|Davidson Unveils New Theatre Space with Production of “Hamlet”
November 07, 2008
Contact: Bill Giduz
Davidson College will inaugurate a new theatre space with a production of one of the art’s most venerated masterpieces, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
Productions will be November 12-22 in the new Barber Theatre, a flex-space facility created as the centerpiece of a $6.8-million renovation of the Cunningham Theatre Center. For much of its 48-year existence, Cunningham was home to the departments of art, music, and theatre. The recent renovation, and two other construction projects in the past 15 years, now provide each of those academic disciplines with a dedicated home of its own.
|(l-r) Josh Tobin '10 and Zack Byrd '10 rehearse a fight scene from "Hamlet." |
Assistant Professor Mark Sutch will direct the student cast in what is arguably the greatest English language play. Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 12; Friday, Nov. 14; Sunday, Nov. 16; Friday, Nov. 21; and Saturday, Nov. 22, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Nov. 15. General admission tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for students with IDs. For tickets, call 704-894-2135 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. The production contains adult content and is recommended only for those age 12 and over.
Sutch said “Hamlet” was a natural choice as the inaugural Barber Theatre play because it shows off the technical capabilities and flexibility of the new space. Moreover, he said, “We wanted a renowned play, and ‘Hamlet’ carries a certain theatrical cachet,” he said. “This space is far more advanced than what we had before, and we hope it will serve theatre at Davidson brilliantly for another 40 years. We feel a responsibility to make the first production here seem good and right, and provide a solid platform for the space to inherit.”
The Barber Theatre’s name memorializes the late Professor Emeritus of Theatre Rupert T. Barber Jr., who taught at Davidson for more than 40 years and wrote and directed countless college and community theatre productions. The theatre will provide Davidson with a second state-of-the-art venue for theatre, supplementing The Duke Family Performance Hall, which opened in 2001. The Cunningham renovation also increased and improved the building’s scene shop, making it easier to create and provide sets for plays in both the Barber Theatre and Duke Family Performance Hall. An enlarged swing space behind the theatre facilitates set design changes, and a corridor around the perimeter allows actors to enter the space from six different portals.
The Barber Theatre is 60-by-40 feet square, with 25 feet of height from the floor to the lighting grid catwalks. It contains seating for about 175 audience members, arranged in movable tiers that permit a variety of performance configurations. “Hamlet” will be produced as an “alley” production, with the audience seated on two sides of the performance space.
Sutch said the play, written by Shakespeare in about 1600, is an enormously challenging project for college-age actors because of the difficulty of memorizing and convincingly rendering Shakespearean English, and the intense emotional content of the play. He said the role of Hamlet is a sort of crucible for actors, explaining, “The role is so ill-defined, with so many choices to make about what Hamlet’s doing or thinking at any moment, that those who do a credible job feel like they’ve passed a certain professional test.”
Junior theatre major Zack Byrd plays the role of Hamlet in the Davidson production. Hamlet is a contented university student whose life is forever altered by the sudden death of his father, the King of Denmark, shockingly followed within a few weeks by the remarriage of his mother to his uncle Claudius. Reeling from those blows, Hamlet is visited by the restless spirit of his dead father, who implicates Claudius as the perpetrator of his death and calls for revenge. The peaceful young student is challenged to become a man of action, and assume his rightful place as his father's heir by killing a man in cold blood.
The play vividly charts the course of Hamlet’s real and feigned madness—from overwhelming grief to seething rage—and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption. Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play, and among the most powerful and influential tragedies in the English language.
|Director Mark Sutch and cast members in early script rehearsals for "Hamlet" in the college's new Barber Theatre of Cunningham Theatre Center. |
As much as Hamlet is a rite of passage for actors, Sutch feels the same about its challenge to him as director. “I’ve wanted to direct “Hamlet” for a long time,” he said. “The big theatrical aspects like fights, ghosts, and obscure language are certainly difficult. But I find myself more and more responding to the story. At its core, it’s about how children are called to fulfill their parents’ hopes and wishes while being true to their own integrity. Hamlet’s dilemma is that his dead father is asking him to become a fighter and a man of action —all character traits he has rejected. Hamlet must find a way to do his father justice, but in his own way. There are probably members of the cast facing the same issues in their own lives.”
Sutch said the Davidson production will focus on Shakespeare’s text to convey the story, and will not rely on “technical bells and whistles.” The cast is focusing on their interaction as characters, and their expression, to create a transcendent event for the audience.
In addition to Byrd, the cast includes Ananta Bangdiwala ’10 as Guildenstern, Matt Baum ‘10 as the ghost of Hamlet’s father and the player king, Josh Carson ’09 as Claudius, Josie Exume ’11 as Marcellus and a priest, Steve Foglia ’09 as Polonius, Ellen Goodson ’11 as Ophelia, Benjamin Heimfeld ‘12 as Osric, Suzanne Lenz ’09 as Gertrude, Maggie Mularz ’11 as Horatio, Stephen Pierce ’10 as Bernardo and Rosencrantz, Maret Seitz ‘10 as the player queen and gravedigger, and Josh Tobin ’10 as Laertes and Lucianus.
Professor of Theatre Joe Gardner has designed the set, Josh Peklo has designed the lighting, and renowned fight choreographer Dale Garrard from the UNC School of the Arts is coaching the actors in swordfighting.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.
Posted By: Bill Giduz