Corrections or additions?
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
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
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
Morrisville, 215-295-3694. $10. January 12 to January 28.
$10. February 16 to March 4.
Morrisville, 215-295-3694. $10. March 16 to April 1.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
"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 www.repertorio.org, or by call
Submit Repertorio Espanol, 138 East 27 Street, New York, 10016.
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 newjerseyhistory.com.
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
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 www.state.nj.us/agriculture.
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
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.
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: www.runwithaimee.org. Deadline for entries is February
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.
Domestic Violence Victim Response Team begins in spring 2001. Call
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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