by Lorie Lewis Ham
Beginning on April 13 The New Ensemble Theatre Group will present William Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the Broken Leg Stage in Fresno. This production of Hamlet will be a bit different than most are familiar with, as a woman, actress Brooke Aiello, will be playing the title role. Hamlet is Shakespeare’s tragic tale of murder and revenge within the ultimate dysfunctional family.
For the first year and a half of their existence as a theatre company, TNE has concentrated on contemporary plays, so when discussing their 2012 season TNE artistic director Heather Parish stated that they began to look for a classic to add to the season. Since most of their members have experience doing Shakespeare, that seemed a good place to start.
“One of our missions is to put a new spin, new look, or new approach to classic texts as well as to do fresh, contemporary scripts,” said Heather. “So, when deciding which classic should be our first, Hamlet was definitely on the short list. It is a classic that people are familiar with and have opinions about. We love that.
“And then, when I was considering the space we work in (the tiny, black box Broken Leg Stage), the challenge of doing a play that is usually done in large settings in a tiny setting – that challenge appealed to me.”
According to Heather, Hamlet isn’t done in intimate theaters very often. But when it is, it is a much different experience than people expect. It is known for being a very large play: complex, with grand ideas about humanity, politics, meaning, life and death. But Hamlet is also a family drama, a very intimate play about one prince and the people around that prince: a mother, a father, a lover, a friend and how their lives intertwine tragically. TNE’s production emphasizes that intimacy and that emotional core. “Everything is so very up-close and personal. You don’t see that often with a production of Hamlet.”
TNE didn’t start out with the goal to have a woman play Hamlet. “During auditions, I read and considered both men and women for the role of Hamlet,” continued Heather. “As it turned out, Brooke Aiello – a founding member of TNE and The Governess in our first production of The Turn of the Screw – was the actor (male or female) with the strongest readings, the most varied and interesting choices, and the experience to be able to tackle this megalith role. I also had several other incredibly talented women audition and they were cast in roles typically given to men. Gabriela Lawson- a recurring actor with Woodward Shakespeare – is cast as Horatio, and TNE member Kristin Lyn Crase is cast against type as Gertrude. In so many ways, this production doesn’t look or feel like your run-of-the-mill Hamlet.”
The New Ensemble Theatre Group is committed to creating thoughtful, exciting shows for smart people and this production of Hamlet appears to be no exception. If you’re looking for a traditional interpretation of Shakespeare, this production probably isn’t for you. But if you’re looking to be surprised by a show you think you already know, want to feel something new in an old play, want something to take away and keep for a long time after the show is over, don’t miss TNE’s Hamlet. She’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before! This is one I really wish I could get to—since my schedule won’t allow me to make it, be sure to catch it and let us know what you think! I have never been disappointed by a TNE production.
There are also wine receptions on Friday and Saturday evenings for those 21 and over, included with the price of your ticket. Discounts are offered on Thursdays and Saturday matinees. Check out their website for more information and get your tickets now, as seating is very limited!
April 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28 at 8 p.m.
April 14, 21, and 28 at 2 p.m.
Will Call Reservations: (559) 457-9613
Fri/Sat Evenings: $15 Walk Ins/$12 reservation or online in advance.
Thu eve/Sat Matinee: $10.
BROKEN LEG STAGE
1470 N. Van Ness at Home Street between Floradora and McKinley in Fresno’s Tower District.
Appropriate for high school and up, parental guidance suggested. No latecomers admitted. For questions, email Artistic Director, Heather Parish at firstname.lastname@example.org
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