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.
After a couple days visiting with my daughter’s fiancé in the hospital (treated and released by now, thankfully) I drove home from Moscow, Idaho through some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen, the Palouse region of eastern Washington State. I’ve driven it many times over the course of my daughter’s college years at the University of Idaho in Moscow, and I never tire of the serene rolling hills unique to this area.
The Palouse is marked by hill after rolling hill that has been cultivated for over one hundred years. The deep, rich top soil is ideal for dry-land farming of wheat, barley, lentils and canola. The scene is ever changing. The beauty of the vista is not dependent upon season here, as every sort of sky perfectly complements the patchwork of fields stretched out before you, whether in cultivation, under harvest or lying fallow. In the winter the snow sweeps across the hills turning the scene into a white-on-white landscape, interrupted by the occasional tree or abandoned outbuilding. In spring the hills green at various times and in a myriad of hues according to the art and science of farming. In late summer the ripening wheat bends and ripples like a beautiful sea of grass, first bright as it bends in one direction, then taking on a silver hue as the light hits it just so when the shifting breeze bends it another. Late summer and then fall is a time for brilliant sunsets as the dust and chaff from the harvesters fill the air and the wind carries it high overhead.
On this drive, heading north on US 195 from the Pullman/Moscow area, I was traveling in the magic time of late afternoon. The sun followed me and played hide and seek through the swiftly moving, broken cloud cover. The partly cloudy sky added another layer of light and shadow to the patchwork of the Palouse. Then I saw the wind farm. The impossibly large wind turbines turned lazily against the stormy sky. In one direction the white of the machines reflecting back sunlight against the black of the clouds. In another, giants were silhouetted against the sun and the shifting clouds. I’m never without my iPhone and love taking pictures of the Palouse.
I even managed to capture the beauty of the wind and the turning in a short video. WindDriven.mov