The University of Rochester's International Theatre Program tackles the complex themes of Shakespeare's supreme tragedy, Hamlet, for its spring production in an extended three-week run starting April 17.
A large cast of 26 will explore revenge, madness, indecision, power, and familial relationships in the three-hour presentation. In addition, 12 stage managers, assistant directors, and student crew have worked under director Nigel Maister to create an intense, high-energy, and startlingly visual production.
Billing the production as "a Hamlet for the 21st century," Maister has updated the scenes to the contemporary world, mounting the action against a set designed of metal, wood, and steel to create an industrial urban ambience. Fight scenes have been choreographed by a stage combat professional, Dawn Alden of the Chicago troupe "Babes with Blades."
Since Hamlet is one of the most studied of Shakespeare's plays, the International Theatre Program reached out to local high schools, offering the opportunity to see the play produced outside of the classroom by scheduling two 10 a.m. performances on Tuesday, April 22, and Tuesday, April 29. The response was so good that a third morning presentation was added on Friday, April 25.
Students from East High School and Franklin Career Academies in Rochester will attend the play. "Shakespeare is part of our curriculum from the ninth to 11th grades, and most of our students are very familiar with the plays," said Babette Phillips, chair of the English department and literacy coach at Franklin. "Teachers are excited that now the students get the opportunity to see Hamlet in action."
Besides directing the production, Maister designed the set in collaboration with award-winning designer, puppeteer, and sculptor Holly Laws, whose film credits include The Last of the Mohicans and The Crucible. Music and sound design is by Obadiah Eaves, whose work has been heard on Nickelodeon and HBO Family Channel; lighting design is by Aaron Black; and dramaturgy is by Kenneth Gross, professor of English at the University.
Maister, artistic director of the International Theatre Program, was born in South Africa and educated at the University of Cape Town and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He has acted and directed productions in the United States, Europe, and South Africa, and received numerous awards.
The International Theatre Program's production of Hamlet also runs at 8 p.m. on April 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, 25, 26, and 30 and May 1, 2, and 3; and at 3 p.m. on April 20 and 27 in Todd Theater on the River Campus. Tickets are $8 for the general public; $7 for senior citizens and for University of Rochester faculty and staff; and $5 for students. Members of public broadcasting station WXXI are invited to purchase two-for-one tickets to any performance as part of their April member benefit. Tickets can be reserved by calling (585) 275-4088 or online at www.Rochester.edu/College/eng/theatre.
For more information, please contact the University's International Theatre Program at (585) 275-4959.