CREATIVE PEAKS: Shook on Shakespeare

By on February 21, 2017

Macey Mott and cast deliver a contemporary rendition of the classic work Hamlet.

The murderous madness of Hamlet (Tyler Babcock) sweeps Rosencrantz (Diana Edlinger) off her feet. (Photo: Pierce Wilfong)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Hamlet is Macey Mott’s bucket list play.

“I’ve been in love with Hamlet since the first time I read it,” she said. Now, as a seasoned director of Riot Act Inc., Mott feels ready to direct the play herself. Her rendition of The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare debuts Thursday.

Mott’s Hamlet takes place in a contemporary setting, but foregoes neither language nor plot. “We like to challenge our actors and our audience, intellectually, emotionally and physically,” she said. The adaptation is still Shakespearian, but makes the play slightly more palatable for a contemporary audience.

“It’s also a very physical show,” she explained, which adds to the performance value.

Indeed, Hamlet has a bit of everything: incest, vengeance, ghosts, exile, and romance. Without revealing too much, Mott said that the action on the show ranges from guns to sword fights to hand-to-hand combat. Mott recruited fight choreographer Michael Johnson from Washington D.C. to work with the cast on the countless scenes of physical confrontation. Last time cast member Andrew Munz remembers working with him was 10 years ago for Off Square Theater’s Romeo and Juliet.

“I don’t think I want to endure another decade without a rapier in my hands,” Munz said.

Munz plays Laertes, the brother of the play’s damsel Ophelia. It is his first “villainous,” role, and his first (spoiler alert) stage death, so he says he’s having a lot of fun with it. “Having each other die in rehearsals is always a treat.”

Hamlet is certainly violent, but it’s not all fight scenes. “We do have some humor in it too,” Mott assured.

The play is also riddled with sexual references, so Mott cautions parents bringing young children. Otherwise, this production will resonate with a diverse audience, she said.

The story (lest anyone lied about reading the Shakespearean work in English class) follows Prince Hamlet of Denmark after he returns home for his father’s funeral. Upon returning, Hamlet is shocked to find his mother already remarried—to his uncle, the late king’s brother. What ensues are three hours (by Mott’s estimation) of plotting Hamlet’s revenge, complete with a play within the play and an apparent descent into madness.

Mott first read the play in high school, and has been in love ever since. Despite the Shakespearean drama, she says the characters are actually “very relatable and interesting … they have so much depth that there’s always something new to find in it.”

She feels the same way about the plot. Every time she revisits Hamlet, she says she discovers new things about it. “Even in rehearsal, we’re finding new stuff,” Mott said. “Even just the little subtle things that you might not get watching it the first time.”

Shakespeare scholars who are familiar with the play will be pleased, Mott said. It is also a chance for anyone who skipped reading it in her high school English class to understand what the hype is about. “I’m actually surprised by how many have never seen or read it,” she said.

Mott and the 19-person cast have been rehearsing since December. The first hurdle, she said, was cutting the script down from its original four-hour run time. “The language is just so beautiful,” Mott said. The next challenge was mastering the language—to be able to perform it, one has to understand it.

Scheduling rehearsals for 19 volunteer actors was also “a bit of a nightmare,” Mott admitted, but overall she has been impressed with the crew’s willingness to make it work.

The cast is a diverse group of actors with varying levels of experience. The oldest actor is 80 years old; the youngest is 20. Veteran actors like Munz, and Stephen Lottridge, who has been on Jackson stages since Munz can remember, will share the spotlight with people who have never been in a play before.

Munz emphasized that even for those who are perhaps intimidated by Shakespeare, community theatre is worth the attention. “It’s the one art form that is constantly offering something new and different in an attempt to challenge the minds of our town and offer diversity in programming,” Munz explained. He noted that despite the huge success of Riot Act’s Rocky Mountain Horror Show a few years ago, Mott has refused to put on the show again for diversity’s sake.

“That’s what makes Riot Act unlike other nonprofits,” Munz said. “Creative integrity reins supreme.” PJH

Hamlet opens 7 p.m. Thursday, February 23 at Walk Festival Hall in Teton Village. It runs the same time all weekend, then again the weekend of March 2. $15 for students and seniors, $20 for adults. Buy tickets at the door, or before the show at RiotActInc.org

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