Shakespeare and Company Performs “Hamlet” for Clark and Worcester Audience

Monica Sager, Scarlet Staff

Shakespeare and Company performed  Hamlet at the Little Center Wednesday, February 13 as part of the group’s Northeast regional tour of Shakespeare.

Hamlet “is a play—possibly the play—that speaks to us on the most personal levels,” wrote Kevin G. Colman, the director of education for Shakespeare and Company.

It is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare in the 1600’s. It is set in Denmark, as Prince Hamlet is called to avenge his father’s death and defeat his uncle, whom his mother married soon after the death of her husband.

In the original production, Shakespeare himself played the Ghost, according to Daniel Light, who was acting as Laertes, Guildenstern, Marcellus, and Player King.

“While Shakespeare raises an unparalleled number of questions in this play, he as usual provides little in the way of answers,” Colman wrote. He places us—the audience, the witnesses, the readers—in the position of silent participants in the drama when he bombards us with these questions.”

Actors wore fully embellished costumes, including both dark colors for the intensity of the scenes as well as royal oranges and yellows for the King and Queen.

One aspect of the Shakespeare and Company’s version that was different from other productions is that Hamlet was played by a female actor instead of a male.

“I honestly don’t think of it that much,” said Jordan Mann, who played Hamlet in an all dark black outfit and white undershirt which seemed to be shown more often when Hamlet was acting out of hand or like a mad-man.

Mann has a BFA from NYU Tisch and a Masters in Classical Acting from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.

This is Mann’s first role for Shakespeare and Company. However, Mann has played a “reversed-gender” role before, in a  production of “Macbeth,” where she, the only woman, played Macbeth while the other characters were all played by male actors.

Shakespeare and Company put on this production of “Hamlet” with only five actors.

“Our director Tom Jaeger put the representation together,” said Nick Nudler, who acted as Claudius and the Ghost.“It’s kind of an amalgam of a bunch of different 90-minute cuts, with keeping passages that he liked or keeping passages that are important.”

Certain characters were cut completely from the play. Others, like Horatio, was significantly left out.

“When the play was originally on tour in Shakespeare’s time, there were significantly less actors than we usually have,” said Kristen Peacock, who played Ophelia, Rosencrantz, and Osric. “Some characters were actually already built into plays to multiple role. So Ophelia and Rosencrantz, it’s clear that those two are meant to come on and off stage together.”

This wasn’t the first time that the company had made cuts to one of Shakespeare’s original plays.

“We have much experience at Shakespeare and Company, cutting things down to 90-minutes for this tour, for various different projects,” said Caitlin Kraft, who played Gertrude and Gravedigger. “Because 5 hours is much too long, at least for many modern audiences and schools that we go to.”

Shakespeare and Company performs at locations between Maine and Washington, D.C., according to Mann.

Furthermore, Shakespeare and Company’s education program seems to be integral to the organization’s programs. “Our Education Program brings the classical poetry and plays of Shakespeare into the lives of as many students and teachers as possible in ways that are personally meaningful, educationally inspiring, and theatrically compelling,” the program said.

Since 1978, Shakespeare and Company has shared its educational program with nearly one million elementary, middle, and high school students.

“Our program immerses students in the world of Shakespeare and classical theatre in the most active, engaging, and personally meaningful ways,” the program said.

Shakespeare and Company is one of the 40 professional theater companies within the National Endowment for the Arts and Arts Midwest that brings Shakespeare to middle- and high-school students.

The play was open to college students for free and the public for $5.

As the performance was snowed out Tuesday, February 12, it is unclear if the troop will return to Clark for a second night.

The troupe will though be back in Worcester in April to perform Hamlet at the Hanover Theater.