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The Scarlet & Black

Mease’s method in the madness

It’s been over 400 years since Shakespeare’s beloved play “Hamlet” was conceived, but age has not taken away its universality, something that everyone involved in this year’s production strives to represent.

Director Ellen Mease, Theatre and Dance, chose to put on Hamlet in honor of Shakespeare’s upcoming 450th birthday. Mease is directing Hamlet for the second time in her Grinnell career. Her first production of Hamlet in 1990 was based on Shakespeare’s Second Quarto, a longer play than the one used this year, based on Shakespeare’s first folio.

While Mease remained faithful to the text, a few unique touches were added to the production. For one, Shakespeare’s first folio lacks Hamlet’s last soliloquy, an element Mease felt compelled to include within her production.

“It gives Hamlet such forward movement and such purpose. He essentially believes there is no going back now,” Mease said.

Mease also cast a man to play the ghost of Hamlet’s father, rather than just using a voice as many other Hamlet productions do.

“Hamlet was in Wittenberg when his father was tragically killed, so I wanted his father to be there [in] flesh and blood for him to be able to say goodbye,” Mease said.

The cast and crew also add to the heart and soul of the play.

Matt Steege ’17 plays Hamlet and to say the Racine, Wis. native is well-qualified for the role would be an understatement. Steege has previously been in seven other Shakespeare productions and is well-trained in scansion, experience that clearly shows in his portrayal of Hamlet onstage.

In addition to his professional experience with Shakespeare, Steege adds his own interpretation to truly bring out his character. He argues that the play actually centers on Hamlet’s passion for Ophelia, which is heart-wrenchingly rejected when Ophelia obeys her father’s orders not to associate with Hamlet.

“Everything you can see today in personal relationships and the human condition can be seen in a Shakespearean play,” Steege said. “And if I have the capability to help bring that to the production, I almost have the responsibility to do so.”

Aside from the play’s talented cast, much of the magic surrounding Hamlet derives from the set. Mease hired Erica Zaffarano, a professional set designer, to help create the world of the production. There are no setting changes throughout the play, but the cast and crew works brilliantly within this static space.

When describing her sets, Zaffarano said, “The scene does not come alive until the actors walk on it.”

While her set could hold its own in terms of personality and ingenuity, the actors do provide the space with a convincing multiplicity.

The set is also meant to be an asymmetrical rendering of the Globe Theatre’s stage, once again weaving in tradition while adding a personal touch—a theme that can be seen in every detail of this year’s production.

Hamlet will be performed tonight and Saturday night at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2 pm in the Roberts Theatre in Bucksbaum.

Matt Steege ’17 (center) hamming up the stage with Charlie Eddy ’16 (left) and Hutch Freeland ’14 (right). Photo by Sarah Trop.
Matt Steege ’17 (center) hamming up the stage with Charlie Eddy ’16 (left) and Hutch Freeland ’14 (right). Photo by Sarah Trop.
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