Moscow Art Theatre (Too) is returning to the days of Shakespeare — not only by performing “Hamlet,” but the way in which they put on the show.The theater company has left their usual silo location for East City Park and brought their own clothes along with them, instead of expensive theater attire.
“When the plays were written, they were for Shakespeare’s company, The Globe,” said Rick Glen, who plays Laertes. “Although there were walls, they were exposed to the elements … In a theater, people are nervous to react, because they’re so aware to everything around them, but with cars, the wind and kids playing, it lets the audience feel less isolated.”
Thus, Glen said, it’s easier to act.
“We’re short on resources,” said “Hamlet” director Dave Harlan, who plays Claudius. The free show had Harlan asking, “What’s the best way and most economical way to tell a story well?”
Being that “Hamlet” themes are universal, Harlan said, the easy choice for producing Shakespeare’s longest play was to allow actors to provide some of their own costumes, and to modernize the play. The MAT(T) stage’s props will include guns and cellphones.
“It’s modern life explicated through 400-year-old language,” said Harlan, who cut the four-hour play down to about two-and-a-half hours. “We’re approaching the language in a way we’re intending to make our own.”
For example, Harlan said Adriana Sanchez, who plays Hamlet, will think through each movement in the infamous “To be or not to be” soliloquy.
“They’re sounds to most people, but when you hear it from an actor that knows what they’re saying, you’ll see it come alive,” Harlan said.
Being a woman, Sanchez said, she has had her difficulties relating to the character. MAT(T) has staged male characters, such as Prospero and Timon, with female actors in past productions, played by locals Crystal Munoz and Emily Nash.
“At first I did struggle with being called a son or ‘he,’ ‘him.’ I am a lady, thank you,” Sanchez said. “‘Daughter’ doesn’t fit where ‘son’ would, especially when you’re in verse.”
But Sanchez said her part has pushed her to understand a drastically different human being, more than it has pushed her to relate to another gender.
“It’s trying to understand behavior that seems counterintuitive — just behavior that opposes your nature,” Sanchez said.
She said she has to put herself in Hamlet’s situation — one of grief and madness — and ask “What feeling does this awake in me and why?”
“‘To be or not to be,’ it’s so familiar to me. It’s whether to act on this order of revenge from my father or let it all go by,” said Sanchez, who has learned through “Hamlet” that “it’s easier to become a bystander in your life, instead of take control of your life.”
Giuseppi Romano, who plays Polonius, has done Shakespeare before, but said the large number of lines in “Hamlet” are difficult to memorize.
“And most Shakespeare is done so often that Polonius has been interpreted in so many different ways. He’s a comical character, he’s very wordy, but he has a family as well. I have a 10-year-old, so the family-man part is easy to get into,” Romano said.
While “Hamlet” may be “wordy,” Romano said some actors memorize lines by patting on their chests, due to the iambic pentameter found in the majority of Shakespeare. Beyond memory though, actors still have to interpret and understand the lines.
“We experience enough of what we’re saying so that it can actually land with the audience, because it can be like watching something in a foreign language,” Sanchez said. “The language is complicated, but we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the meaning of things.”
MAT(T)’s free production of “Hamlet” will take place at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22-24 and Aug. 28-31 on the East City Park stage.
For more information, visit www.moscowarttheatretoo.com.
Treffry can be contacted at (208) 883-4640 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at: @LindseyTreffry.
->if you go:
WHAT: Moscow Art Theatre (Too)’s production of “Hamlet”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Aug 22-24, Aug. 28-31
WHERE: East City Park stage