June through August
By William Shakespeare
“ … in Door Shakespeare’s long history of staging Shakespeare’s works, it never has staged this one.”
Artistic Director Michael Stebbins, who joined the company in late 2017, couldn’t say why it had never before staged Hamlet, but he said doing so for the 25th anniversary seemed an obvious choice.
‘If you think about the landmark 25th (anniversary) for Door Shakespeare, one of the first plays I’d think would come to mind is Hamlet,’ he said.
Stebbins speculated that the heavy nature of the tragedy might have played a part, as well as its length — the version most people know is the longest of Shakespeare’s plays, and it’s deep and rather downbeat. But it’s considered perhaps his most powerful one, and Stebbins said theatergoers shouldn’t shy away from it.
Stebbins says, ‘(People think) it’s bigger than you, it’s bigger than me. But it’s such a very exciting play which really must be seen. When you get down to it, it does have everything going for it: the mystery, the romance, bloodshed, poison, and humor. It makes for great theater.’
Regarding the length of the work, Door Shakespeare isn’t producing one of the common versions, but the First Quarto — the earliest known existing version. Published in 1603, it’s about 1,600 lines shorter than the better-known Second Quarto published in 1604 and the version in the First Folio collection of 1623.
The First Quarto offers shortened variations on several lines or monologues and skips past a few set-up points in the plot, but Stebbins said audiences won’t miss any of the drama of the longer Hamlet.
‘When (famed actor) Sir Alec Guinness saw it, he said it’s ‘Hamlet with the brakes off,’ Stebbins said. ‘It sorta cuts to the heart of the matter. For those who’ve seen Hamlet and think they know it, this will have a twist.’
While several of the company’s Shakespeare plays were set in more modern times in recent years, Stebbins, who’s directing the production, plans to stage Hamlet as if it’s showing in an English theater in 1603. That includes costumes and music, with music director Scott McKenna Campbell putting together a score for period-correct instruments that might have been heard back then.
‘We thought for the 25th anniversary centerpiece, let’s look at (presenting) it as close to the original as possible,’ Stebbins said. ‘It’ll be very much toward, let’s go to the theater in 1603 and see a play. That’s the goal.’” ~ Green Bay Press Gazette (2/28/20)