Category Archives: Hamlet

July Creative Challenge: Shakespeare on the Grass

Ian Blackwell Rogers (Hamlet) in action.

Ian Blackwell Rogers (Hamlet) in action.

This Sunday I spent the afternoon at Meadow at Evergreen enjoying the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s performance of HAMLET.

I love to see Shakespeare live, and especially love to see it live outdoors, and super especially love to see it live outdoors the way Shakespeare’s audiences would have seen it 400 years ago. So I put aside my dislike for summer weather and bugs (I came prepared with bug spray, a sun hat, sun screen and lots of ice water) and headed into Baltimore for some murder and mayhem — Tudor Style.

The body count mounts as the play winds down.

The body count mounts as the play winds down.

Tom Delise, The Factory’s Artistic Director and the director of this production, used a light touch when it came to staging. A single set piece standing in for Elsinore Castle rises from a simple wooden platform.  Three red curtains  allow the actors access on and off stage. But Delise has his actors using all of the Meadow, so the actors are moving up and down aisles and entering from behind the audience too.

Unlike the 1,500 to 3,000 people who went to see the original play in the Globe Theatre, audience members in the Meadow have an intimate connection with the actors. Engaging the audience is one of The Factory’s core principles, and at times it felt like Hamlet, Ophelia, Gertrude and the rest were talking right to me. That really draws you into the action, and gives you a stake in what happens in the plot.

Ophelia, about to be taken to the graveyard.

Ophelia (Ann Turiano), at peace at last, about to be taken to the graveyard.

Given that just about every high school student reads Hamlet for some English class between 9th and 12th grade, and most people have seen at least one film version of the play its a pretty good bet that you’ll know the plot and at least some of the lines before the show begins. That’s helpful because this production is fast paced, and if you didn’t already have a little knowledge of what was going on you might get overwhelmed.  And when I say fast paced I mean tight, as in TIGHT. As  in sweetly, seamlessly: bam, bam, bam; scene, scene, scene. It’s no wonder they got this notoriously long play (it’s Shakespeare’s longest) down to about 2 hours 40 minutes. Very impressive. (Although the only “complaint” I have is that without breaking for scene changes I couldn’t CLAP! And I really wanted to clap.)

Ian Blackwell Rogers (Hamlet) and Jess Behar (Rosencrantz).

Ian Blackwell Rogers (Hamlet) and Jess Behar (Rosencrantz).

The Factory has several actors playing multiple roles. Hugh F. Hill, III was vain and a little evil as Claudius and wonderfully creepy as the zombie like Ghost. Frank Vince was funny as the annoyingly dotting father Polonius and as the pious Priest.  James Miller intense as Laertes and animated as the Player King. Jess Behar and Katherine Vary were wonderful as the sycophantic  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They also played Francisco and Bernardo. Jim Stimson is both in the ensemble and is lead musician for the group (he plays a mean lute and guitar). Poor Amy Parochetti and Chris Ryder played 12 roles between them!

Other actors had one role.

Kelly Dowling as Gertrude

Kelly Dowling as Gertrude

I liked Kelly Dowling’s tender/tough approach to Gertrude. And I loved the heart-break and surprise she brought to the stage when her character realizes what a mess her life suddenly has become.

Chris Cotterman (Horatio) learns that Hamlet is coming back to Elsinore.

Chris Cotterman (Horatio) learns that Hamlet is coming back to Elsinore.

Chris Cotterman plays my favorite character in the show, Horatio. It’s a tough role because he’s the best friend, the second guy. He can’t upstage Hamlet (literally) and Chris doesn’t. He plays the supporting role (both in the character’s life and on stage) perfectly.

Kelly Dowling (Gerturde) and Ann Turiano (Ophelia)

Kelly Dowling (Gerturde) and Ann Turiano (Ophelia)

Ann Turiano is lovely as Ophelia. Her confusion over familial duty and her suddenly rocky love life in the first half is tender and heartbreaking, but its her mad scenes in the second half that steal the show.

Ham Yurick

I last saw  Ian Blackwell Rogers as the title character in The Factory’s Macbeth. He brings the same energy and intensity here. It is hard to take your eyes off of him as you try to puzzle out what’s going on in that head of his. As the lines spill out of him at break neck speed he keeps you engaged and on point with the plot.

Larertes Ham

As hot as it was on Sunday I expected the actors to lose some gusto as the show went on, but the opposite happened. As they plowed into Acts Three, Four and Five they only got more intense. By the time Hamlet and Laertes were at each other’s throats my heart was pounding. And it didn’t have anything to do with the temperature.

Click HERE to read the Today in MD Theatre Guide  Review.


July Creative Challenge, day 12: Words, words, words

hamlet with skull

Dude. What makes you so interesting anyway? Why should I spend four and a half hours of my life watching YOU mope about the stage debating your sanity and your mother’s fidelity? I’ve got problems of my own, you know, buddy. I don’t have time to worry about your to be’s or not to be’s. I mean it was 412 years ago… if you haven’t figured it out by now, let it go. For reals.

Ohh, rude-urban-slang Rita, me thinks you dost protest too much.

Hamlet is one of the greatest literary treasures of the English language and, in reality I am thrilled to be spending several evenings (and Sunday afternoons) with the great Dane over the next few weeks. I don’t have to travel to Elsinore Castle or even The Globe Theatre in London. The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is putting on Hamlet right here in Charm City as part of the Summer of Magic and Mayhem.

Poster for Hamlet courtesy foxpop communications.

Poster for Hamlet courtesy Baltimore Shakespeare Factory and  VoxPop Communications.

Tom Delise, the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s Artistic Director told broadwayworld.com that “HAMLET is not simply the tragedy of the Prince of Denmark — it is also a ghost story, a detective story, a love story, a story of power and ambition, a revenge story, and even at times, a comedy.” [baltimore.broadwayworld.com]

The Factory works the words.

They delve heavily into Shakespeare’s original text to find “unexpected humor and provide clarity for audiences of all ages.” [Ibid] They talk to the audience (and are prepared for the audience to talk back to them.) That engagement between player and patron brings the Shakespeare experience to a whole new level.

Hamlet is playing at three locations (the BSF’s year round home at St. Mary’s in Hampden, at Evergreen, and at Boordy  Vineyards) with the bulk of the performances occurring in the Meadow at Evergreen. When you go bring sun screen, bug spray, a blanket or lawn chair and an umbrella .

A little audience inter action during last year's Taming of the Shrew. [Image courtesy: Baltimore Shakespeare Factory.]

A little audience engagement during last year’s Taming of the Shrew. [Image courtesy: Baltimore Shakespeare Factory.]

The second production  the Factory is mounting this summer is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s another of the Bard’s most popular plays.  It’s a more family friendly option if you’ve got young Shakespeare lovers.  It has less death (corpse count: Midsummer O /  Hamlet’s 8 — plus the Ghost)  and more fairies. There’s love, there’s magic…there’s even a guy who literally gets his head turned into that of an Ass. How fun is that?

Poster for A Midsummer Night's Dream. [Image courtesy: foxpop communications]

Poster for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. [Image courtesy: Baltimore Shakespeare Factory and VoxPop Communications]

I have a special spot in my heart for Midsummer, especially for Puck, that merry wanderer of the night!

Click HERE to see Hamlet’s schedule.

Click HERE to see Midsummer’s Schedule.

BSF 1-6 ad pg 20

Here’s an ad I did for the Factory that ran in Mason-Dixon ARRIVE

Hope to see you under the stars for some swordplay and Shakespeare this summer!


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