Hillcrest High School theatre students to perform “Hamlet”
Hamlet, portrayed by Gabe Aina, right, tells Guildenstern, played by Collin Everett, about his pipe during a rehearsal in early February. Lindsay Kenner as Rosencrantz is seen in the background. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
Imagine Hamlet as a boxer on stage in a contemporary setting and that’s the William Shakespeare play Hillcrest High theatre students will perform.
“Hamlet” will be performed at 7 p.m., Friday, March 17 and Saturday, March 18 as well as Monday, March 20 on Hillcrest’s stage, 7350 South 900 East. Ticket information is available at hillcresttheatre.com.
Hamlet will be played by junior Gabe Aina.
“This opportunity to play Hamlet is quite spectacular,” he said. “Most people may see Hamlet as this ‘golden role’ that no one can relate to, or an emotional wreck of overthinking. I can't blame them. Even I did before we started rehearsing. What’s really cool is that, in all reality, Hamlet is actually a relatable human being that feels relatable human emotions — all of Shakespeare’s characters are. I don’t think lots of people realize that and that’s where the power of theatre comes in.”
Gabe is joined by junior Nathanael Abbott who plays Claudius. The character of Gertrude is performed by senior Faith Johnson, Ophelia by junior Madi Parker, Horatio by senior Steven Hooley, Polonius by senior Kirstin Van Renselaar, Laertes by junior Luke Morley, Rosencrantz by senior Lindsay Kenner and Guildenstern by senior Collin Everett.
“Our goal as a cast is to make this production more comprehensible for audience members that may not know anything about ‘Hamlet’ besides ‘to be or not to be…’ and to give them a different point of view on Shakespeare. With an amazing cast, and a director that has a lot of Shakespearean expertise, we are gradually, but promisingly, reaching our goal by giving our hearts to this production and adding a twist of modern into the mix. It’s all quite fascinating and beautiful, and we are excited to eventually show what we are able to create,” Gabe said.
“Hamlet” is being directed by Josh Long with the stage design, sound and lights under the direction of Giselle Gremmert.
Long said he has been scared of approaching “Hamlet” before this year.
“‘Hamlet’ is Shakespeare’s greatest play and it’s intimidating to think about attempting to perform it,” said Long, who has directed Hillcrest theatre for 10 years. “It’s the apex of a career, not something people should just attempt. When I think of the great things these kids can do and I’ve seen them command the language and the stage, I knew it was time to do it. They’re four-time champions at the Utah Shakespeare Theatre competition and they are ready.”
The cast was announced in December, then they began doing text analysis. Several students also studied the play in their AP English literature class before rehearsals began in late January.
Long said that actually there are four versions of the play and scholars argue which one was the final version or the one used for performances. Long, himself, examined all the versions and crafted the best of all to shorten the 4.5-hour play to about two hours.
“Our script will go fast and get right to the conflict and it will be physical, there won’t be any standing around. The characters will always be in motion and their actions will be connected to the words they say. It will be full of intrigue and intensity,” he said.
Hillcrest’s “Hamlet” will be in a modern-day setting rather than Elizabethan times.
“We will still be using the Shakespeare script, with his beautiful insight in English language, but have it set in contemporary society with television screens around the stage so the audience can distinguish when his thoughts are in his head versus outside his head,” Long said. “The screens will also serve as surveillance cameras so there is a way they can spy on one another.”
The stage design not only will use technology, but innovative theatre design with pillars that will move about to create several scenes.
“We will have them connected to our fly system so they can move horizontally or vertically to create an original look,” he said.
The characters also will be wearing sleek contemporary wardrobes with a Renaissance flair, not the traditional Elizabethan robes, Long said.
“This will be a fast, immersive, physical play with the greatest thoughts of the English language ever created. Hamlet addresses who we are, how we think and who we become,” he said.
Hillcrest’s final production of the school year will be “Mirrors” and original theatre piece that is being written especially for Hillcrest High School with assistance from Europe’s Tony Award-winning Frantic Assembly. It will be performed Thursday, May 18 through Saturday, May 20.