Thanks to cast, crew, and audience for making last night’s staged reading of Hamlet a thrilling evening. I’m posting the program notes below. As you can see in these pics (more pics here), the cast took advantage of the whiteboard in 214 Farrah Hall to write lines, maxims, and jokes, a cloud of words and ideas that formed both a humorous and a haunting backdrop for the performance.
“To be or not to be.” It’s perhaps Shakespeare’s best-known line. Yet
it’s so often read simply as “To live or to die.” As if death was a
simple way out. As if we could so easily escape our regrets.
Hamlet is a young university student who leaves home with his life in complete order: his parents love him, his girlfriend adores him, and the world makes sense. He is a prince, and his only limit is the stretch of his imagination. Then the news arrives. “Come home, Hamlet. Your father is dead.” Hamlet rushes back to Elsinore, but he’s too late for the funeral. His father lies in the cold ground, and no one seems to mourn his passing. His mother remarries soon after. Even his girlfriend Ophelia seems distant: how can he talk to her? How can she understand?
He has regrets: If he hadn’t left home, could he have seen his father before he died? Could he have stopped his death? Did he make his father proud? Hamlet is living in the past. When his father dies, his world stops. He can’t move on. All he can do is remember. And regret lost opportunities. And then he hears his father’s voice: “Mark me. Revenge my foul and most unnatural murder. Remember me.” Here is Hamlet’s second chance: to prove his love to his father; to set things right; to change the past and erase his regrets. But living for the past has a high cost.
For tonight’s performance, the actors have written their own regrets and remembrances on the whiteboard. I encourage you to do the same. Before the show or at intermission, pick up a dry erase marker and make your own declaration.
To remember. To regret no more. To be.