much easier to understand when you hear it as opposed to reading it. A little bit later, I made a quantum leap forward when I saw a fully-dramatized version of Hamlet on PBS. “Wow…ok……THAT is what this is all about……neat!”

The plays of Shakespeare are not novels or even short stories. They are studied as literature (and rightfully so as it is some of the finest writing in the English language) but they were never intended to be read; they were meant to be PERFORMED. As a dear friend of mine so rightly explained it,

“It (Shakespeare’s work) is daring and passionate and scary and dirty and mean and poetic and dangerous and romantic…it’s supposed to live and breathe and weep and bleed and sigh….the text is just the blueprint of the building not the building itself…it’s a guideline for how it’s supposed to be done…it doesn’t tell you what color things are, what materials it’s made of, what kind of furniture and lighting is going in there, how warm or cool the temperature is..it’s nowhere near the final, finished product…it was never meant to simply be read…it was intended to be seen and heard…the full production IS the finished product!”

So consider what we have for you here tonight as a trip to the building site. It is a bit better than just looking at the blueprints, but it is not the finished building. A staged reading is a strange animal. It is a performance but not a complete one. You are visitors at what can only be described as an early rehearsal for the play. We will do our best to give you a sense of performance but our scripts are still in our hands…we’re still reading. I feel that this particular play, Love’s Labour’s Lost, is uniquely suited for this form. There are no big battle scenes; no sword fights. It is charming witty people saying charming witty things. I promise you will find something to amuse you. You will be entertained and you will have a better idea of what Shakespeare is like than reading it off a dry and dusty page.

But it is not the last word; not the finished product. If you like our efforts, I implore you to seek out full productions. They can be found ranging from elaborately produced extravaganzas with sumptuous costumes and massive sets to bare bones efforts with a couple actors and a stool representing a castle. All are worthy of your attention.  Only then can you see the full majesty of the Bard. The play IS the thing. Go and see as many as you can.

~Scott Free~

Program notes: King Lear

Thanks to everyone (actors, audience, and crew) who made Wednesday’s reading a success. Program notes below.

Shakespeare’s King Lear is about the inexpressible. What can a child say to an unruly parent? What can a king say once he’s given away his crown? What can we say once we’ve seen “unaccommodated man?” King Lear is an apocalypse of language, the final revelation of the parent who holds the speechless body of his dead child: “Look there! Look there!”

The tragedy of the play lies not in what is said (or unsaid), but in what is heard and seen.  The shock of King Lear 1.1 comes not from the abdication, nor from the love test, nor from Cordelia’s refusal or inability to play the game.  The shock comes from Lear’s reaction to Cordelia’s words: “Let it be so.  Thy truth then be thy dower.”  There is a gap at this moment, a chasm between Cordelia’s words and Lear’s reaction to them, and through that gap spills the Apocalypse: here it is that Lear first calls upon the heavens and the gods, here he first invokes the end of time, here he first conjures up cannibalistic images of the family in the “barbarous Scythian” who eats his own children.  What does Lear hear in Cordelia’s words that leads to this response?  Could she have said anything to avoid it?  Here communication breaks down not on the side of the message but on the side of interpretation.  Propriety is not enough to fill the gap, nor is self-expression.  All the sympathy of Albany, Edgar, Gloucester, Kent, and the Fool is not enough to stop the downward spiral, which continues until Lear holds Cordelia’s corpse in his arms, only moments from his own death: “I might have saved her” (5.2.268).  But how?  Lear leaves us with a question rather than an answer.

At the play’s end, we are left with the “image of that horror,” a parent holding his dead child and looking into her eyes: “Do you see this?  Look on her: look, her lips, / Look there, look there!”  The question is not: what does Lear see?  The question is: what do you see?

~nrhelms~