The play premieres Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Marian Gallaway Theatre on UA’s campus. It continues at that time and location through Oct. 8. The final performance of the play will be Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. A special performance will be held for Tuscaloosa County High School students Oct. 6.
If that wasn’t enough to hold the interest of modern audiences of this more than 400-year-old legendary play, what if award-winning University of Alabama theatre and dance professor Seth Panitch jazzed it up a bit?
“There’s a lot to be said for doing Shakespeare the way he intended, and there’s a great market for that, but there’s also a great reason to interpret Shakespeare because he interpreted a lot of people’s plays as well,” Panitch said.
Panitch, who is also head of the MFA acting program, said his vision for Hamlet is combining the great lines of the play such as Hamlet’s famous suicidal contemplation “to be or not to be, that is the question,” with great music.
In this rendition, that music is namely jazz.
“So, I met a great jazz musician who used to study at UA named Nick Boyd,” Panitch said. “He’s a pretty well known local musician. I asked him to compose a full score to all of the speeches, and he and I worked over the whole summer to create music that would twist and turn with the speeches.
“We’re using the speeches as a model to write the music. All these famous speeches in Hamlet that the audience knows so well will be perceived in a totally different way. They’ll be hearing the words from the actor mixed with music.”
Additional twists to Panitch’s interpretation of Hamlet includes a visual window into Hamlet’s mind and the setting, which places the play in the 1950s in a location that’s a cross between Greenwich Village – a famous Bohemian neighborhood in New York City – and Shakespeare’s England.
“There’s a giant projection screen that will express colors and shapes to the music, and during Hamlet’s speeches you’ll see his memories — as in, when he talks about his mother, you’ll see a wedding ring and whatever Hamlet is thinking,” he said. “So, our set is Hamlet’s mind.”
Panitch’s Hamlet cuts the traditionally four-hour play down to two to keep modern audiences engaged.
The cast is a mix of UA undergraduate and graduate students, but most of the graduate students were professional actors before they enrolled in UA’s theatre and dance department.
A special guest actor in the play will be Dr. Kevin Whitaker, UA’s interim provost. Whitaker is playing Osric in what will be his first time acting.
“Dr. Whitaker is a professional musician, but he has never acted,” Panitch said. “So, come see our provost act.”
The play premieres Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Marian Gallaway Theatre. It continues at that time and location through Oct. 8. The final performance of the play will be Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. A special performance will be held for Tuscaloosa County High School students Oct. 6.
For tickets, go to http://theatre.ua.edu/productions/hamlet/
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.