Bringing Something Fresh to the State of Denmark

Performing “Hamlet” poses some unique challenges. For instance, how does one find a fresh way to direct Shakespeare’s most performed play? How do students approach roles whose lines they’ve known since long before they read the play, simply by virtue of the number of idioms it’s contributed to the English language? How does an actor say “something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” “The lady doth protest too much,” or, “To be or not to be?” and not have it sound rote out of the gate?

Director Kristin Wolanin didn’t hesitate with an answer: “Because they’re involved and dedicated to making it fresh. It’s their job to deliver those lines with the feeling of their first time saying them, and they’ve put in the work to do it,” she said.

The rest of the Country Day community will get to see the result of all that work when the curtain rises on “Hamlet” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5. The show will run for three nights, with performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $5 and available online and during lunch.

The 31 members of the cast and crew got straight to work in early September, refining “eerie, classical” sound cues and lighting assignments while the actors employed scansion to immerse themselves in iambic pentameter and the rhythm of Shakespeare’s lines.

The whole “Hamlet” gang drew students from sixth through 12th grade, with a third of the crew hailing from Middle School.

“I’m building my army, getting them young,” Wolanin said. “To watch the Upper Schoolers guide the Middle Schoolers is a wonderful relationship. When they help each other, saying, ‘This is what it means to cross downstage,’ they’re creating the next generation of leaders.

“That’s one of the most beautiful things about this whole experience,” Wolanin continued. “Whether you’re on stage or on the crew, arts puts people on an equal playing field and we’re all one team in the theater.”

“I wanted to make the production unique and I wanted to do it justice,” she said. “I knew I would have a core group to work with they did not disappoint.”

Helping lend a dose of realism to one of man’s most famous works of fiction is the casting of siblings Paidin and Evershea A. in the brother-sister roles of Laertes and Ophelia.

And taking the lead as the semi-sane prince drowning in soliloquies is senior Alex d’E.

“This is his role. It’s just him; I saw it last year,” Wolanin said, less as a theater director than a spokesperson for fate. “He’ll take away lessons for from playing this character that will stick with him. It’s a natural fit.”

“Hamlet” opens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, with performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $5 and available online and during lunch.