By Mary Boyle
The pandemic hasn't been good for most, but it really hit the world of live theatre hard. Last Summer, Door Shakespeare would have celebrated its 25th Season with a full production of Hamlet as the star of the show but, alas, it was not to be (as Hamlet so famously said). Though we of course will never know how amazing that full production may have been, returning to the garden at Bjorklunden this summer to celebrate their 25th Live season with an incredibly unique solo performance of one of the greatest plays to ever grace a stage feels redemptive; as if we all landed exactly where we were supposed to, once we had some time to rest and think about it.
Adapted by Guy Roberts, the Founder and Artistic Director of Prague Shakespeare Company, this version of Hamlet uses Shakepeare's original language, but streamlines the play into 100 minutes of the humor, horror and heartbreak that Hamlet is known for. Milwaukee-based actor, Ryan Schabach, who has worked extensively both on and off stage with Door Shakespeare over the years, plays seventeen characters, transitioning seamlessly from one to the next with nothing but his voice and facial expressions and, perhaps, the simple addition of a prop, such as a ring or a crown.
Directed by Michael Stebbins, Door Shakespeare's Producing Artistic Director since 2017, everything about this production of Hamlet is condensed, bold and straightforward. Costume Designer Latorra Lezotte and Scenic and Properties Designer Jody Sekas both worked on 2019 Season's Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor, as did Scott McKenna Campbell, who returns for his fifth season as Composer and Sound Designer and, if you saw those productions, you can see a continuity to the current season. Baltimore-based Lighting Designer, Todd Mion, rounds out the production crew.
"This adaptation of Hamlet is very forward-moving and compelling. Once it comes out of the gate it doesn't let up until its dramatic ending," says Director Michael Stebbins. "We have not presented a one-actor production before, and it is an exciting opportunity for both Door Shakespeare and audiences. It is a unique experience for all, and we think that it will be an unforgettable one at that."
"Unforgettable" is right. Fans of Hamlet who are wondering how Schabach can pull off the sword match between Laertes and Hamlet at the end of the play: you have to see it to believe it. For those who aren't sure about Shakespeare and feel the plays are too long and convoluted, this is the version for you! Parents visiting Door County who want to get some culture into your kids (or wives who want to go but have grudging husbands), buy your tickets now. Be sure to come early and visit the Norwegian-style Chapel on the shore of Lake Michigan; take in the breeze, the view, and the mysterious, moss-covered garden at Bjorklunden: this is the post-pandemic theatre experience you didn't realize you needed.
Door Shakespeare's HAMLET runs through August 17th in the garden at Bjorklunden, located at 7590 Boynton Lane in Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin. To purchase tickets or for more information, go to www.DoorShakespeare.com or call 920-854-7111. Tickets are $35 for adults, $25 for students and $15 for children under 12. Performances are 7 p.m. on weekdays (except Tuesdays) and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. There will be no performance on Sunday, August 15th, to allow for the Fundraising Gala, "A Date In Demark" (purchase tickets here); a make-up, final show is scheduled for Tuesday, August 17th.
Door Shakespeare was founded in 1995 under the umbrella of the then-named American Folklore Theatre. Since becoming its own nonprofit in 1999, the organization has produced 43 striking productions of classical theater by playwrights including Shakespeare, Moliere, and Oscar Wilde. Door Shakespeare is delighted to return to the Garden of Björklunden’s 405-acre estate on Lake Michigan in Baileys Harbor for the 2021 summer season.