(Posted February 8, 2016)

Shakespeare's "Hamlet" will run Feb. 18-20 and Feb. 25-27 at 8 p.m. in the Suzanne von Liebig Theatre, in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts on the Juniata campus.
Shakespeare's "Hamlet" will run Feb. 18-20 and Feb. 25-27 at 8 p.m. in the Suzanne von Liebig Theatre, in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts on the Juniata campus.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. - Shakespeare's "Hamlet," a sordid tale of revenge and deceit, will receive a dark and dreamy makeover by the Juniata Theatre department. The production, which features two completely different casts -- three women in the first cast, three men in the second -- will run Feb. 18-20 and Feb. 25-27 at 8 p.m. in the Suzanne von Liebig Theatre, in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts on the Juniata campus.

The Juniata theatre program uses a "Pay What You Can" ticket plan. To make reservations, go to Juniata's Tixato.com account, juniatatheatre.tixato.com/buy. Reservations are free. Patrons can pick up tickets and, then, "Pay What You Can." The recommended ticket price is $10. Patrons should pay what they can afford or whatever they believe the work is worth.

"'Hamlet' is that benchmark play every actor tackles at some point in their career," says Neal Utterback, assistant professor of theatre arts at Juniata and co-director of "Hamlet." In addition to performing in-house creations and 20th century works, Utterback and Kate Clarke, assistant professor of theatre arts, include heavy-hitting canonical classics in Juniata's show bill.

"It's a beast of a play," says Utterback. "We're working with the metaphor that Hamlet is a broken mirror." Much of "Hamlet's" dialogue holds a mirror up to nature in the play, and even the play's hallmark question -- To be or not to be? -- explores two ideas mirrored against each other, explains Utterback.

Utterback's interpretation of "Hamlet" hails back to the crime dramas of the '40s and '50s. "I've seen similarities between the play and the structure of film noir. It's a sort of proto-psychological play, before we had the science of psychology."

A similar influence is apparent in the play -- Hitchcockian suspense. "There's an intimate, oppressive feel to the show," says Utterback. "We're working with a sense of claustrophobia that Hamlet feels -- he refers to Denmark as a prison -- and so the whole show is done in a 12-by-12 playing space. The audience will be right on top of the actors for those reasons. There are only 48 seats in the house."

"There were no female actors on the Elizabethan stage, and so we've split the cast into two groups of three," says Utterback, one all-female cast and the other all-male. "One actor plays Hamlet and two others play the rest of the roles. The shows started out exactly the same, but they've turned into two different interpretations." The female cast will perform Feb. 18, 20 and 26, and the male cast will perform Feb. 19, 25 and 27.

In August, Utterback and company will travel overseas to perform "Hamlet" in Scotland at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world.
Jacob Sinclair, a senior from Mt. Airy, Md., is co-directing with Utterback. Rachel Cline, a senior from Brecksville, Ohio, is stage manager. The cast includes: Julia Laplante, a junior from State College, Pa.; Jamison Monella, a senior from Morrisdale, Pa.; Holly Souchack, a senior from New Rochelle, Pa.; Lauren Dobbs, a senior from Hillsborough, N.C.; Patrick Rutledge, a junior from DuBois, Pa.; and Logan Moore, a junior from Chadds Ford, Pa.

By Tyler Ayres

Contact Gabe Welsch at welschg@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.