When: Fridays through Sundays, now through April 17
Where: Theatre in the Round
245 Cedar Ave. S.
Directed by: Matt Sciple
Starring: Clarence Wethern, Lindsay Marcy
Cost: $10 with student ID on Fridays and Sundays; $20 general admission
It seems madam? Nay, it is true that Shakespeare’s achievements have developed such a reputation of excellence that most Americans, without having read any of his work beyond Sparknotes’ summaries, will not argue his place atop the literary totem pole. The inevitable expectations such a reputation manifests are undoubtedly known to all those involved in the re-creation of any of his works. This month, Theatre in the Round’s finest are doing their best to do “Hamlet” justice.
Director Matt Sciple said that his biggest challenge was to “keep out of the way as much as possible.” A modest amount of hands-on molding and adapting is inevitable, but Sciple consciously left most of the original play intact.
“I tried to keep my hands on the reigns instead of building an entirely new carriage,” Sciple said.
The play in its entirety lasts more than four hours, but with respectfully meticulous editing, Sciple has eroded the play to fit its three-hour time slot. Cutting 8,000 of the play’s 30,000 words, while maintaining rhythm, clarity, and context, was no casual endeavor. Sciple used a working draft of the script, which allowed him to cut and edit throughout the rehearsal process.
When writing Hamlet, Shakespeare was forced to introduce context and setting through dialogue. With modern technology, Sciple is able to, for example, use a light to indicate the sun, whereas Shakespeare was forced to use a character to tell the audience about the sun.
Such edits allow the play to move along swiftly while maintaining all the integral aspects of the plot.
Presenting another onslaught of challenges to Sciple and his production staff, Theatre in the Round offers a stage that is unique to the Twin Cities theater circuit. The theater’s 246 seats surround the circular stage, allowing the play to be viewed from all 360 degrees. Sciple said they were confronted with several old problems that needed new solutions: how to set the stage, how to conduct scene transitions, where to put things.
But the director has worked at Theatre in the Round in the past and is no doubt familiar with the problems presented by the uncommon stage. He said “Hamlet” was written for a thrust stage (one that extends into the audience like a peninsula, allowing the performance to be viewed from threesides), which allows the scene transitions to be conducted in a manner similar to those for which Shakespeare was writing. By manipulating the eyes of the audience, Sciple and his team are able to make minor set adjustments right under the noses of the audience.
“You can make the audience look where you want them to look,” he said.
Theatre in the Round’s production is no modern take on the play. It’s not set in any particular time period but rather in the fairy tale-esque “timeless present.” Kings have crowns and there are no guns, but the specific year is inconsequential — allowing the setting to be as timeless as the play itself.
“This lets the audience to see that the play is happening right now as opposed to adding a whole new layer of interpretation,” Sciple said. “Why add more and have to justify more?”
Hamlet has been performed an innumerable amount of times throughout the years, which makes it easy for each new production to blend into the large crowd of mediocre performances. But Sciple hopes that his production will accentuate the play’s humanity and allow audience members to “be excited about the characters and engaged in the story.”
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