Young Shakespeare Takes on Hamlet

by Kaitlin Street on June 27, 2018 in Living Texas, Austin, Theatre,
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For the 10th anniversary of Young Shakespeare, Austin Shakespeare’s teen company produced “Hamlet,” one Shakespeare’s most famous literary tragedies. The production ran from June 14 to June 24 at the Curtain Theatre, Austin’s very own replica of an Elizabethan theater.

Hamlet is said to have been written sometime between 1599 and 1602. It is Shakespeare’s longest play, and it continues to be one of his most prolific works as it is constantly being reimagined and retold by thespians around the world. Like many of Shakespeare’s works, the story of “Hamlet” keeps its audience engaged with themes of murder, betrayal, love and mystery. No one is more dramatic than Shakespeare.

New to Austin Shakespeare, Heather Embree plays Ophelia. Photo Errich Petersen

The play begins when a couple of guards spot a ghost wandering through the ramparts of Elsinore Castle in Denmark. The ghost announces himself as Hamlet’s father, the late King Hamlet, and reveals that his brother Claudius poisoned him before stealing his widowed wife and throne upon his death. The ghost of King Hamlet orders his son Prince Hamlet to seek revenge on the evil Claudius, and thus the play begins.

The text of Hamlet, and any Shakespearian text for that matter, is undoubtedly difficult to master. The young people of this Austin Shakespeare production appear to have notable passion for the their craft and for the theatre. While at times the scenes drag on due to a lack of dramatic interpretation, the young actors were confident in their elaborate line work and dialect.

Participating students, ranging in age from 12-19 years, come from throughout the Central Texas area.
Photo Errich Petersen

One of the highlights of this production is the venue. The Curtain Theatre, located on computer-game legend Richard Garriott’s gorgeous lakeside estate, is a small replica of the Globe Theatre in London. Upon seeing a production at the original Globe Theatre, Garriott decided to build a small replica in his backyard. Garriott now allows local theatres to use the stage for community productions. Complete with two levels of open seating, gorgeous wood detailing and even stage side torches, the beautiful venue is truly a magical place for any theater lover. Plus, the “wooden O” shape of the theatre allows for no seat to be further than 25 feet from the stage. Every seat in the house gets a great view!

Rachel Wolff tackled the title role as a female Hamlet. Photo Errich Petersen

Nancy Eyermann, co-director of the production, explains that, “’Hamlet’ is a perfect exploration of what it is to seek personal identity in a tumultuous world.” For this reason, it makes sense to have young people, who are likely attempting to find themselves while also experiencing a great deal of change, explore the themes of “Hamlet” on stage. Eyermann explains that in rehearsal, the cast and team strove to understand the “wants and needs of Shakespeare’s amazing humans” through reflections of their own experiences. Theater allows people to grow and learn through connecting with characters in a story. Whether you are on the stage or in the audience, there is always something to be learned from the struggles of another person. Although the story of “Hamlet” might seem distant from lives of the young actors on stage, it is important to remember that there is a reason these young people took time out of their lives to study and memorize this dense text. The actors of Young Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” clearly have a love and appreciation for the theatre and for Shakespeare, and for that, we should applaud them.

Austin-based Kaitlin Street is currently the EIC Editorial Assistant at Texas Lifestyle Magazine. Kaitlin attends the University of Texas at Austin and is active in the Austin theater community.