Such working homecomings are part of McCraney’s long-range plan.
“I want to show what Miami has wrought and what Miami can make,” he says.
With a longer-than-usual rehearsal period of 4 1/2 weeks (though he notes that productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company rehearse for two months), McCraney has spent time shaping his diverse cast into a company that can deliver his vision.
He wants this Hamlet to seem as if a group of actors in the 1920s or ’30s arrived at GableStage’s home, the Biltmore Hotel, found some costumes and put on this classic play in a place known to have its own ghosts. To get the performers working as a team, he had them play theater games, do monologues for each other and push themselves physically.
Jokes McCraney, “They have a common enemy: me.”
But the actors, veterans and newcomers alike, are enjoying the process and impressed by the way McCraney and Sheibani refashioned the “bad” First Quarto (the first and shortest version of Hamlet, which lacks the famous speeches added to the Second Quarto and First Folio) into a dynamic piece of theater.
“This is a fast-moving, lean and mean Hamlet,” says Randolph.
“It doesn’t give the audience the opportunity to sit back,” Kammerer says. “Everything in the text is essential. Everything Tarell could mine is there.”
For Haig, who first performed Hamlet in 1964, McCraney’s fidelity to Shakespeare’s language is key.
“Tarell begins with the text. That’s a relief for some of us who have been in cockamamie Shakespearean productions,” he says.
Sanchez, whose credits include Shakespeare plays at Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, is getting to play a dream role as Hamlet.
“This really takes every single part of you. I’ve been reading the play since I was 13. It’s a role I’ve been preparing for all my life. I’ve been doing the ‘Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave’ speech as a monologue since I was 18,” he says.
The actor did a vast amount of research and reading, as actors about to play Hamlet do. But, he says, “I realized that once I got into this room, all that would remain is the story we’re trying to tell” about a young man out to not just avenge his father but to set the world right.
For McCraney, the GableStage Hamlet and his still-in-progress Antony and Cleopatra are almost a kind of curriculum.
“This is teaching me the first steps in a longer process,” he says. “Every time you do Shakespeare, you learn how to do it better.”