Make Hamlet: Director's Notes

I used to think, I’ll never produce Hamlet. What a suicide mission! Why would anyone want to do a play whose meaning is so elusive? Who could possibly have an ego big enough to assume he had any answers to the question that is the play Hamlet,  answers legitimate enough to share with a whole theatre of others? Where in my experience and knowledge could I find anything worth adding to the massive collection of history and ideas that define this play? The more I studied Hamlet, the more I saw it performed, the less I felt like I actually grasped about it. It was so intangible. But I couldn’t turn away from my personal reaction to the work – this work that provided me with questions instead of answers, this work that begins with the question, “Who’s there?”, this work who’s most famous line is “To be or not to be: that is the question.” I observed that the nature of the questions Hamlet asks centered on identity. I also couldn’t stop thinking about the strangeness of the play-within-the-play. Though a common motif in revenge tragedies, I found Hamlet’s play-within-itself so wonderfully disruptive: a group of actors show up at this castle on the cliffs of Denmark in the middle of the Western world’s most iconic tragedies! Prince Hamlet rehearses and writes for them and then delivers a soliloquy about how much better he’d be at fulfilling his only task, if he were an actor. And there I found irony I couldn’t ignore – since the person delivering the monologue is always, in reality, an actor. 

I think Hamlet is a play about identity, a play that searches for the answer to the question “Who’s there?”, and above all, a play that embraces its own form to examine this question. For what better forum could one have to show the elusiveness of being than a stage? Where else do we really allow ourselves to play with the notion of who we are than the theatre – the only place where trying to be someone other than yourself is a virtue? This is why we make theatre, to search for the meaning of our own lives, and this is why we make Hamlet, to search for the meaning of this play; in both cases, it is a search we fear, yet know, will never end, making the possibilities for what we find infinite.

- Lucy Cashion

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