Brian Duke is an educator living with his wife and dog in Berlin, Germany. He has
published fictional pieces before, in Boston Literary Magazine, Monkeybicycle, Blink Ink,
Marco Polo Arts Magazine and others.
I don’t care if it’s too much, indeed it is much but what is too much, I am the decider who decides
what too much is, when is too much, but that’s what you need to play Hamlet, the absolute of all roles,
because Hamlet, in all of his misfortune and tragedy, is a painful character, a deeply painful character, one who
knows, feels and embraces pain throughout the play and I thought, I was thinking, since you are playing Hamlet
now that Heckart is gone, that you’ll need all the help you can get to play the character properly.
I’m not saying that you don’t deserve the role now that Heckart is gone, just saying that the role is
a challenging one and you’ll need all the help you can get because the role is a painful role, a role that
excises like some diamond moon, so take that pain, utilize it when you’re rehearsing for Hamlet, use that
pain like Heckart used the pain, like Heckart threw himself completely into the role of Hamlet, like he subsumed
himself, sometimes forgetting who he was, where he was, when he was, why he was, thinking himself to actually be
Hamlet, thinking himself the only one worthy of playing Hamlet in his lifetime and all the rotten others,
practicing all of the time, all hours of the day and at night, even sleeping like Hamlet, sleeping exactly like
Hamlet would sleep, that was the dedication of Heckart to the role of Hamlet, a dedication I’m still
waiting to see in you, because so far the dedication that you’ve shown me to the role of Hamlet pales in
comparison to the dedication Heckart had.
Heckart, in the long run, failed in his representation of Hamlet, but where Heckart failed you will succeed, I firmly believe, because Heckart, in all of his grand acting ability, was not stable, never really was stable, you’re stable because I know stability, I have a fat round eye for stability, but I don’t think it was his preparation for the role of Hamlet that made Heckart unstable, so don’t worry, I think Heckart was unstable before that, long before we ever selected him to play the role Hamlet was Heckart unstable, for the signs of Heckart’s instability were there, I can always see the signs of instability coming, like the time we all went out to dinner and Heckart shattered a wine glass on the floor when his steak wasn’t cooked to his specific direction, If you don’t take this steak back and bring me another I am going to positively murder every single one of you is just one of the things he said that night, and indeed, it was that night that Heckart’s instability first registered, that I first realized how close he was to the edge, how close Heckart constantly was to losing his mind, because I can always recognize when someone is close, but it was during the rehearsing that it became obvious to everyone just how close to the edge Heckart was, how close he always was, every second of every day of his life he was close to going insane, when Heckart would stand in the front of the mirror for hours, moving his face in odd contortions to see their relative effect, twisting his mouth and nose about, baring his teeth like some intoxicated tiger, all for effect, or when Heckart took a .22 revolver and loaded it with blanks and repeatedly shot himself in the temple in a rehearsal suicide, singeing the hair on that side of his head and rendering himself near deaf, all for inspiration, understanding his character’s tendency towards self-destruction, he said, but none of this will happen to you because I can recognize stability and you’re stable.
Though it’s a tragedy that Heckart is no longer with us, his death did not come as a surprise to anyone else in the cast, for Heckart was the type of person that walked with death, that took death with him everywhere he went, he took it with him to the shower, to the grocery store, on stage, to bed, he took death with him everywhere and so when death finally caught up with him it came without the shock that usually accompanies death, for we all knew that Heckart carried death with him, his instability I identified allowed him such luxury, but don’t worry I don’t see instability in you, and though the ruling was an accidental suicide, I have my suspicions, for someone like Heckart, someone who carries death with him everywhere, does not accidentally die, someone like Heckart does everything with a purpose, especially something like dying, and because of this purposefulness I don’t view Heckart’s death as a suicide, not a technical suicide, for I knew Heckart and know that Heckart wouldn’t just kill himself to kill himself, so I view Heckart’s death as part of his rehearsal, it seems only logical, that Heckart would have killed himself, not out of despair or rejection or depression, but because Hamlet killed himself, and because Hamlet killed himself and Heckart was playing Hamlet it seemed only natural, given the experiences with Heckart and the instability I identified, that Heckart would kill himself too.
So I am going to ask you one last time to take this revolver and do with it what you can, do with it something that Heckart would do, take this revolver out of my hand and do something that will make you better, that will make your Hamlet better, that will turn you like Heckart into Hamlet, that will make your performance all the more authentic, so take the revolver and hold it, feel it, think of it as the tool it is, because, as of right now, your performance is awful, contrived, I can hear the ghost of Heckart sobbing, wailing away to a red sun, so overcome your stability and embrace madness in the name of performance.