Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, “Hamlet,” will be staged at Cal Poly Pomona this fall, featuring an ensemble cast of students and professional actors. The sixth annual Southern California Shakespeare Festival will explore the themes of revenge, madness, grief, treachery and corruption from a modern perspective.
Opening night is Saturday, Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. in the Studio Theatre, Building 25, with a gala reception following the performance. Additional shows are on Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 12 through Oct. 3, with a special Friday evening production on Sept. 24.
In a modern interpretation of the play, actors will don contemporary clothes while speaking in traditional Shakespearean language. The studio theatre’s 67 seats will be arranged in an arena setting, in which the audience sits on all four sides of the stage.
Linda Bisesti, associate theatre professor and festival artistic director, says the modern dress and circular seating allow the audience to be more engaged in the performance.
“It’s a different experience for the actors to act in an arena. It’s more exposure because the audience can see from every side. The actors are always in view,” Bisesti says. “The fact that we’re doing it in modern dress makes it feel like it could happen anywhere, anytime.”
Hamlet’s situation could occur today, she says. “It’s about a young boy who comes home from college and finds his family in disarray. His life is in a tailspin.”
Hamlet, prince of Denmark, sees his father’s ghost who says he was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle Claudius, who has since assumed the throne and married his mother. Hamlet devotes himself to avenging his father’s death, and the play unfolds with murderous schemes, deception, insanity and death.
The annual Shakespeare festival at Cal Poly Pomona is an opportunity for students to work with and learn from professional actors and directors. The cast includes 10 students and four professionals from the Actors’ Equity Association – Julian White, assistant professor of theatre at Cal Poly Pomona; Baron Kelly; Charls Hall; and Bisesti. The guest director is Josh Machamer, a faculty member of the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts and a professional director with credits at the Old Globe in San Diego and the conservatory.
Performance dates are Sept. 11, 12, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26 and Oct. 2 and 3. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. in the Studio Theatre, Building 25. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for students, seniors, faculty and staff. For more information, visit www.class.cpp.edu/th/scsf or call (909) 869-3900.
(Top photo: Rob Shields as Hamlet and Daniella Tarankow as Horatio in “Hamlet.”)