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About the Production



 


Shakespeare. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Arranged for representation at the Princess’s Theatre... London, 1859

When imagining the environment for Hamlet, some people may think of a dark and winding castle, with fog swirling through its parapets. Joseph Haj, however, envisioned quite the opposite. Since Claudius is a man full of secrets which he does not want exposed, Haj believed the King would choose to live in a castle where it would be possible for him to know every event as it took place, "a bright world where secrets can’t live." Haj saw the famous castle of Denmark as being "cold, hard, antiseptic, and scrubbed clean."

 

Using Haj’s concept as a springboard, scenic designer James Kronzer created a set that is almost entirely white, with clean lines and a straightforward appearance. Props, furniture, and accessories are minimal and only used so far as function requires, thus eliminating any unneeded excess. Lighting designer Justin Townsend worked with Kronzer to light the stage with bright recessed panels that are built into the set.

 

Likewise, costume designer Jan Chambers chose to give the characters in the play a style that reflects the same clean and polished look. Characters are well-dressed, with a modern European edge to their fashion. And how does the ghost of Hamlet’s father (played by actor Todd Scofield) look other-worldly and separate from the rest of the characters of the play? Haj’s production team also includes a video designer, Francesca Talenti. Talenti worked with Chambers to incorporate a projector into Scofield’s costume - watch and see how the team chose to portray the ghost. Is it what you expected?

 

The music in the play is an interesting variation from the norm as well. Jack Herrick, a longtime collaborator with Haj, extensively researched Norwegian and Danish folk music. From his findings, he composed original music for this production of Hamlet that has Scandinavian roots but with a modern feel. Herrick and sound designer Matt Nielson worked together to blend Herrick’s live music onstage with Nielson’s recorded sound and other effects.

 

How will this bright, clean concept affect the story of Hamlet differently than a set more prone to dimly-lit corners and secretive hallways? Part of the beauty of theater is that the same story may be retold thousands of ways each time it is produced. Haj believes there is "no absolute Hamlet, just the exploration of it," and it’s "the wrestling [that] is the point of the matter."

 
New York, Winter Garden Theatre. Hamlet. Facsimile playbill, 22 March 1865





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