Welcome back, Shakespeare Studs and Studdesses! David Andrew Laws here, Artistic Director and Grilled Cheese Overlord of Hamlet Isn't Dead. Today's topic is one that's very near and dear to my heart, so reserve a seat on The Feelings Train and buckle in! Don't worry; there's room for everyone.
Over the past few months, I've had the following conversation with a startling number of you:
"You: Hi, David!
David: Hi, you!
You: You smell nice.
David: ...okay. That's... Uh, what's up?
You: Just wanted to say congratulations on all the Hamlet Isn't Dead...stuff. But I was curious. Where'd you get the name?
You: David? Why are you trying to crawl under the bar?
Bartender: Sir, please stop trying to hide behind my leg. We can all still see you. Don't avoid the question.
Or, you know, some iteration of that conversation. Well, wonder no more! Today we dive into the etymology of what's in our name. (See what I did there?)
Hamlet Isn't Dead is an organization formed of many special components. Some of them are you. Some of them are us. We are a company founded on equal parts curiosity, passion, and petty, childlike jealousy.
Let's rap, kids.
This was the closest thing I could find to me straddling a chair in front of some underprivileged youths.
Our story begins with me in a relationship. Yes, I know, hard to suspend so much disbelief at once, but I have faith in you. For the purposes of our story, let's call her Bitch Kitty. Not that she was a bitch! Just that I've always wanted to use that as a pet name for someone. She wouldn't let me, obviously. No one has. I'm begining to think no one ever will....
Let's call her Susan!
Anyway, Susan and I were both actors and, as such, there was an inherent level of underlying competition. It was all very healthy and loving (except maybe the screaming), but there was definitely always a fierce desire to...top...the other. I realized that sentence as I was typing it, sorry.
Well, one day, Susan informed me that an ex- of hers was moving to town with plans to start a theatre group, and that she intended to join him in this creative endeavor. I, being the rational and articulate adult I am, responded with, "Oh yeah?? Well...fine! I'll start my own theatre company! And it'll be WAY better than his! We'll have acrobats and...free...pie!" Ah, ever the epitome of composure.
Now, I don't want you to think our little ensemble was constructed on a house of spite. I had dreams of starting my own company long before I met Susan. (I did, I swear! Ask anybody!) It was only through this event that I realized what a realistic goal it had become. I'm still getting used to this whole "being an adult" thing (Who isn't, amirite?), but this was something I knew I could make happen.
The first step now (then) was deciding on a name.
Presenting! From the annals of time (hee hee, annals),
Rejected Ideas for a Theatre Company Name:
-The Free Sample Players
-Happy Moose Home Productions
-Why Not Theatre?
-Insert Wit Here
-Out of Ideas Inc.
Yeah, seriously those were the runners-up to Hamlet Isn't Dead! Lucky thing too, huh? Most of those sound like terrible high school band names.
I believe this one was called 'Blackmail for Later'. Actually, that was supposed to be a joke, but that's a really good band name. Write that down.
As I paced the apartment, I was listening to a bit of music, to help charge the ol'...thinking...tool. Brain! And this song came on.
For those of you who can't open this, or when I inevitably can't figure out how to actually post the link, this is Elvis Isn't Dead by Scouting for Girls. And you should really give it a listen or seventeen.
It's a very seemingly-straightforward song. The themes are a break-up and 1950's rock legend Elvis Presley. Like ya do. One of the lyrics that summarizes the piece quite nicely is the repeated line "Elvis isnt dead, and you're coming back to me." Aw, that's sweet.
But wait, The Feelings Train is about to leave the station, and I'm the conductor about to punch your Heart Ticket. (Wait, then who's driving?)
Because, but, Elvis is dead. That's not true, what you said before, hopeful singer, about Elvis not being dead. I'm beginning to think anything you say after that might also not be true. *gasp!*
You mean...she's not coming back...?
...this is the most upbeat sad song since Baa Baa Black Sheep. (No wool for you!!)
Anyway, I love that song; it hits me very deeply, and I suppose that's why it fixed itself onto the name-searching-for part of my brain. "Wouldn't it be neat if we took that idea and put a Shakespearean character in there? Caeser Isn't Dead? No. Romeo Isn't Dead? Too vowely. Hamlet Isn't Dead? Yes! Yes, by Susan, I think that's it!" And thus I was fated to write these three words on the cover of every notebook I owned for the next few months, like the adolescent schoolgirl I really am.
Seriously. That's it. That's the depth of the creative process it took to come up with your favorite theatre moniker to date. But the story doesn't end there! No, no, no, if we just came up with cool-sounding things and left it at that, we'd have attended the Univeristy of Oklahoma. (Cause then I could run around going Oh, You! all the time. Get it?)
Here comes the serious part. I'm not even gonna make any fart jokes. Or similes. ...but quickly, one last silly picture, then it gets serious.
I'll understand if you need a minute to shift gears.
It would be difficult to argue that any play demonstrates Shkaespeare's genius as well as Hamlet. It is a haunting story filled with characters we love, hate, obsess over, and argue about; it contains some of the most beautiful language ever set down in print. Familial love, romance, sexual longing, friendship--all of these things exist within these five acts. Hamlet the character may be dead, but the play itself is very much alive.
But some people don't seem to believe that. There are those, both artists and not, who think of Shakespeare as a dead language. As something that belongs to the past, something archaic. A relic which, at best, belongs in a museum or, at worst, a dumpster. That these stories need to be "fixed" or "updated" in order to have any relevance within our lives. And I'm here to say that this is simply not true.
I've never been a fan of people labeling themselves as Shakespearean actors, or saying that they can't "do Shakespeare" because they don't "get it". Forgo his words for a moment and just look at the story. The motivation for nearly every character in Hamlet is love. And that is something we can all understand. Sure, maybe we've never known the passion that would drive us to suicide if unrequited. I'm pretty sure most of us will never have to kill or be killed in order to avenge our fathers. But we do love. It is the force that brings us together, nourishes us, and keeps stories like this alive. It's what keeps us alive.
The motivation for nearly everything we do in life is love. We search for it. We require it. Whether it is love of self or love of another, we could not continue to exist. There would be no point, without it. We wake up in the morning and go through our day doing whatever is necessary to be able to continue to live so that we may one day know a greater love, or strengthen the love we already have, and we go to bed and night and dream about love.
And I'm not just talking about romantic love, but all kinds of love. Love for your children, a love of nature; any passion you have, any drive, any desire, I'd call that love. Some people think the word is overused; I think it's under-appreciated. Love is a force which completes us. And I've met enough people to know that a person is made up of a whole lot of pieces that require a whole lot of glue to stay stuck together.
Shakespeare's not hard. Or it's the hardest thing in the world, I don't know. The same goes for love. It's as easy as breathing, but just as often chokes us up. And I firmly believe that they are both some of the most natural things in the world. It's why Shakespeare wrote on a heartbeat. It's why his works have been translated into over 80 languages. It's why we, Hamlet Isn't Dead, named ourselves after one of his greatest accomplishments. In the hopes that one day, if even for a moment, that all of us will know love as great as the love he wrote of with such amazing skill.
-David Andrew Laws