Originally Published: March 10, 2011 9:39 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Coming on the heels of two over-the-edge musicals, "The Rocky Horror Show" and "Reefer Madness," the Prescott Independent Theater group is ready for some classical drama.
"We wanted to show people we can do more than dance and show some skin," said Jacob d'Armand, PIT director. "We decided to do Shakespeare's 'Hamlet,' which is arguably his best, and the biggest challenge to produce."
"Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark" opens at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Blue Rose Theater at Sharlot Hall Museum, 415 W. Gurley St., in Prescott.
"We reworked some of the play to cut it down from four hours to two hours, and we have women playing the roles of men in the original, but they are playing the roles as women," d'Armand said during a recent dress rehearsal. "Hamlet's drowning in a sea of women."
William Shakespeare's play, first published in 1602, is filled with death, suicide, madness, incest and the supernatural. With d'Armand's rewrite, it also is filled with sexual tension and some gender issues.
Kaia Oberlander, 22, plays Ophelia.
"Her character is all about love. She's not some pathetic sap," Oberlander said. "I didn't really understand her at first."
Most of the cast members had trouble understanding Shakespeare's elaborate word constructions of the 1600s.
In order to help with that, d'Armand and the cast would translate each act into modern language, which did wonders for clearing up misinterpretations.
"I found out that Polonius is actually pretty funny, which you don't get if you can't understand what he's saying," Oberlander said. "It really helps to have discussions about it, to sit down with everyone and spit out your ideas."
In addition to some script changes, d'Armand added a new character to the play - a narrator.
"The narrator explains what is going on in plain language," d'Armand said.
Valerye Jefferies, 21, who "read Hamlet once and slept through it," designed the costumes and also is the makeup artist.
"I had a lot of creative liberty for the costumes and makeup," she said. She also plays the male role of Rosencrantz, but she plays it as a woman. "There's a lot of sexual tension with the switching roles."
Some of Shakespeare's most famous lines from Hamlet have lasted to modern times as common sayings, although most people may not realize their origin: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be;" "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark;" and "To be or not to be; that is the question."
That last quote was on d'Armand's mind a lot after he finished "Reefer Madness" and "Rocky Horror" at the Elks Opera House. Between the two shows, his small theater company was financially wiped out, and he was not sure what to do, if anything.
"I just didn't want to leave it at that," he said. "I wanted to get back to our roots and do a classic in a small, intimate theater. This is a story the audience can learn from, and they will see themselves in at least one of the characters."
Additional show times are 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. March 18-19, and at 2 p.m. March 19. There is a 15-minute intermission. Tickets cost $14 and are sold at the door, at Sharlot Hall Museum, or by calling 445-3122.