The move “home” to Spring Green has been bitter sweet. Saying “goodbye” to my girlfriend and our cats for the summer was tough, but breathing the clean fresh air of the Wisconsin countryside is exactly what my spirit needed.
I am returning to American Players Theatre after a sabbatical. In my time away I have had many adventures…
My mother and I jumped out of an airplane. (her idea)
I lost a Grandfather, who lived to the ripe age of 98 years on this earth. (He was a great man and one I looked up to enormously. We called him the “Great Dane.” Grandpa Newell’s end had been approaching for quite some time, and while it was partially a relief to see him leave the struggles of ailing age behind, it was still very sad to say “goodbye.”)
I traveled with an organization called Shakespeare Link Canada to Quelemane Mozambique, working with Montes Namuli an African Dance company on an adaptation of Winter’s Tale as well as an orphan feeding program and girls school. Here I witnessed starvation, violence, disease, and poverty on a level I never previously understood juxtaposed with laughter, dance, generosity, and boundless love.
I traveled to South Africa and visited The Cradle of Human Kind for a glimpse into humanity’s historical genesis; to the Apartheid Museum to witness the atrocities of injustice and racial insanity; to The Market Theatre in Johannesburg for a taste of where my art and the march of history met face to face and made a deep impact on one another; and to Kruger Park, one of the largest wild game reserves in Africa, where I witnessed Lions mating, baby Elephants being weened, and Leopard attacks at night.
I traveled to Florida, London, Spring Green, Chicago, Notre Dame, New York, and Delaware witnessing so much extraordinary theatre (including 3 different productions of Hamlet and 3 different productions of Richard III).
I made a choice to change up my career, turning down work for a chance to study improvisation and sketch comedy at The Second City in Chicago, to verse coach Romeo & Juliet for The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and to create my own production company, The Crowded Tub Collective, which permitted me the great opportunity to teach and direct a group of young actors in a small scale adaptation of Romeo & Juliet.
The past few years have been a tremendous journey in and outside of myself.
What does all of this have to do with Hamlet? Everything… because I am going to be playing Hamlet. When we approach anything all we can truly do is bring ourselves to the challenge before us. When I look at the dark monolith that is this play, I don’t see impossibility, nor do I feel burdened to carry on my conscience the rich and marvelous history of people that have mined the play again and again throughout time. What I see is a story that has stood the test of time because it continues to fascinate us all. Why? Because, like all great stories, it is our own.
When we witness play from the audience, what determines our experience is equal parts quality of the production and what we bring to the play ourselves. Have we lost a loved one too soon? Have we been driven mad by our inability to make a difference? Have we driven others mad with our selfishness or our obsessions? Have we lost a child to school, to war, to illness? Have we feared failure at living up to our parents expectations? Have we experienced the seed of mistrust only to have that fear confirmed to our great dismay? Have we in our darker moments never voiced to another human being the passing thought of what it might mean had we never been born or of self destruction and the oblivion of suicide?
We start Hamlet tomorrow afternoon with a reading and discussion of the play. All I can do is bring my self to the table in the room; my thoughts, my education, my experience, my short comings, my strengths, my attitude, knowledge and my ignorance. It is what everyone will be bringing to the table on day one. Then real and exciting work begins when we share ourselves with one another through the telling of this story.
Right now… the readiness is all.