by Jason Mount
Rider’s production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” did not have a typical start as other plays usually would.
As theater-goers filed into the Yvonne Theater, certain audience members found their seats on the stage itself, as rows of chairs were placed on both sides of the stage. When it was time for the show to begin, the lights in the audience did not dim as they normally would; they remained as bright as they were when people first walked in.
These elements were implemented to recreate the feeling of being at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in the 16th century, according to the director of “Hamlet,” Ivan Fuller
Before the play began, Fuller appeared on stage to explain the technical choices of having audience members on stage. Having the house lights on was meant to help engage the audience in the show more than they would expect.
Senior dance major Rose Conroy-Voza enjoyed the inclusive aspect of Rider’s production, and felt it was an interesting and successful choice.
“Their goal was to recreate the Globe Theater and make the audience completely immersed in the theater experience,” Conroy-Voza said. “Almost as another character themselves.”
She included that interactions between the audience and the actors helped build the engaging aspect of the show.
“I think normally, audience interaction is only done during comical moments, which was done in ‘Hamlet,’ but I loved how there was still interaction during an intimate moment or struggle,” Conroy-Voza said.
Junior acting major Victoria Robles, who played Ophelia, felt the production as a whole was successful, but was driven by the cast.
“Everyone was focused, the timing of the show was perfect, and I’m proud of all the hard work our cast and crew put in to make this show phenomenal,” Robles said.
She believed that the relationship between the audience and actors helped ease the atmosphere in the room, especially when undertaking a tragic play.
“Some of my favorite moments were definitely coming out before performing and playing quick games for the audience,” said Robles. “It gave a sense of ease not only for the actors, but for the audience as well. We tried to make everyone feel comfortable before watching our show.”
Conroy-Voza enjoyed the level of comfort that was established, and said it helped her understand the story better.
“I didn’t know all of ‘Hamlet’ so that, combined with the Shakespearian language, I thought would make it difficult for me to be absorbed in the story,” she said.
Her reaction, though, was the opposite of what she expected.
“The actors did an amazing job articulating their words so an audience member could follow their words, see their faces and gestures and understand their emotions. I followed the story easier,” said Conroy-Voza.
She believed that the on-stage seating could help future productions at Rider, and that involving audience members can help them understand the plot.
While the out-of-the-box technical elements were enriching for audience members, Robles’s rewarding experience was being able to portray Ophelia.
“She was definitely a hard character to play,” she shared. “I had to do a lot of research and translation in order to get a good grasp of her character… I always thought Ophelia was written as just a love interest, but she was more than that.”
Published in the 10/09/19 edition