the chorister's c

Guildenstern's journal


I am preparing the role of Guildenstern in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard, to be performed 10 November 2000 through 16 December at Silver Spring Stage, Silver Spring, Maryland. This is my rehearsal and performance journal.


In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, college chums of Hamlet, are recruited by King Claudius of Denmark (Hamlet's stepfather) and Queen Gertrude (his mother), to find out why Hamlet seems to be in such a bad mood all the time. Of course, we know that Hamlet is stewing because, according to a message from the ghost of Hamlet's natural father, Claudius killed him to gain his crown and wife. Well, that would bum me out. Hamlet spends a lot of time talking to himself.

Hamlet's rotten attitude is of concern to his girlfriend, Ophelia, her brother, Laertes, and their father, Polonius, who never met an empty platitude he didn't like. Hamlet induces a Player and his acting company to ad lib a version of Claudius's regicide during a performance before the court. It has most of the desired effect: Claudius storms out, and everyone is at sixes and sevens. Hamlet kills Polonius, mostly for eavesdropping.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern pop up again to do another favor for Claud and Gert: they take Hamlet on holiday to England. And, oh, would they take a memo from Claudius to the King of England along with them, too? What they don't know is that the memo instructs the King of England to kill Hamlet. But Hamlet does figure this out, and switches the memo with one that says to put a cap in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Ros and Guil, sharing the fate of many bit parts, die silently offstage.

Ham returns from England in Act V, feeling smug. But his honey Ophelia has drowned herself, and a friendly fencing match turns very ugly. Hamlet, Laertes, Gertrude, and Claudius tear each other to pieces. That's tragedy for you.


In Stoppard's dark, philosophical comedy, the same story plays out, but from the point of view of the school buds Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Stoppard's world is all the places that are offstage in Shakespeare's world -- most importantly, the ship on that deadly trip to England. Hamlet and the court are the bit parts, while the collegians take center stage. The Player has an important supporting role.

Ros and Guil, especially Guil, turn out to have just as much to say as Hamlet. When not in attendance at court, they gamble over coin flips. Guildenstern is on an alarmingly improbable losing streak.

First London and New York performances of Stoppard's play were in 1967.


In our production at Silver Spring Stage: John is the director; Rini is the stage manager. Dino plays Rosencrantz; Chris plays Hamlet; Belèn plays the Player; Rob plays Alfred. Except for Belèn, I have performed with all of the principals before, some of them several times. The rest of the cast performs the roles of both the Player's troupe and the court: Heather, Ken, Leta, Phil, Vince, and Jared. Bill is the producer; Judi is the assistant director.

Journal entries are indexed by the list on the right.

the chorister's c ||| pedantic nuthatch

Last update: 21 September 2000
David L. Gorsline.
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