BUCKINGHAM: A play on words

Freshman Voices

Before heading off into the great unknown that is college, some fill their last days at home basking languidly in the rays of summer sunshine. Hailing from Southern California, such a notion is particularly tempting. But instead I chose to revel in the company of Shakespeare — shedding light on life rather than skin.

After reading Hamlet, my friends and I decided to spend a last hurrah together seeing Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which shines a spotlight on the Danish prince’s boyhood friends. We packed our belongings for a day trip and set off in an RV to San Diego’s Old Globe Theater — perhaps mirroring a future trip with Yale friends to New York for a Broadway production. The parallel, however, only extends so far. I brought a blanket to stave off the night chill sure to permeate the outdoor theater — sufficient in California, but surely no match for the blustery New Haven winter.

Seeing a play performed that one has previously only read, however, unmistakably mirrors the “prefrosh” experience. We, the class of 2017, have up to this point scoured the internet for the best restaurants in New Haven, tried our hand at Bluebooking and chatted on our very own Facebook page. Besides Bulldog Days, our interactions with Yale thus far have been, in the vein of Hamlet, “words, words, words.” We may speculate, but we have yet to experience the play come to life. The central characters — our future friends — are largely shadowed in mystery. There are stage directions — a prospective major, or an extracurricular activity one desperately desires to pursue — but we as of yet do not know how they will be executed, achieved.

There may be an unexpected ad-lib, a deviation from the script. Artistic freedom is, after all, especially common in performances of Shakespeare plays and their offshoots. The Old Globe’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, for instance, featured camera crew trailing behind the actors, reminiscent of reality TV. Indeed, the freedom to experiment and explore is welcomed, cherished even, in the liberating environment that is Yale.

Part of what makes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern so applicable to the college experience is its emphasis on questioning, on debating topics not often breached. Questions of origins, both physical and cerebral, are raised throughout the play. College is a time to embrace our origins, and to be the origin of new ideas, concepts and angles to research.

As of yet, we are akin to Hamlet’s boyhood friends, not Stoppard’s characters. Like Shakespeare’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, we exist now only as fringe characters in the story of Yale. But that is about to change.

One of the aspects I love most about Yale is that for 312 years it has been the setting of discoveries, interactions between future leaders around the globe and pursuits — both insatiable and joyous — of knowledge. We have now entered that realm, not as spectators, but as participants. And it is for us to aid in deciding the course of such a monumental play. What is its overall meaning?

In the spirit of the existentialism in which Stoppard’s play is steeped, there is no inherent message. Time at Yale will be different for each of us.

And as such, we steer our own ship through the whirling seas of life, pioneering our own meaning. As we travel, the community is our blanket, a nurturing and stimulating force far mightier than the tangible ones we might pack in our RV. Like the threads that weave us all together, we desire to forge an impactful course, creating ripples with lasting benefits in the water. And even after the final curtain call, our story thus does not have to end.

Amanda Buckingham is a freshman in Berkeley College. Contact her at amanda.buckingham@yale.edu.

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