Here’s a good “theater world” question.
What’s harder and more intimidating to have to accomplish on stage – the simple, basic acting of a scene? Or the wielding of a sword in a choreographed, highly physical sword-fight, designed so the participants are dodging furniture and other cumbersome set pieces, all while trying not to actually hurt one another?
“Oh, the acting part is harder, definitely,” laughs Bill Garcia, who is playing the lead in Sonoma Arts Live’s “I Hate Hamlet,” opening this weekend at Andrews Hall. “I wrestled in school,” says Garcia, who also serves as fight choreographer for the show. “I definitely have the combat instinct. For me, personally, that’s auto pilot. But acting? When you’re standing still, thinking and talking, being another person, and showing emotions. Acting is hard. It can be scary. But swords? Swords are fun.”
Blending a bit of fun with a bit of fear.
That sounds about right for Paul Rudnick’s beloved stage play, “I Hate Hamlet,” part slapstick comedy, part ghost story, and part Shakespearean spoof. Inspired, in part, by a time when the award-winning playwright found himself living in actor John Barrymore’s old New York City apartment – which is evidently not haunted – the deliciously clever play is partly an homage to that age-old actors nightmare of finding oneself on-stage before an audience, fully unprepared and usually under-dressed.
“I have never had stage fright myself, per se,” says Garcia, who’s done a fair amount of stage work. He appeared at Andrews Hall two years ago in Narrow Way Stage Company’s “Alice: The Revolt of Wonderland,” in which he played several characters including the Cheshire Cat, and also staged the various fight sequences. Last year, he played Dracula in the Raven Players production of the Bram Stoker story, in Healdsburg. “What I do sometimes carry with me onto the stage,” he allows, “is that classic reticence an actor can have. I played Rosencrantz once in Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.” I’ve never had so many lines in one show.”
That, he says, was pretty intimidating.
“I really don’t mind getting up in front of people, though,” Garcia says. “I kind of like showing off. Going into ‘Dracula,’ I said, ‘Since I’m the guy who’s going to get blood all over me, can I just take my shirt off during the bloody scenes?’ In ‘I Hate Hamlet,’ though, I’m playing a guy who is not so comfortable in front of others, and that, ironically, is a bit of a challenge for me. I apparently gesture with my hands a lot. Joey, one of our directors, keeps saying, ‘Don’t do that. Your character wouldn’t do that.’”
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