Hamlet by the Numbers

posted by Director Traci Brant

Hamlet has already been a lengthy, challenging, terrifying, and completely thrilling process for Co-Director Jonni Pera and I.  The first daunting task was to craft a cut-down version of the play that tells the story in a compelling, clear, and urgent style. It was quite a process so here are some fun tidbits to put that in perspective. Even though artistic endeavors are a passion of mine, math and spreadsheets also put a smile on my face.   

  • Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play at nearly 5 hours uncut. We estimate that CST's current working script is approximately 2 hours 20 minutes.
  • According to various sources, the play as written has nearly 30,000 words.  [Wow, too many]  We've got it cut down to approximately 14,000. 
  • The original play has 34 characters.  We're at 19 characters played by 14 actors.  
  • The Arden Shakespeare edition of Hamlet has over 400 pages.  CST's hand-typed script is only 152 pages, and that's with Arial 13 point font with lots of space between lines and in the margins for notes. Honestly, it's not that long at all.  We estimate an average of 1 minute per page for scripts with much tighter margins.  

We may cut the script down even more as we go through the rehearsal process. It will not be the longest play CST has produced. Off the top of my head, at around 3 hours, both The Man Who Came to Dinner and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? have Hamlet beat. For that matter, Annie and The Sound of Music both ran around 2 1/2 hours. We got this. Cut the fat. Get to the heart of the story.... revenge, murder, love, loss... all the good stuff that makes up most compelling drama whether on television or on stage.

After months and months of script work, it was a relief to actually build out the rehearsal schedule over the weekend... albeit a daunting 3-hour process. Our priorities included avoiding actor conflicts, blocking all the scenes, working all the scenes, time for discoveries, and putting the play back together for continuity. I know we are now ready to move Hamlet from the page to the stage.