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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: January ::
Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0015  Thursday, 8 January 2009

[1]  From:   Jess Winfield <
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      Date:   Tuesday, 06 Jan 2009 14:53:31 -0800
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0007 Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet'

[2]  From:   Mike Shapiro <
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      Date:   Tuesday, 6 Jan 2009 19:38:35 -0800
      Subj:   RE: SHK 20.0007 Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet'

[3]  From:   Robert Projansky <
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      Date:   Wednesday, 7 Jan 2009 02:02:52 -0800
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0007 Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet'

[4]  From:   Jack Heller <
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      Date:   Wednesday, 7 Jan 2009 10:50:45 -0500 (EST)
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0007 Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet'


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:        Jess Winfield <
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Date:        Tuesday, 06 Jan 2009 14:53:31 -0800
Subject: 20.0007 Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet'
Comment:     Re: SHK 20.0007 Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet'

In the Reduced Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet, we used a 
rubber skull commissioned from a foam-expert friend who worked in the 
R&D department at DuPont (or was it 3M?). We asked him to make something 
that would look real but also bounce, and be relatively indestructible. 
I must say, the moment in our show when Hamlet triumphantly spikes 
Yorick's skull and it goes bouncing away into the audience invariably 
brought both gasps and laughs. It played on every possible idea of 
sanctity and propriety in both a graveyard and a theater.

I'm surprised that the "other" RSC pulled the skull . . . perhaps I'm of 
a more commercial bent, but I would welcome people paying to get in to 
my theater even if they only wanted to nudge and murmur their way 
through the graveyard scene.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:        Mike Shapiro <
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Date:        Tuesday, 6 Jan 2009 19:38:35 -0800
Subject: 20.0007 Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet'
Comment:     RE: SHK 20.0007 Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet'

It would cost 50k to get publicity like that the conventional way.

Mike Shapiro

[Editor's Note: Yes, but . . . This production did not need additional 
publicity -- the entire run in Stratford and London was sold out in 
hours after going on sale. HMC]

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:        Robert Projansky <
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Date:        Wednesday, 7 Jan 2009 02:02:52 -0800
Subject: 20.0007 Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet'
Comment:     Re: SHK 20.0007 Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet'

Here's an odd wrinkle regarding the issue of real v. illusory props: 
prop documents that actors purport to read from onstage are usually 
textless fakes, created to fulfill only the requirements of what they 
should look like to the audience. Thus, instead of reading anything at 
all those actors are usually speaking memorized lines. Many an actor has 
looked at the document he is "reading" on a public stage and found text 
hilariously different, put there for private entertainment.

Best to all,
Bob Projansky

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:        Jack Heller <
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Date:        Wednesday, 7 Jan 2009 10:50:45 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 20.0007 Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet'
Comment:     Re: SHK 20.0007 Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet'

I am glad that Elizabeth Williamson brought up _The Revenger's Tragedy_ 
because there are uses of skulls in the drama of Shakespeare's 
contemporaries which could make the use of one in Hamlet seem minor by 
comparison. Have a look, for example, at Middleton's _The Witch_, in 
which a wife was to toast her husband by drinking from her father's 
skull. I think that would be a bad idea for health reasons, but I doubt 
that was a consideration in the sixteenth and seventeenth century.

_The Witch_ seems to have gotten Middleton into political trouble 
because of its relationship to the Frances Howard murder case, so I 
don't know if a real skull played into the objections.

Jack Heller

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