On October 17, 18, and 19, the Hopkins Drama Association (HDA) will perform the fall show Hamlet, Shakespeare’s renowned tragedy, directed by Hope Hartup and Assistant Director Leah Miller ’20.
Hamlet follows its titular character (Petey Graham ’20) on his path to avenging his father’s death. Hamlet encounters his father’s ghost (James Jeffrey ’22), feigns madness, and works to get revenge on his father’s killer, his uncle-turned-stepfather, Claudius (Griffin Congdon ’20). This production comes after a pair of much more humorous Shakespeare shows put on by HDA: the spring show, As You Like It, and Shakespeare on a Shoestring: The Comedy of Errors! performed at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Ellie Doolittle ’20 (Gertrude) commented, “As You Like It was lighthearted and very much in the genre of romantic comedy, while Hamlet is a tense tragedy. The content is intense and there are a lot of moving parts.”
In a show with such intensity and depth, Hamlet’s characters are equally as complex. Congdon remarked, “All the characters in the show have mixed motives, so it’s really fascinating to try to figure out why my character is doing what he’s doing, and then work on subtly showing that to the audience.” Sawyer Maloney ’21 plays the role of Laertes, a character who deals with immense grief after the death of his sister Ophelia. According to Maloney, “the hardest part of this production has been understanding Laertes’s grief and replicating it into something an audience can feel. It has been a really good feeling to slowly understand more and more how to grapple with his anguish, and after particular rehearsals, just feel like I’ve improved.”
Hamlet’s emotional depth has been challenging yet rewarding for Graham. He said, “Playing some- one with this much emotional turmoil, the challenge is keeping it separate from your own life: getting really in character when it’s in the moment but coming off stage and being able to separate that from reality. I got memorized pretty early, so Hope and I were able to have more conversations about the script and about what things meant. It’s a process of thinking about what’s actually being said and why one would act a certain way.”
This show has also presented actors with a challenge beyond the material within the script: Hamlet is performed in the round. The last HDA show presented in this style was 2016’s Othello. Hartup sees theater in the round as an exciting format that offers actors intriguing new challenges: “Working in the round is incredibly freeing for an actor. Onstage movement works different lines than proscenium staging and encourages the actor to make more physical adjustments. In doing so, the stage picture can feel more natural. For those student performers who have only worked on the regular school stage, performing in the round has offered them a new experience where they can move and relate to each other in new ways and explore a new stage vocabulary.”
Graley Turner ’20 (Guildenstern) found that this unique setup “really changed the cast’s whole perspective on acting. Now that there’s audience on all four sides, we constantly have to be aware of our actions. Anything we do can cut off somebody’s view of the play, so we have to learn how to keep sight lines open.” Maloney agreed with Turner: “doing a play ‘in the round’ really makes acting feel more immersive. You no longer worry about ‘cheating out’ for your audience. Instead, you can have conversations head on, walk around the stage and turn whatever way you feel like.”
This show has been a great opportunity for all involved. Graham commented,“Playing Hamlet is every actor’s dream. It’s amazing; I look forward to every part of it,” said Graham, “it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning, knowing that I get to try new things and play this really emotionally vulnerable and multidimensional character.” Hamlet is sure to be a unique experience for actors and audi- ence members alike, with impressive performances and an exciting setup unlike what students typically see at Hopkins.