Theatre has become so peripheral to the culture that I’m not sure this can be said anymore. It’s more Hollywood that chronicle our times these days. Which is a shame because the way theatre chronicles is different than film. In film, the filmed reality can almost supplant the reality reality – that is it becomes almost MORE real. In theatre, we can tell truths that are perhaps not as realistic on the outside but are somehow more authentic on the inside – in the way that Mythic stories are not technically true but are almost more true for their structure.
I’m assuming Hamlet means abstract in the sense of a summary here but what if it were abstract in the sense of art. Theatre has the ability to abstract the truth, to distance us from it enough to see it.
But we are certainly not so well used at the moment. Or, rather, only a privileged few find themselves well used.
I noticed a guy in the credits of a Shakespeare play I know because he went to acting school with some women I know. He’s not playing a great part, sure – he’s still, like, I don’t know, Vernon or Angus or something but he’s working. And he’s working all the time in little Lord roles like this, messengers and such.
Meanwhile, there are no women’s roles that fill the background in this way. None of his female classmates can step into the minor female roles, because there’s only a handful of them and they get filled with a particular kind of beauty. So this guy, a white dude, finds himself well used or at least, adequately used – simply because the times are such that his type is much in demand while the females and/or people of color are not.
But perhaps, this little bit was Shakespeare trying to give his profession a little boost, trying to let people know his people should get a little bit of respect. And he was right, the people he wrote about, no matter what they ACTUALLY did, are remembered as he wrote them. Exhibit A: Richard the Third.