Tennessee Shakespeare Company (TSC), the Mid-South's professional classical theatre, presents a special, limited engagement of William Shakespeare's Hamlet inside Dixon Gallery and Garden's Winegardner Auditorium from April 3-14 in Memphis.
Directed by TSC's Founder and Producing Artistic Director, Dan McCleary (The Tempest, Glass Menagerie, Macbeth, Othello, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It), this elegant Edwardian production is generously sponsored by Independent Bank and Ann & Wellford Tabor. The exclusive media sponsor is Commercial Appeal Media.
Hamlet features a professional AEA company of twelve actors and musicians from around the country and Memphis. Widely considered the most important play in western civilization, Hamlet has contributed to how humankind considers ourselves and our place and act in the world.
The Winegardner Auditorium's period appearance will be further enhanced as an Edwardian stage with early 19th century lighting fixtures, theatrical stage, and live music played in an intimate setting for an audience of 150 in stadium seating.
(Please Note: All scheduled school matinees are sold out, and multiple matinees are being added to accommodate as many students as possible. Public performances are also beginning to sell out.)
The Hamlet that audiences are familiar with today likely was first performed in 1601 and very likely with Shakespeare playing the Ghost of Hamlet's father. There is also compelling evidence, together with multiple quarto versions of the script and of the story both extant and not, that Shakespeare was writing his Hamlet over 11-12 years - a period during which he lost both his father and his son.
The pre-existing story to Shakespeare's is a revenge play centered by a tragic hero, or anti-hero. But just as Shakespeare deepens existing themes and characters' development in all of his plays taken from previous writings, here he dramatically shifts perspective in Hamlet from that of familial revenge demanded from the grave to a philosophical questioning of the meaning of our humanity and authenticity of our nature.
The young Prince Hamlet returns home from college when his father is discovered dead at Elsinore Castle in Denmark. Hamlet's uncle, Claudius, has murdered King Hamlet and immediately married his widow, Queen Gertrude. The Ghost of King Hamlet asks his son to avenge his murder, a visitation which the Prince shares only with his closest friend, Horatio.
Casting off his love Ophelia and feigning public madness, Hamlet nevertheless is action-less regarding his father's demand. In considering his mortality, his father's, and that of his usurping uncle, Hamlet confronts his mother only to mistakenly murder Ophelia's father, Polonius. The King banishes Hamlet to England, with a mortal decree that ensures he will never return, during which time Ophelia goes mad and drowns by her own hand or another's.
In a matter of weeks, Hamlet has escaped and been saved by pirates on the sea. Upon his return, he is a decade older with a changed philosophy secretly watching Ophelia's graveside burial. Laertes, the son of Polonius and the brother of Ophelia, in murderous coordination with the King, challenges Hamlet to a sporting duel which turns into a bath of poison for all but Horatio and Hamlet's Norwegian counterpart, Fortinbras. The young, fatherless Prince ascends the Denmark throne, lamenting the loss of the man who would have been King.
"I do believe William Shakespeare was writing his play over the course of 12 or more years as he emerged as a playwright and became a fatherless son and sonless father," says director, Dan McCleary. "There are two very distinct Hamlets in the play, and I believe they are of two different periods in Shakespeare's life. If this is so, it is genius, of course. It has compelled us for over 410 years to question our humanity, to seek our true nature, and to discover our authentic act in the world. In fact, seeking the latter forged the creation of Tennessee Shakespeare Company six years ago."
The cast introduces New York's Brian Sheppard as Hamlet, Brooklyn's Piper Goodeve in the traditionally male role of Horatio, Massachusetts' Bob Lohbauer at Polonius, New York's Eva Balistrieri as Ophelia and Steven Patterson as Claudius, and TSC's Stephanie Shine as Gertrude.
Returning to TSC are Memphis' Phil Darius Wallace (The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It) as the Ghost, Player King, and Gravedigger; Brooklyn's Gabriel Vaughan (The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It) as Laertes; Washington, DC's Amelia Hammond (It's a Wonderful Life, Complete Works, The Tempest) as Rosencrantz and Osric; and New York's Trevor Pittinger (It's a Wonderful Life) as Guildenstern and Fortinbras.