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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Small Cast Hamlets
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1526  Monday, 18 June 2001

[1]     From:   Alec Wild <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jun 2001 11:58:02 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

[2]     From:   Susan St. John <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jun 2001 10:29:51 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

[3]     From:   Roger D. Gross <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jun 2001 14:30:58 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

[4]     From:   Markus Marti <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jun 2001 23:06:57 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

[5]     From:   Graham Hall <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jun 2001 22:28:23 -0000
        Subj:   You are never alone...

[6]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jun 2001 18:38:32 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

[7]     From:   Julie Peterson <
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        Date:   Saturday, 16 Jun 2001 01:21:58 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

[8]     From:   P. D. Holland <
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        Date:   Saturday, 16 Jun 2001 11:09:32 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

[9]     From:   Philip Tomposki <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Jun 2001 10:26:39 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Small Cast Hamlets


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alec Wild <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 11:58:02 -0400
Subject: 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

Ivan Fuller <
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 > wrote:

> I am in the process of researching and planning what I hope will be a
> 6-person production of "Hamlet" next summer.  I know that very
> small-cast productions of Shakespeare's plays have been staged in the
> past, but I don't have much info on them.  Does anyone know of any?  I'm
> especially
> interested in "Hamlet", of course, but would also like to hear about how
> other scripts were "pulled off."  I have lots of experience directing
> Shakespeare with casts of 11-12 actors and I know how that can work, but
> I'm not as sure of a 6-person approach (or less!).  Thanks for the help,

Ivan,

I recently directed a "Richard III" at A.C.T. Conservatory in San
Francisco with eight actors - it was quite an experience! It was
excruciating to do so much cutting (I cut Dorsett, and Grey, letting
Rivers stand for the Queen's allies; I gave all of Ratcliffe to Catesby,
cut Clarence's children, etc.).  Only Richard and Buckingham played
single roles - all the others were tripled, or quadrupled.

Certainly I think a six-actor Hamlet is possible - it could make for a
very interesting production indeed. I'd love to hear more about it.

Cheers,
Alec Wild

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[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan St. John <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 10:29:51 -0700
Subject: 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

> I am in the process of researching and planning what I hope will be a
> 6-person production of "Hamlet" next summer.  I know that very
> small-cast productions of Shakespeare's plays have been staged in the
> past, but I don't have much info on them.  Does anyone know of any?  I'm
> especially
> interested in "Hamlet", of course, but would also like to hear about how
> other scripts were "pulled off."  I have lots of experience directing
> Shakespeare with casts of 11-12 actors and I know how that can work, but
> I'm not as sure of a 6-person approach (or less!).  Thanks for the help,
>
> Ivan Fuller
> Augustana College & the Bare Bodkins Theatre Company

I have been a part of several productions of Shakespeare that were
adapted for touring to high schools, in a company called The Courtyard
Players.  Our very excellent dramaturge, Julie Peterson, has a knack for
boiling down a script to the bare essentials and brilliant role doubling
for a small cast.  Usually we produce a 50-minute show with 5-7 actors.
I don't believe she has created a Hamlet reduction but I am sure she
would be happy to be commissioned.  I am forwarding your message to her;
please contact me off-list for more info (or on-list if you think others
are interested).

Susan.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger D. Gross <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 14:30:58 -0500
Subject: 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

In about 1969, William Ball (of San Francisco's ACT) directed a
small-cast production of HAMLET which was supposed to tour colleges all
over the country.

Hamlet was played by (are your ready for this?)  Judith Anderson, 70
years old, 5 feet tall, and female.  It didn't work and the tour was
aborted very quickly.

However, Ball's way of dealing with the small cast was interesting.

Roger Gross
Univ. of Arkansas

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Markus Marti <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 23:06:57 +0100
Subject: 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

> I am in the process of researching and planning what I hope will be a
> 6-person production of "Hamlet" next summer.  [...]  I'm
> especially
> interested in "Hamlet", of course, but would also like to hear about how
> other scripts were "pulled off."

Try the Bremer Shakespeare Company
[http://www.shakespeare-company.com/].  This marvellous company does
Shakespeare in a very refreshing way, usually with 3-6 actors only.

Markus Marti
University of Basel
http://www.unibas.ch/shine/home.html

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 22:28:23 -0000
Subject:        You are never alone...

Ivan Fuller seeks to keep the enormous number of resting actors resting
with a cast of six (+or -) for Hamlet.

Based on a one man Hamlet done at the Burton Taylor, Oxford, a couple of
years ago, you will require video, mirrors, puppets and a pair of
clown's trousers hooked to the ceiling. You have to do it backwards if
you have a cast of three (Based on the Reduced Shakespeare Company
production).
Good Luck!

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 18:38:32 -0400
Subject: Small Cast Hamlets
Comment:        SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

Shakespeare & Company, in the Berkshires of Western Mass. does an annual
touring production (for area schools) of a Shakespeare play, with a
small cast and reduced to 90 minutes. This year, my school brought them
in to do Julius Caesar, with 6 actors. Last year, we saw their Hamlet
with 7 actors.  Neither play really worked well in the 90-minute
reduction ... although the Caesar was far more successful. The real
problems are with the forced rushing of lines in a 90-minute reduction.
The actors all did yeoman duty in trying to make the plays work, and the
director and designers are obviously gifted at what they do. The
problems may be insurmountable-next year should be telling, as we're
going to bring in their 90-minute Macbeth. It MAY be do-able in such a
venue. There was no way to save the Hamlet, though.

Paul E. Doniger

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Julie Peterson <
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Date:           Saturday, 16 Jun 2001 01:21:58 EDT
Subject: 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

Hi! I actually have abridged Hamlet a few times. My current scripts are

1. a version with Claudius, the Ghost (those two can double), Hamlet,
Gertrude, Ophelia and Laertes (apparently those two can double as well)
that says it's 50 minutes long.

2. a 75-minute version that adds Polonius but won't let O & L double.

3. One that is just a little longer, adds Horatio (because someone
missed him) who can double with Polonius, and makes it possible to
double O with L and Claudius with the ghost (back down to 5 or 6
actors).

I have directed the second of the three and it seems to work well.

I'd be glad to create on spec a longer version with whatever cast
restrictions you wish (as Susan mentioned, we didn't need longer ones at
the time). If you'd like to look at the old drafts of any of the above,
let me know. They are messy text files from old software, but if you
wish to use one and we happen to reach an agreement about that, I will
clean it up into the format you prefer. Same if I make a new version for
you.

Best wishes,
Julie Peterson

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           P. D. Holland <
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Date:           Saturday, 16 Jun 2001 11:09:32 +0100
Subject: 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1515 Small Cast Hamlets

By far the most brilliant versions of Shakespeare plays with small casts
that I have encountered were the work of Cambridge Experimental Theatre
which toured the UK and Europe in the 1970s and 1980s led by Richard
Spaul and Steve Fredman (as actors and directors). They did a version of
Macbeth with a cast of two (Macbeth and a witch), turning the whole play
into a narrative of obsession, serial murder and demonic possession.
Their Julius Caesar (also with a cast of two) became a plebeian
commentary on the actions of the great, ending with the actors setting
up tomb after tomb as the battle of Philippi took place, a reminder of
the appalling slaughter there. Their best known work was a four-handed
Hamlet that was filmed and released on video in 1987, but is now
extremely difficult to find even in major Shakespeare collections.
There are accounts of it by Graham Holderness in 'Shakespeare Rewound'
Shakespeare Survey 45 (Cambridge University Press, 1993) pp.63-74
(especially pp.69-71) and by Nigel Wheale in 'Scratched Shakespeare:
Video-Teaching the Bard' in Lesley Aers and Nigel Wheale, eds.,
Shakespeare in the Changing Curriculum (London: Routledge, 1991)
pp.203-21.  I know that SHAKSPER readers often seem to prefer fairly
conventional productions but the CET shows taught me far more about
these plays than almost any others. I used regularly to take groups of
students experienced in the ways of the RSC and they always found the
CET productions exhilarating, incisive and revelatory.

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Philip Tomposki <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Jun 2001 10:26:39 EDT
Subject:        Re: Small Cast Hamlets

Ivan

The Rhode Island Shakespeare Theatre did a version of RIII some years
ago with about half a dozen actors.  Richard was the only character not
to doubled.  The director, Bob Colonna, abandoned any attempt at strict
'realism'.  The acting was done straight, but the set was abstract and
some innovations were necessary (The two churchmen on either side of
Richard in III vii were hand puppets.)  Actors would leave the stage and
return a moment later as a different character.  It actually worked
quite well, once the convention had been established.  TRIST was a
'semi-professional' theatre (i.e. lots of amateurs), and the traditional
large cast requirements often necessitated the use of less than
brilliant performers.  The abbreviated cast was stronger that what would
otherwise have been available.

Philip Tomposki

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