That's Uncle P on the right, as Claudius (conspiring with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) in a 1982 college production of Hamlet. It was the first Shakespearean role I'd ever played, and frankly, I was terrified. The director, a professor I both loved and feared, was prescient enough to cast the leads the previous spring, working with with us all summer long to prepare for the late September production.
Every year at this time, I grow a bit nostalgic for this particular production. I made life-long friends among some of the cast; learned how to read, interpret and perform the works of Shakespeare and discovered the full range of my voice, all in one show. It was truly one of those life-altering experiences.
Oh, there have been dozens upon dozens of shows, since. There have been roles I have both loved (Dysart in Equus; the Major-General in The Pirates of Penzance; Danforth in The Crucible; Roate in Wait Until Dark and Sweeney in Sweeney Todd, among many) and hated. There have also been many plays that I have directed that made me fall in love with theatre over and over again. Still, there is something about this particular production at this particular time in my life, that resonates with me almost 30 years later. I got my ear pierced accompanied by two members of the cast (and later slept with one of them - TMI, I know...). I was introduced to Devo by none other than Hamlet himself (Thanks, Steve!) and got a perm because I saw Derek Jacobi's perm in the same role on PBS. I discovered New Wave dancing at City Gardens (where I was served drinks by none other than the future Jon Stewart); found out that the Beatles were amazing and played countless games of "Password" at cast parties.
I've since gone on to play many Shakespearean characters and direct three of his plays. But it is this production of Hamlet and that year of self-discovery that will always occupy a special place in my heart. And for that, I will always be grateful. It was the September when I was a tender and callous fellow, indeed.
Oh, Jerry -- you are missed.