POST-SHOW ACTIVITIES HOW DOES A DIRECTOR USE CASTING CHOICES TO EXPRESS THEIR INTERPRETATION OF HAMLET? (Common Core Code: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.9)
Bernhardt/Hamlet raises questions about the impact of casting. When casting a play, the director considers her/his interpretation of the script and how casting decisions can support that vision. This activity tasks students with articulating their own vision for Shakespeare’s Hamlet and then casting the major roles in service of that vision.
Read the cast list and cast bios for Bernhardt/Hamlet. Discuss what each actor brought to the role and how that contributed to the overall experience of the show. Read the interview with Bernhardt/Hamlet’s director Moritz von Stuelpnagel on pages 12-13. Discuss the cast in relation to what he intended to do with this production.
Provide time for students to craft a Director’s Statement that reveals their individual interpretation of the play Hamlet. (If your class is studying a different play, they may write a Director’s Statement for any work of your choice.) Encourage them to express a unified vision that includes answers to these questions: • What is most interesting to you about this play? What questions will your production explore? What themes will it highlight?
• Why is a production of this play relevant to audiences to now?
• How do you envision the world of the play? Set? Costume? Light? Sound? How will these design choices support your theme?
SHARE & REFLECT
Assign small groups and have one student share their Director’s Statement, then ask the group to brainstorm actors the director could cast to best execute their vision (determine the parameter: classmates, community, celebrities, etc.)
Ask each student to finalize their Director’s Statement and cast list. Then have a few share their work with the class, articulating how each casting choice supports their vision. Ask them what this process revealed about the role of a director and how casting connects to the director’s vision.
HOW DOES A PLAYWRIGHT USE BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION TO EXPLORE CONTEMPORARY THEMES? (Common Core Code: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.4)
Theresa Rebeck conducted research on the people, events, and era to inform her play. Bernhardt/Hamlet, a work of historical fiction, reflects the artistic choices Rebeck made, inspired by that research. This activity explores how a playwright makes choices based on historical fact in order to create a work of fiction that highlights current themes that are important to them.
Read the biographies of the historical figures fictionalized in Bernhardt/Hamlet and the interview with Theresa Rebeck on pages 4-5 of this UPSTAGE Guide. Discuss the ways the playwright used and manipulated the biographies and events. Ask students to consider why the playwright made these choices. What do they reveal about the play’s themes?
Have students gather biographical details about a contemporary celebrity who, like Sarah Bernhardt, is known for their work as well as the public details of their life, for example Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Bette Midler, Selena Gomez, Laverne Cox, Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Kanye West, or another celebrity of their choice.
Brainstorm the themes presented in Bernhardt/Hamlet. Ask students to choose one or to craft their own thematic statement on a topic about which they have strong beliefs. Then, using the biographical details of their chosen celebrity, have students write a scene that shows their celebrity in the process of creating art or an act of self-promotion. Encourage students to make choices about the biographical details and dialogue with the other character in the scene that convey their theme.
SHARE AND REFLECT
Have students perform scenes. Then ask the audience what they believe the playwright’s thematic message is and what artistic choices convey that message. Encourage playwrights to listen to feedback first and then articulate what theme they hoped to communicate and the artistic choices they made.
BERNHARDT/HAMLET UPSTAGE GUIDE 21
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