Over four hundred years after Shakespeare’s Hamlet was first presented, directors have to get pretty creative in order to show audiences something new. It appears that Julia Sears of the ensemble The Horse In Motion will be doing just that, staging an immersive, site-specific version of this play starring two Hamlets, played by Kevin Lin and Jocelyn Maher.
Lin was initially intimidated by the project. “When I read an audition notice and my initial thought is, ‘There is absolutely no way that I could do this,’ it’s a good sign to me that I ought to audition,” Lin said. “I am enticed by the challenge of it all.”
The actor was aware of the burden placed on the shoulders of actors playing Hamlet. “The risks are great: portraying one of theatre’s most iconic characters, in a play that has been famously produced all over the world, and being bold enough to say that I have something new to offer to Shakespeare’s canon,” he said. “Auditioning for this ambitious project was a conscious, slightly masochistic choice of saying that ultimately, I enjoy and embrace the struggle.”
That struggle was not without its doubts and travails along the way. “Despite my best efforts, a cascade of apprehension looms over this entire process and a multitude of insecurities arise: what if I fail?” Lin said. “What if I don’t rise to the expectations? What if the role is too difficult for me?”
Once started, this train of thought kept moving forward. “Many of these worries extended beyond theatre, and for a long while, I was overflowing with negative emotions, but then it dawned on me. Are these doubts and uncertainties real, or are they torments of the mind?” he said. “If I perceive an impending danger, can I not also perceive its solution? If I cannot find serenity, then should I be looking elsewhere?”
Ultimately, Lin believes that he and his partner in playing Hamlet are both up to the challenge. “Jocelyn Maher is gifted with the trait of being incredibly endearing and playing alongside her has been a vital source of relief for me,” Lin said. “I feel free to confide my worries in her and find mutual understanding because she has the mental fortitude of a saint. She is a smart, hilarious actor who surprises me every day with excellent work.”
Lin is also inspired by the site-specific format of the production at the Stimson-Green Mansion, a Seattle Landmark that is available for tours, lectures, and special events such as this production. “Site-specific work allows a person to engage their senses in a way that they normally would not have access to with a traditional live performance,” he said. “Objects have their own emotional value that can far exceed their economic value.”
In this theatre format, the senses are given a prime place. “You can touch and smell site-specific work, and if there’s food, taste it as well,” Lin said. “You can establish a bond with the space and recall important personal memories when the curation is deliberate. The challenge, of course, is finding the right space for the right story.”
Lin feels that The Horse in Motion ensemble has done just that. “The Stimson-Green Mansion is a brilliant historical Seattle landmark, but we have to play by its architectural rules,” he said. “There are some logistical problems: actors and audience will be flying up and down flights of stairs during the show. There will be two tracks of a play running simultaneously in a space designed for zero. We do not yet know if there will be room capacity issues. There is a lot that can go wrong, but I believe the rewards will be worth it when everything comes together.”
Things also seem to be coming together in Lin’s acting career as a whole, and his calendar is booked well beyond Hamlet. “I am happy to say that I am part of the HERON Ensemble, which will be announcing its summer production soon,” he said. “Even more recently, I joined The Seagull Project and will be a part of their upcoming Uncle Vanya in early 2019.”
He is grateful for these and other opportunities. “I benefit greatly from being a young male, along with many other normative descriptors, actor of color,” he said, “and the rising movement towards equity in theatre has given me an extra leg to stand on in the constant struggle to find work in town.”
Lin feels he has learned much both in the theatre world and from the dramatic material itself. “I am beginning to realize that the troubles that plague us all are not battles we have to fight alone,” he said. “There are certain recurring archetypes of people that exist throughout history, stories, or even our distant social circles. If we want to be understood, we just have to find them. Or, in this case, let them find us.”
These discoveries have made this production especially important to Lin. “Throughout the process, I have found a unique solace in Hamlet,” he said. “This play and this particular production seemed to arrive right when I needed it most.”
Hamlet runs from April 12 to 29 at the Stimson-Green Mansion, 1204 Minor Avenue, Seattle.