Contemporary approach to Shakespeare

IUS Horizon


Black leather gloves, purple hooded vests and “murder most foul” come together to add a refreshing twist to Shakespeare’s classic tragedy in the IUS Department of Theater’s production of “Hamlet.”

The IUS Department of Theater is opening its production season with “Hamlet” in the Robinson Theater of Ogle Center. The production, directed by adjunct lecturer Daniel Hill, will open on Thursday, March 7, but the Department of Theater offered students a free preview to students Wednesday, March 8.

With shadows of bare trees silhouetted on the stage and the gray, stony ruins of a castle, the set immediately adds an eerie atmosphere to the stage. The stage, designed by Michael Hottois, consists of two spiral staircases and balconies, which allow for dynamic movement throughout the scenes.

One of the most jarring aspects of this rendition of “Hamlet” is the costumes. Pops of bold color set against the stony gray set add rich color to the production. The costumes, designed by Natalie Bowman, are a glorious hodgepodge of different styles and take on an almost post-apocalyptic style.

For instance, Hamlet wears one leather glove, a purple hooded vest with an oversized collar, dark wash jeans and sneakers. His costume is that of a futuristic young rebel, perfect for the troubled Hamlet.

Ophelia wears a dainty green dress with long gauzy sleeves, fitting for the young, naive woman. In contrast, Queen Gertrude wears an opulent, peach gown fit for a decadent queen.

The costumes are not the only modern addition to the production. The actors approach each character from a modern perspective. The actors are not simply spouting Shakespeare, they are saying something.

When Ophelia tells her father Polonius that she will obey him, she is really saying “yeah, yeah, whatever, Dad,” and actress Eliza Donahue conveys that emotion. The actors respond realistically, and the lines are paced so they flow like everyday conversation. These seemingly small touches make the play more inviting for those skeptical of sitting through a Shakespeare play.

There is nothing uppity or garish about this production of “Hamlet.” The production provides everything that I love about theater– the magic of getting lost in someone else’s struggles and having personal emotional experiences while sitting in a crowd full of people who are also having their own personal emotional experiences. Theater is both a shared and a personal experience.

The IUS Department of Theater’s “Hamlet” is a crash course in appreciating Shakespeare. The department took the meat of the play and cut it into bite size pieces, making it easier for the audience to digest. The production is a pared down, shorter version of the traditional, five act play. “Hamlet” is a Shakespeare play for people who do not like Shakespeare.

If you missed opening weekend, you can still catch “Hamlet” Thursday, March 14 through Saturday, March 17. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for students, seniors and IU Southeast faculty and staff. Tickets will be on sale at the Ogle Center ticket office.