Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Amateurs, Actors, and the Sanctity of Stories

This evening I auditioned for the play Hamlet. I realize this is somewhat of a lofty endeavor for someone who's never auditioned or acted in anything…ever.

Okay, I guess it's not ever if you count the Tales of the Arabian Nights when I was twelve, in which I was bestowed the lofty role of Ali Baba's wife.

Moving on.

Fortunately for me this audition only entailed reading excerpts from the play and there were no interview questions whatsoever as to my, hem, experience. Suffice it to say that I will be very happy if I get a small role.

Prior to auditioning for Hamlet, I retrieved a copy of the script/play from our local theater and spent the last couple of weeks immersing myself in the work itself as performed by David Tennant and company. This being my first attempt at drama and Shakespeare, I anticipated being woefully ignorant and clumsy and thought it best to be as prepared as possible.

Needless to say, I was surprised to discover that half of the people auditioning didn't even have the foggiest clue what Hamlet was actually about. They also didn't know how to read Shakespeare and ended up breaking all their sentences in the most awkward places, making their lines entirely incoherent. Granted, I'm sure I didn't sound half as coherent or expressive as I thought I did, but I was still surprised at the excess of lax ignorance.

I know, I know. We're all amateurs here.

But it seems to me that if you audition for a play that will inevitably occupy a very large portion of your time and dedication every week, you ought to at least know what the play is about and whether or not you really want to do it. More importantly, I think it's only appropriate that you have a vague idea of what the story is about simply for the sake of the story itself.

Stories well done communicate the intricacies of human nature. To portray emotions like grief and madness is not something to be taken flippantly. Not to mention you do the architect of a story dishonor when you convey his work blandly and ignorantly and thus fail to captivate your audience with what otherwise would have enamored them if executed correctly.

I am ill-experienced when it comes to drama, but I feel I am somewhat equipped when it comes to stories. Some of my earliest and best exposures to stories come from my father. I particularly remember him reading The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia out loud to my siblings and I when we were children. Whenever I heard my friends' parents read to their children, I would always think, "This story would be more interesting if Papa was reading it."

I'm sure every child is partial toward their parents, but my father really was skilled at telling stories (he still is skilled at telling stories), whether they were his own or someone else's. He made an art of it without knowing. One of our favorite stories for him to read was The Bears on Hemlock Mountain. I always loved hearing it, though I was always so afraid of it because it really sent shivers down my spine when he read...

There are no bears on Hemlock Mountain. 

No bears. 

No bears at all. 

My love for stories was ignited by my father, but I think it ultimately took root and flourished in the Word of God. The Bible is, in a sense, the ultimate story written by the ultimate author. And we, as bearers of God's image and God's Gospel are ultimately enacting the Word He has written. Jesus is the Word made flesh and we as Christians are little-Christs. Jesus' story is our story. 

If we try and approach this world without fully understanding our Author's story from front to back, we will inevitably fumble around like amateur actors trying to recite Shakespeare when we haven't the foggiest idea who Hamlet is. 


  1. That is an exciting opportunity to possibly play in a theatre production of Hamlet! :D I actually have never read any of Shakespeare's works in full, *gulp*, but Hamlet is among the ones that I am especially eager to read...

    I loved the corollary image you're sharing here about performing in a play one knows nothing of as the way human beings act without an intimate knowledge of the Great Author. Yes, that's so true!!

    Oh, I am sure we'd have to have a dual, if we lived in Georgian times, over which of our dad's is a better storyteller ;), but I definitely know what you mean about having the treasure of a father telling the stories as a child grows up and it being something that fueled your love of stories. Dad read many a biography and wonderful Bible Accounts to my sisters and me, growing up, and that was one of the things that added fuel to the flames of my love of stories.

    Lovely post, Dani, I really enjoy reading your thoughts and posts :).

    1. I was extremely intimidated by it at first, especially since there is so much archaic vocabulary in Shakespeare that I'm not necessarily familiar with. But it doesn't take that long to start picking it up and reading the entire play didn't take nearly as long as I anticipated it would. I suggest watching David Tennant's rendition of Hamlet. He portrays him rather ingeniously and in a very real and believable way. :)

      Like I said, I think we are all a bit partial toward our own parents. But a duel might be fun all the same. ;) Thank you for reading and posting, Joy!

  2. Great post! My father's stories played a huge part in my becoming a writer. I have many wonderful memories of my brothers and I sprawled out on the trampoline, with one of us claiming the spot of honor on Dad's stomach, as he wove stories about talking animals and sentient raindrops. One particular serial story that he kept going for weeks inspired me to learn to type so that I could write a "novel adaption"--I think it was maybe five pages. :p
    I love the analogy of acting without knowing the story--that's perfect.
    Excited for you! When will you know about parts?

    1. I tried creating a novel adaption of a serial story by one of our good friends! I'm still somewhat hoping that one day I will. Unfortunately all the characters in the story were based off of our friends and family, so I think a lot of the ingenuity and humor will kind of fall flat if I ever tried adapting it. :P


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