Act V, scene ii:
The fight is over. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, his mother, stepfather/uncle, and Laertes, the brother of the tragic Ophelia, all lie dead. The Ambassador from England enters, surveys the carnage and announces:
“The sight is dismal;
And our affairs from England come too late:
The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,
To tell him his commandment is fulfill’d,
That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead:
Where should we have our thanks?”
Who are these men of whom he speaks? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Minor characters in the greatest play in the English language. School friends of Hamlet. Brought to Denmark to spy on the brokenhearted prince, to determine the extent of his sanity. The two so tied together that even the King cannot tell them apart.
Chech-born, British playwright Tom Stoppard wrote a play in 1967 exploring these two characters and how they might inform us about our own existence. If they are not actors but simply characters in a play and they become aware of that, what does it teach us about our own roles in life?
From Good Reads: “Acclaimed as a modern dramatic masterpiece, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead is the fabulously inventive tale of Hamlet as told from the worm’s-eye view of the bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters in Shakespeare’s play. In Tom Stoppard’s best-known work, this Shakespearean Laurel and Hardy finally get a chance to take the lead role, but do so in a world where echoes of Waiting for Godot resound, where reality and illusion intermix, and where fate leads our two heroes to a tragic but inevitable end.”
Next week the Revelers of the Spartan Playhouse at Spokane Falls Community College will present Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard. In a twist, the play, directed by Scott Doughty will be presented in the round. For the first time in Reveler memory, audience will be seated on the upstage side of the playing space as well as in the theater seating.
What have I to do with this? My permanent part time job is as a costuming technician at SFCC. In this production, as well, I’ve had the pleasure of designing the playing space. I’ve designed sets for SFCC in the past. I can’t wait to see how it all comes out.
The following are photographs from a recent rehearsal. All the photos are taken with my iPad Mini. You can click on the photos for larger versions. All the quotes are from the play.