Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (2013)
By Tom Stoppard
Directed by Beth Homan
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern (R&G) are Dead is a play that follows the adventure of two minor characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet. In this absurdist play there are many meta-theatrical moments in action and within the text. The concept for this performance was a stage reading to let the words shine. Because of this the major design elements were Sound and Video. My concept for the sound design was to lean into the absurdity and draw references from pop culture in a nod to updating Shakespeare for the current audience. Projection was all projected by a rear projector onto the cyc and would create backgrounds and transitions.
Preshow, Intermission and Post Show
For Preshow, Intermission and Post show, I chose music by Elvis Costello and Tom Waits. To me these artist had songs that were stories unto themselves with whimsical and sometimes dark themes that were reflected in the text. I also liked the use of atypical sounds and rhythms which to me were mirrored in the absurdity of the text.
One reoccurring moment in the show was what we called "The Coin Game". This was when the characters would flip a coin and it would continuously land on heads. The improbability of this helped to heighten the absurdity of their world. To underscore this I looped the introduction of "The Earth Died Screaming" by Tom Waits. This song had a percussive rhythmic opening that added to the whimsy of the moment. Using it as a theme helped the audience to understand that the coin game was a significant occurrence.
During the show there were several instances that we called "Wormhole Moments". These were when the characters suddenly found themselves in another location and the text had shifted from modern english to the Shakespearian text of Hamlet. Part of what we wanted to do with these moments was to pull the audience out of the show to make them think about what is happening. We also wanted these moments to be influenced by pop culture. For example: When Rosencrantz says "I hear a band." indicating the band of players, a hodgepodge of 20th and 21st century bands played before settling on a period appropriate "Shakespearian" song.
In order to place the Players in the world they carried and played their instruments live on stage. However in an effort to confuse the characters (and the audience) and heighten the absurdity of the production the performers were also pre recorded and played from numerous sources before their entrance.