The College of the Holy Cross theatre department will present their modern-dress production of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” directed by Edward Isser, professor and chair of the department, on April 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, and 23 at 8 p.m. in the Fenwick Theatre. Closing night will be held on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Tickets are available to the Holy Cross community for $10 and $15 for the general public and can be purchased starting March 14 by calling the Fenwick Box Office at (508) 793-2496 or online at http://HolyCrossHamlet.
The production, which will run approximately two hours instead of the full — albeit rarely produced — uncut four-hour version, will also be performed for over a thousand students of the Worcester School Direct at the Hanover Theatre on March 31 at 9:30 a.m. before opening at Holy Cross.
This provocative modern-dress take on Shakespeare’s classic tragedy explores the angst of a young man trying to find his way in a corrupt world filled with dissembling politicians, paranoia, and surveillance. Being one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, many audience members are already familiar with the text but the use of modern dress, according to Isser, will cause viewers to reconsider their previous encounters with this classic work.
“A modern-dress production offers opportunities to create resonance between the seemingly archaic language of Shakespeare — that often feels stilted and foreign to our ears — and the immediacy of the action that speaks directly to our contemporary experience,” Isser says. “‘Hamlet’ is a complex, multifaceted piece that defies a simplistic, reductive reading. By employing modern dress, we break down barriers between the actors and the audience and rediscover the proximity of the play’s ideas. It allows us to surprise, shock and entertain an audience that is provoked into seeing the play anew with fresh eyes.”
Isser, who has directed over thirty-five academic and professional theatre productions, explains that “Hamlet” speaks to primary concerns surrounding today’s youth. “I chose to direct ‘Hamlet’ because it explores directly the angst of young people crushed by controlling parents, societal obligations and a sense of personal inadequacy,” says Isser, who as a parent, artist, and educator, is concerned with the experiences of the current generation — experiences which he sees resonating in this play. “I am directing this production with young people — to be performed for other young people — and therefore it is crucial to me that it speaks directly and compellingly to their shared experience.”
Students and faculty members are closely involved with the department’s productions, with Fenwick Theatre serving as what Isser calls a “laboratory” where production work is an extension of the classroom experience. “At Holy Cross, a wide range of students from across all disciplines participate in the arts and this diversity is reflected in the composition of the cast,” he says. The “Hamlet” cast includes Brian Ott ’16 as Hamlet, Erik Schneider ’16 as Claudius, Rebekah Dowdell ’16 as Gertrude, Rose Weiss ’18 as Ophelia, Patrick O’Konis ’16 as Horatio, Nick Jorgensen ’16 as Laertes, and Steve Vineberg, professor of theatre, as Polonius.
The cast will perform the modern-dress “Hamlet” for a younger audience from the Worcester School District at the Hanover Theatre. This collaboration between the Holy Cross theatre department and Hanover Theatre is a part of an ongoing relationship, which has included a variety of internship opportunities for Holy Cross students at the local theatre.
The idea came out of a meeting Isser had last year with executive director of the Hanover Theatre, Troy Siebels, to discuss ways to expand the partnership. “I mentioned our intention to mount ‘Hamlet’ on campus this year and Troy immediately proposed bringing it to the Hanover and performing it for the Worcester School District,” shares Isser, who saw the opportunity as a great way to connect with the Worcester community. “Performing ‘Hamlet’ at the Hanover serves the community, provides a unique training opportunity for Holy Cross students, and hopefully energizes and excites a new generation of young people to the wonder and power of Shakespearean performance.”
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