Two of the nuttier characters in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” have their own stories to tell, and it’s up to UAA’s Department of Theatre and Dance to tell them in the upcoming production of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” part of a Shakespeare season also including “Twelfth Night” and “William Shakespeare’s Land Of The Dead.”
The play follows the same story as “Hamlet” — but rather than follow the famed prince, the story is told from the perspective of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters from Shakespeare’s play, portrayed in this production by Morgan Mitchell and Jacob Mayforth respectively. It focuses on their misadventures and antics while the more dramatic, original story happens around them.
In fact, Hamlet himself appears very little, only in brief snapshots that tie into the original story. Instead of seeing Hamlet’s gradual shift to insanity, the audience sees short bursts. But Christopher Evans, the actor behind Prince Hamlet in this production, said this is a good thing.
“That’s to heighten the sense of urgency for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,” Evans said.
The focus is not on Hamlet, however. It’s on the humorous, and at times tragic, adventures of the two leads.
“You fall in love with them because they’re so well-intentioned,” said production director David Edgecombe. “And yet, everything they do seems to backfire on them.”
The story naturally has a very humorous tone, but according to Edgecombe it can also have a dramatic punch when it needs to.
“I thought it was extremely funny and yet poignant,” Edgecombe said. “I thought I’d really love to try it.”
The production itself is very ambitious, with student Wolfgang Olsson providing an original musical score inspired by the music of the times.
“I’ve been studying renaissance and baroque string music at UAA for several years, so it seemed like a nice fit,” Olsson said. “Since I am an English student and an avid fan of Shakespeare, I was intrigued by this unique climate of meta-Shakespearean thematic analysis through the medium of music. Basically, it was a unique challenge that I felt I would be up for.”
It’s a huge project, one that originally intimidated Edgecombe. But now that he’s looked the script over again, he’s eager and ready for the production to happen.
“I’ve just really enjoyed working on this show, and it reflects so much on the things that are happening today, with the young generation’s quest to find meaning,” Edgecombe said. “And I think that’s certainly one of the big messages of the play.”
It’s a huge project, but one that many of its cast and crew are hopeful will succeed.
The play will show at the Fine Arts Building Room 220 from Feb. 20 to Mar. 8, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $19 for the general public, $16 for seniors/military/non-UAA students and $8 for UAA students