3Ps perform ‘Hamletmachine’ in Balch Arena Theater
Published: Thursday, March 8, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012 10:03
Senior Scot Istvan, who oversaw stage lighting, also chose to emphasize the movement and special qualities of the actors' performances.
"["Hamletmachine" was] a little different from what you'd normally do. Normally you worry about faces and expressions [as a lighting technician], but this is a movement piece, so there is more emphasis on movement. It's like a combination of dance and theater," he said.
With such a freeform structure to play with, the production process for "Hamletmachine" was very unique. Junior Ryan Willison, who plays Hamlet in the show, described the atmosphere of rehearsals as highly collaborative and open-minded.
"Jonny was very clear from day one that we would build it together. I would show up and we would work on ten ways to say one line, or he would say the lines for me and I would move in response and we would build these physical textures, and from that, the lines would make sense. It was wild," Willison said.
Willison found the metafictive aspects of the play particularly liberating. While most plays try to engross readers in a fictional world and suspend their disbelief, "Hamletmachine" readily acknowledges its fictional, dramatic status. At several points throughout the play, the actors themselves admit to playing their characters, purposefully disrupting the immersion most plays seek to foster in their audience.
"What was incredible for me was when I realized I wasn't necessarily playing a character. I was just a vessel for these ideas and images. It freed me up to just respond to the play instead of worrying the whole time, ‘Am I playing Hamlet correctly?' That [role] was something I could define differently for myself every night," Willison said.
Cast members Hannah Wellman, a senior, and Maya Grodman, a junior, found the procedure to be taxing but rewarding at the same time.
"It was a uniwque rehearsal process. A lot of productions start with a read-through, character production and a discussion of the story," Grodman said. "We didn't do any of that."
"The actors would come in and move in any way that they wanted, and, if Jonny liked something, he would say to put that in. It was an ensemble process, and we became very close as a cast and developed a strong sense of trust which is important in this kind of show," Wellman added.
Much of this physicality was palpable during the dress rehearsal, when actors would match their body movements with the tone of particular lines of dialogue, or take subtle cues from the script or their fellow performers' stage presence.
"We move about the space and try to fill it in different ways. Jonny is very free with what he lets us do," Wellman said. "Sometimes we take specific lines which are important to us, sometimes you get in a dialogue with another person which develops. It's good because you get to say lines in the play you wouldn't have otherwise said and works as a way to get grounded in your space and mindset."
Grodman encourages the audience to come in with an equally open mind.
"This will be something they have never seen before in a wonderful and intense way and we hope everyone will be open with what we have to say. I think people are going to see a lot of meaning and a lot of depth in what we're doing. Because the play is so abstract different people are going to take away their own individual meanings from what we're doing."