I just finished a First Draft of my staging script for Hamlet. God forgive me; I know not what I do.
Adapting Shakespeare for the stage can either be a no-brainer or a massive, all-consuming task. Some directors, ignorant of or overwhelmed by the editorial options, just grab whichever edition is closest to hand and hit the bricks. Others, like me, struggle over every line. I’m not sure that audiences ever know the difference.
My First Draft runs to 98 pages. My goal is to fit the play into 120 minutes; I’m not convinced I’ve done so, and yet it feels like I’ve carved the heart out of the play (or maybe several hearts — you haven’t truly appreciated Shakespeare until you’ve read him in the original Gallifreyan).
A lot of my choices are…questionable. But I feel as if I should commit to them before full-cast rehearsals begin. We don’t have time to debate the merits of each cut, emendation, or shift; besides, I know actors well enough to know that their arguments would revolve around their own characters, to the potential detriment of the overall play.
My draft needs a bit of housecleaning before I start sharing it with others. I inserted a lot of notes to myself that ought not to be treated as definitive stage directions — at least, not yet. And I experimented with an alternate scene numbering system which probably needs rethinking (“Scene 17” is no easier to remember than “Act 4, Scene 4,” after all).
Perhaps, though, I will retain the jpg images that I periodically dropped into the script, to remind myself what design choices should go with each scene. Here’s the first one, evoking the churchyard which (in my draft, at least) frames most of the action of the play.
Once I’ve done my tidying, I’ll start into some detail about what I’ve decided to keep and cut. Plus soon, I feel I ought to return to my Line by Line project, although perhaps I’ll allow myself a bit of latitude to begin where it will be more useful to my actors. Stay tuned!