We had our last three shows this weekend — Friday and Saturday nights, and a well-attended Sunday matinee. Yesterday (Monday) was strike day, although I got to weasel out of the heavy lifting because I had to teach classes. So much real-world stuff to get back to…
Now another series of snowstorms are rippling across Atlantic Canada, metaphorically erasing our footprints, scattering all traces of the show that consumed me for over a year. I received a card signed by the cast, along with a gift — a gorgeous framed print by a First Nations artist whose name escapes me at the moment — and I have loads of materials with which to compile a scrapbook for the show. Other than that, the rest isn’t just silence, it’s nothing: costumes and props back in storage, set dismantled, cast flitting off to better (if not bigger) things.
If I sound melancholic, I suppose I am, a little bit. I don’t usually mourn shows, but for Hamlet it seems appropriate. Like every show, it went by so fast — even faster than anticipated, since we had to cancel some school matinees, and even lost an evening show to another blizzard (note to self: stop doing plays in Cape Breton in January/February). I can’t help wondering how the show might have evolved if we’d had our full allotment of 10 shows, instead of just 6 … but I’ll never know, and I have to be satisfied with what I got.
6 performances of Hamlet more than most directors get, although there are scant reasons why anyone shouldn’t do Hamlet, if they really want to try. Similarly, I’ve met actors who complain that they’ll never get a chance to play a role like the Prince of Denmark — but that’s partly because they lack the initiative to make it happen. Do you want to play Hamlet? Write a grant! Start a Kickstarter page! Talk to the producers at your local companies, and describe to them what an amazing job you’d do. Start working on them now, and stick to it. After a few years, whenever they hear the word “Hamlet,” they can’t help but think of you. If it’s more than just a project — if it’s a lifelong dream — then you can afford to have patience.
Hamlet was the 13th Shakespeare play I directed, in a career that’s spanned 20 years. It’s always been my favourite play, but I made myself wait until I felt I was ready — until I had enough experience and wisdom, and a sufficient network of resources, to do it right. If I’d directed Hamlet when I was 20, I would have been effectively stapling my own face onto every actor in the cast — remaking the show in my own image, which I can now see is not something anybody else really wants to see.
The 2016 CBU Hamlet wasn’t just the Sharplin show. It evolved organically out of all the talents, resources, interests, strengths, and idiosyncrasies of a huge and diverse team of artists: old (65+) and young (10!), local and foreign, white, red, brown, and black, gay and straight, Bard experts and Shakespeare newbies alike. And yet somehow, it ended up feeling definitively unified. The best measure of success for any production: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts — and none of the parts could ever have imagined what the whole would end up looking like.