Method to the Madness

Last Thursday, the Scholars got to discuss and even perform parts of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a performance of which they saw the previous week at the Troutt Theater. After Dr. Marcia McDonald of Belmont’s Department of English provided some cultural and historical context for the play,  Denice Hicks, Executive Artistic Director of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, explained the concepts this performance was created to explore.

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After directing this play 10 years ago, Denice Hicks decided this time to examine whether there was any light to be found in what is usually the brooding story of a moody prince who wants things to go back to being the way they were. Special care was taken, for example, to show the Polonius family as a loving family whose patriarch–in this iteration more corny than overbearing, is affectionately tolerated rather than despised by his children, at least before tragedy overtakes them all.

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After a discussion and some excellent questions about everything from the set design and costumes to Hamlet’s use of a mask on stage, the Scholars got to try their hands at dramatically reading scenes from the play. Some of the actors were very committed to their roles–we feared for a moment if the actor playing Laertes, who left the room during his scene, had actually departed for France! “The rest” may have been “silence” in Shakespeare’s play, but there was nothing quiet about this seminar!

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