The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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Shakespeare Club’s ‘Hamlet’ provides a female twist on the male-dominated play

Audience members gasped as a window in the WAUD suddenly flew open, revealing the ghost of Hamlet’s father. This intense opening scene set the stage for a production that brought out the comedic and tragic elements of the classic Shakespearean tragedy.

Members of the Shakespeare Club perform "Hamlet." The abridged play was different in that a female actor played the main role of Hamlet. Photo courtesy Amye Elfin.

The Shakespeare Club’s production of “Hamlet” opened last Thursday night and ran through Sat. March 16, directed by seniors Hanna Bouten and Allegra Caldera. The directors created an abridged version of the play that preserved the essence of the story but enabled the small cast to perform effectively. Although the cast only rehearsed for two-and-a-half months, the performances were remarkably error-free.

In Shakespeare’s time, it was unseemly for women to appear on the stage, so female roles were routinely played by men. However, in this production of Hamlet, Bouten and Caldera reversed this traditional convention, casting many girls as male roles.

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Junior Emily Harburg convincingly portrayed the complex facets of Hamlet’s multi-layered character. She easily transitioned from Hamlet’s rude and witty repartee to his heartbreaking speech at Ophelia’s funeral.

“I thought it would be difficult to relate to Hamlet but it really wasn’t,” Harburg said. “So much of his character is embodied in all of us high school students who don’t know what they want to do.”

The club went to great lengths to create an authentic portrayal of the times, and even consulted with an experienced fencer to choreograph the fight between Hamlet and Laertes (junior Jon Wiedemann). The fencing skill was portrayed in an acrobatic performance in the bloody finale scene that culminates in the death of all remaining major characters.

Although most of the actors were around the same age, they managed to depict characters whose ages differenced greatly. The interactions between Hamlet and his uncle (senior Pablo Ramirez) truly seemed like those between a teenager and a grown man.

Despite the dark nature of the plot, there were many humorous moments. Junior Noah Hughes’ portrayal of the pompous Polonius made his character more bumbling than conniving. There was a surprising amount of laughter when Polonius was stabbed by Hamlet simply because of the way he cried his last words: “O, I am slain!”

“There are a lot of funny parts that people don’t generally get because it is a tragedy,” Bouten said. “That was the hardest part of the play to capture.”

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