Women of Hamlet: Laughter in the Soul

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Although clearly well-versed in all things Shakespeare, (pun intended), the brilliant Dan Hodge does not consider the text to be sacrosanct. Consequently, he makes choices and empowers his actors to make choices that communicate a compelling story about real people with real needs that run the gamut from the spiritual to the carnal. How they impact one another and how they relate to the world around them becomes paramount.

In order to get there, however, we need to know who they are and Gertrude, historically, has had many different interpretations. What did she know, if anything, about Claudius’ actions before the fact and when did their relationship actually begin? What was her relationship like with Hamlet’s father? Does she think her son really mad or “mad in craft”? And what in the world is in that goblet? These many questions make for delicious opportunities and Dan’s vision for play in general and Gertrude, in particular, brought me to truly fall in love with this woman.

Part of my task as an actress was to understand the choices Gertrude had made, and the choices made for her, that bring her to be who we see when we first meet her. Married very young to a man she most likely did not choose, having only one son and loving him deeply, needing to be constantly on her guard and on top of court politics, all this shapes Gertrude into an intelligent and competent queen. A queen but yet a woman and, “…aye, there’s the rub.”

Further adding texture to Gertrude were some of the changes with which Dan enriched the text, such as Gertrude hearing in one scene and then overhearing in another Claudius’ plans for her son. Whatever control she had is now slipping and her beloved new husband looks very different. Ultimately, she has only one choice, and it is not made lightly.

It has been a joy to participate in the process of not only Dan and Maura’s direction, but also in the process of this wonderfully talented cast. I am inspired and moved during each performance as I sit in the wings and listen over and over again to rich language given life and substance by my colleagues.

Although Hamlet is a tragedy, it gives us the opportunity to get a glimpse of our shared human nature through each character we meet. And anytime we can understand our own hearts and motives better, there is not only great value but, if we look carefully, maybe even a bit of comedy as well. May we all find the laughter in the trial.


STACY SKINNER 
(Gertrude) is thrilled to return to the Hedgerow stage following her performances as Ruella in Communicating Doors and Mrs. Henry Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. Originally having lived and acted in NY, Stacy has been seen in a variety of Philadelphia venues.  Favorite roles include: Lady Bracknell (The Importance of Being Earnest), Edith Frank (The Diary of Anne Frank), and Mrs. Gibbs (Our Town). She holds degrees in Theatre and Speech-Language Pathology. Big thanks to Dan, Jared, and Penny for this opportunity and to her family for their constant love and patience.