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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the January 10,

2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Hamlet: Love’im, Hate’im

Think of this trilogy as Shakespeare’s


served up banquet style with all the trimmings — a theatrical

feast with the Elizabethan tragedy as the main course. Flanking the

play that stands, over the course of centuries, as the meat and


of western thought, are two contemporary comedies providing a piquant

hors d’oeuvres and the enjoyable dessert.

Actors’ NET in Morrisville launches an innovative recipe for enjoying

Shakespearean tragedy, beginning with "I Hate Hamlet," Paul

Rudnick’s rollicking comedy about a television actor cast as Hamlet

who is coached by the ghost of John Barrymore. George Hartpence stars

as the eminent Barrymore, with Keith Kerns as the clueless TV actor.

NET co-founder and managing director Joe Doyle directs the show, which

opens Friday, January 12, and runs to Sunday, January 28.

The trilogy continues with the real thing, Shakespeare’s


with George Hartpence in the title role, directed by Cheryl Doyle,

running from February 16 to March 4.

Completing the series is Tom Stoppard’s comedy "Rosencrantz and

Guildenstern are Dead," in which minor characters take center

stage. This also features George Hartpence as Hamlet, directed by

Cheryl Doyle.

Hartpence, an amateur actor who favors Shakespeare, provided some

of the motivation. Hartpence has appeared with Actors’ NET in


"The Devil’s Disciple," "The Prime of Miss Jean


and "Laughter on the 23rd Floor." As did Cheryl Doyle for

whom "Hamlet" is her favorite Shakespeare. She also had a

great yen to direct Stoppard’s comic play that features Hamlet’s minor

players, "Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead."

"We knew `Hamlet’ was on George’s dream list of roles he wanted

to play before he got too long in the tooth," says Joe Doyle,

adding that he and Cheryl Doyle were afraid the fare might be too

heavy for its audience. "A lot of companies will attempt to do

cerebral shows, and critics may or may not love them, but the question

is, Can we attract an audience? Our production of G.B. Shaw’s `Devil’s

Disciple’ was a big hit, so we decided the time was right to tackle


"I think `Hamlet’ has all the elements of a great soap opera,"

says Doyle. "The young man’s moral dilemma has truly


proportions’ — to avenge his father’s death against his father’s

brother who not only stole his father’s throne but also stole the

young prince’s mother.

"The play also has the world’s best known monologue — which

has been used by more actors, good and bad alike, than any other.

Because this speech is utilized in `I Hate Hamlet,’ when Barrymore

tells the TV actor how to deal with that speech, we thought it would

be a good way to introduce a lot of the play’s premises in a comedy


Barrymore plunges into Hamlet’s "Speak the speech I pray you as

I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue," addressed to

the itinerant actors, unpacking it for actors and audience alike.

In his first performance as Hamlet, Hartpence is a


by profession, running the pharmacy group purchasing program for the

New Jersey Hospital Association. A 1978 graduate of the Philadelphia

College of Pharmacy, Hartpence says he got up the courage to tackle

his first audition 10 years ago — "proof that sometimes


do get from out behind the counter."

His first Shakespeare role was playing "one of the interchangeable

gentlemen" in the "Merchant of Venice" for Shakespeare

’70. Favorite roles since then have included leading parts in


"Julius Caesar," and "Twelfth Night." "And I never

pass up a chance to do Oscar Wilde," he adds.

Now he’s tackling the role of roles. "It’s a truism that you have

to hit 40 before you can play Hamlet," says Hartpence. "The

script says he’s 30, but you need both life experience and stage


to portray his range of emotion and experience — to communicate

to an audience the full depth of that experience takes some


"How did the play get to be so great? Because it deals with the

core of everything that is essentially human. It cuts right to the

core of all the emotions that makes us what we are and puts it in

a story that is the classic mold — it’s a story of mythical


an inescapable and mythical quest that’s thrust upon someone. Anything

he can or will do will ultimately lead to his downfall. Both action

or inaction will be disastrous."

"Hamlet’s not Everyman, but his situation is one that all of us

have to face — carrying on through grief, loss, betrayal, revenge.

It’s a big way of telling that story of destiny. And it’s on such

an elemental level that we can all identify with it.

"It’s his courage in the face of futility," says Hartpence.

"He’s given the horrendous task of killing a king by someone he

can’t say no to — his father’s ghost. You’re told to do the


thing you possibly could by someone you can’t say no to. He’s given

a situation he has to fulfill, and he knows there’s no way he can

do so without destroying himself.

Hartpence says he received his memorization training in pharmacy


where students must learn to memorize the pharmacology, the side


and the dosages for thousands of drugs. "You get your mind set

up for that kind of memorization, and the discipline of keeping the

mind fresh. It’s so much easier to memorize Shakespeare’s iambic


than it is to memorize Neil Simon."

Hamlet in its entirety — sometimes called "Hamlet in its


— runs four and a half hours. Hartpence and Doyle worked together

on cutting it down to a duration that most audiences can accept.


both love the play so much that it was a pleasure to sit down together

to work on the cuts," he says. "We spent months going over

the script."

Of course memorizing Hamlet’s lines is only half the battle. Hartpence

says that ideas about role dominate his thoughts these days.

"I’m working on a noble, gentle prince who can also be brutal

and coarse. And I’m making sure he has a strong sense of irony and

wit, so the audience can be with him," says Hartpence. "So

many actors have portrayed him, but it’s often difficult to be on

his side. I think this man’s a hero for how he has to wrestle with,

and eventually accept, his lot in life."

— Nicole Plett

I Hate Hamlet, Actors’ NET, 635 North Delmorr


Morrisville, 215-295-3694. $10. January 12 to January 28.

Hamlet, Actors’ NET, Morrisville, 215-295-3694.

$10. February 16 to March 4.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Art Dead, Actors’ NET,

Morrisville, 215-295-3694. $10. March 16 to April 1.

Top Of Page

Playful Theater Productions has auditions for


on Thursday and Friday, January 18 and 19, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

at Kelsey Theater, Mercer County College. Director Ken Ambs is casting

five men and five women over 18. Auditions require a two-minute


monologue and 16 bars of a song. Performances begin March 30. For

appointment, call 609-730-9731.

Pierrot Productions has auditions for "Fiddler on

the Roof" on Saturday, January 20, starting at 1 p.m., and Sunday,

January 21, starting at 4 p.m., at Kelsey Theater, Mercer Community

College. Come prepared with a vocal selection and sheet music from

any show, and be prepared for dance and movement. Principal character

roles also require a 1-3 minute monologue. Call 609-730-9099.

The New Jersey Theater Group will hold auditions by


for non-equity performers in New Brunswick on Monday, February 26,

from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Over 25 New Jersey theaters are expected to

attend. Deadline for entries is Friday, January 19. To enter lottery,

performers must: 1) Send one copy of picture with attached resume.

2) Indicate whether or not you intend to sing as part of your


3) Indicate if you have access to New Jersey housing. 4) Enclose a

self-addressed, stamped envelope. 5) Entries must be postmarked by

Friday, January 19. 6) Mail to New Jersey Theatre Group, Box 21,


Park 07932. Questions? E-mail

Top Of Page
Call for Entries

Repertorio Espanol and the Metropolitan Life Foundation


"Nuestras Voces II," the Second Annual Playwriting Competition

created to develop plays and playwrights that deal with subjects of

importance to the Hispanic community, or which focus on the Hispanic

experience. First place winner receives $3,000 and a fully staged

production of the play. Second and third place winners receive $2,000

and $1,000 respectively; and the two runners up will be awarded $500

each. All finalists will receive staged readings of their work.


must be postmarked by Wednesday, February 15. All plays must be


and cannot have received a full Equity production; prior staged


are acceptable. Scripts can be written in Spanish or English;


must be at least 18 years of age. Guidelines and applications are

on the company’s website at, or by call


Submit Repertorio Espanol, 138 East 27 Street, New York, 10016.

New Jersey Historical Commission announces availability

of guidelines and application for the 2001 grants program in general

operating support, special projects, mini-grants, and prizes. Grants

range from $1,000 to $10,000 for non-profit organizations incorporated

in New Jersey or municipal or county government agency. According

to Mary R. Murrin, director of the grant program, "Many of our

grant categories are available to local civic groups, ethnic clubs,

schools, churches, libraries, and other organizations — and even

to individuals." Contact Murrin at 609-688-8168 or download


from the Web at

Princeton Garden Statesmen announces an A Cappella contest

for high school students. Singing groups of 4 to 12 members may enter

the contest and win prizes, trophies, and certificates for themselves

and their schools. Coaching in barbershop style singing is available.

The deadline is January 15. Call Hugh Devine at 609-799-8170 or


New Jersey Agricultural Society is sponsoring an essay

contest for students in grades 6 through 11. Each grade level will

have three prize winners and the first place winner will receive a

$150 savings bond and plaque. Deadline for entries is January 15 for

essays that should be between 250 to 500 words; may be written or

typed; and will be judged on creativity, originality, neatness, and

the correct use of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Call


or visit the website at

Participate Please

How to Handle Backcountry Emergencies is an intensive

medical training course for outdoor professionals and those who spend

time in remote areas. The 72-hour "Wilderness First


is sponsored by Princeton University Outdoor Action Program and will

be held from January 27 to February 4. Lectures, full-scale rescue

simulation, and debriefing are included. Call 888-Wildmed or


New Jersey Child Assault Prevention is accepting


for an individual or organization that has played a significant role

in the prevention of child abuse on a local or state level. Award

recipients will be honored at the annual awards luncheon on April

20 at the Princeton Marriott. CAP also presents workshops for


parents, and teachers including "No More Bullies, No More


Call 856-582-7000 for application or workshop information. Deadline

for applications is January 19, 2001.

Run With Aimee T-shirt design contest is seeking


About 1,000 participants in the fifth annual Run With Aimee 5K and

One Mile Ramble will receive shirts at the event scheduled for Sunday,

April 1, at Montgomery High School. Entries must be submitted to Run

With Aimee, c/o Schilke Construction, 301 Valley Road, Hillsborough,

08844. Website: Deadline for entries is February


Top Of Page
Volunteer Alert

Hamilton Township Domestic Violence Victim Response Team

seeks applicants over 18 years of age, with access to transportation

and a valid driver’s license. Background investigation including


and completion of a 40-hour training course beginning in January.

Contact Captain Kevin Pollard at 609-581-4035.

Training program for volunteers for the Lawrence Township

Domestic Violence Victim Response Team begins in spring 2001. Call


Beginning Experience of Trenton is accepting registrants

for its "Widowed, Divorced and Separated Weekend," February

2 to 4, in Elburon, NJ. Designed to help separated, widowed and


overcome pain and loneliness following loss of spouse, the event is

intense, self-reflective and spiritual. Beginning Experience is a

ministry that is open to people of all faiths. Call MaryAnn at


or Chuck at 732-364-9934.

The Shoestring Players winter drama program for kids


basic acting techniques, fundamental improvisation, and creative


skills for students enrolled in fourth to eighth grades. Using sound

and movement, students will collaborate to write and stage an original

story that they will perform in Shoestring ensemble style. Classes

will be held on Saturdays, beginning February 3 and running through

March 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers

University. The cost if $100 and the deadline for registration is

January 24. Call 732-932-9772.

Innovative Dance Academy offers eight-week sessions in

martial arts training. The instructor, Belida Uckun, received a black

belt in Songahm Taekwondo, a second degree black belt in Combat


and a third degree black belt in American Karate (Kenop). Also, Kids

Karate class on Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m.; and a teen/adult Karate on

Mondays at 4:30 p.m. Classes are open to anyone regardless of size,

strength, or gender. Register at 609-530-0979.

JCC of North & South Brunswick Nursery School has


registration for their nursery school programs on Wednesday, January

31. All head teachers are licensed and children in diapers are


Early drop-off, late-stay, lunch program, enrichment programs, and

Mommy & Me classes are also available. Pre-K classes meet Monday


Fridays; three-year-olds meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings;

and two-and-a-half year olds meet mornings on Tuesday and Thursdays.

For information or to tour the school, call nursery school director

Fran Pearlson at 732-297-0295.

The National Arbor Day Foundation has published a booklet

about "Conservation Trees" with information on how to plant

shade trees, how to prune, and how to attract songbirds. For the free

booklet, send name and address to Conservation Trees, The National

Arbor Day Foundation, Nebraska City, NE 68410.

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