‘Hamlet’ promises insightful take on Shakespeare classic

Professor David Morris’s sketch reveals his novel set designs for the upcoming ‘Hamlet’. Photo courtesy of Professor David Morris
Professor David Morris’s sketch reveals his novel set designs for the upcoming ‘Hamlet’. Photo courtesy of Professor David Morris

“The play’s the thing / wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King,” mutters Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, as he plots against his evil Uncle Claudius in the Shakespeare original. Perhaps the upcoming theater department production will also “catch the conscience” of the average College student?

Hamlet, though a timeless piece of literature that speaks to many things about the human condition, is first and foremost a drama about drama: the drama of the stage, state, love and life. This fall, the theater department will be putting on a production of one of William Shakespeare’s best-known plays and perhaps his most famous and oft-quoted tragedy (“To be or not to be,” anyone?).

The play, which will show at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance three times from November 20-22 at 7:30 p.m., is directed by David Eppel, professor of theater. It stars Connor Lawhorn ’16 as the tragic hero, Kimberly Golding ’16 as his mother, the Queen Gertrude, Benjamin Williams ’17 as the villainous King Claudius, Joseph Baca ’15 as Laertes and 16 more student cast members. Many of the actors also played Hamlet-based characters in the theater department’s recent production of Stage Blood, including Lawhorn in a leading role.

Scenery and sets will be designed by David Gürçay-Morris, costumes by the Deborah Brothers, lights by Julie Seitel and sound design and fight choreography by Alexander Sovronsky, according to the theater department’s website.

“It has been a long while since the theater department last tackled Hamlet,” according to the department website. “We are delighted to be doing it again.” According to Professor Amy Holzapfel, dramaturg for the production, the choice to perform Hamlet was a part of broader College initiatives.

“We were excited to have our season tie into Book Unbound curricular initiative, so we chose a play that dealt explicitly with the object, meaning, property and discourse of the ‘book’ and the figure of the ‘reader,’” wrote Holzapfel.

“We knew that Hamlet would give students the opportunity to grapple with a verse drama and to find ways to empathize with figures who are, on the one hand, very far away from us and, on the other hand, closer than we might at first think,” she wrote.

That might be one reason that this production of Hamlet will be recieving a markedly the modern and novel spin. One of the angles the College production will take is that of surveillance, the idea of living in a contemporary, slightly paranoid world.

“One of our conceptual starting points was a book by media studies scholar Jonathan Crary called 24/7, which explores how the marketplace of global capitalism operates around the clock,” wrote Holzapfel.

“[W]e saw the world of Hamlet as a theatrical space that mirrors, in many ways, the constant feeling we have today of being ‘always on’ and ‘always watched.’”

This theater department production has cast students from all four classes and does not follow gender casting conventions: for instance, Guildenstern will be played by a female not a male actor as was traditionally cast.

Fatima Anaza ’18 is a first year who has been cast in three supporting roles: Voltemand, a player and a ghost.

“I did ETA [Exploring the Arts, an First Days orientation activity for first-year students], and I met a lot of people from the theater,” said Anaza, who has never acted onstage. “I just felt really inspired to do things that I didn’t do in high school.”

The allure of Hamlet’s legacy, though intimidating to Anaza, ultimately won out over any reservations for auditioning that the blossoming actress may have had.

“I chose to do it because I knew it was one of those plays that, even if I got to play a rock,” she said, “I would be very happy to play that rock.”

  • Cassius

    The idea of surveillance and paranoia is appropriate, but hardly novel. Have a look at the famous “Rainbow Portrait” of Queen Elizabeth. Her dress is embroidered with lots of eyes and ears–a tribute to her surveillance network, headed up by spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. There needs no eavesdropper come from behind an arras to tell us that walls have ears. Just because Hamlet seems, at times, paranoid doesn’t mean “they” are not out to get him.

  • Cassius

    Where is the review of this production of Hamlet?

    First, the role of Hamlet is the largest in the Shakespeare canon.

    Imagine memorizing 100 fourteen line sonnets, Then, consider the purely physical demands of the role, which are legendary.

    Oh, so this production got caught in the sad interstices of school calendars constrictions.

    Shame on the Williams Record for not recognizing theatrical brilliance in the most historically challenging milieu.

    This was a Hamlet for all time!