Alan Dwan, a great silent film director of the 1920s, said there’s no such thing as an original story. Adaptations revisit iconic works, breathing new life into well-known stories. Over the next few weeks, versions of “Hamlet” and “Cinderella” will be told on high school stages, and you won’t want to miss these renditions.
Seabury Hall will present William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” starting Nov. 8. The Bard wrote his most produced play more than 400 years ago, but it is based on a Viking tale that was probably more than 350 years old when Shakespeare was born. Saxo Grammaticus, an advisor to King Valdemar I of Denmark, based his “Hamlet” on Danish history.
Amleth, the prince of Denmark, is the son of Horvendill and Gerutha. King Horvendill’s jealous brother, Feng, murders the king and persuades Queen Gerutha to marry him. Rage-filled Amleth pretends to be insane and bides his time for revenge.
In the Grammaticus version, the prince of Denmark tricks everyone and basically tortures and murders the entire court, eventually taking the throne for himself. There are several Shakespeare subplots that mirror the tale of Amleth, which include the murder of King Feng’s advisor hiding behind a curtain and the suicide of Amleth’s true love.
Shakespeare’s cast is even rumored to have visited Kronborg, a castle in Helsingor, Denmark, in 1586; and in 1933, archeologists unearthed a site in the village of Ammelhede, which was the grave of Amleth, according to local tradition.
Seabury’s swift, contemporary version of “Hamlet,” trimmed to two hours, is set in modern times.
Director Todd Van Amburgh said this version is “Hamlet” as Shakespeare’s audience knew it. “Though our Hamlet has a modern setting, our cutting of the play, for speed and impact, return it to its roots as a swift ‘revenge tragedy,’ the popular entertainment it was in Shakespeare’s day.”
Called home from college because of his father’s death, Hamlet (Zeb Mehring) finds that his mother, Queen Gertrude (Celina Bekins), has quickly remarried Hamlet’s uncle (Taka Tsutsui). Depressed, crazed and haunted by the ghost of his father, Hamlet thoroughly confuses his girlfriend, Ophelia (Zoe Harrelson-Louie), friends, family, and himself, as he seeks to avenge his father’s demise.
“I’ve been waiting to do this show for years,” added Van Amburgh, who has taught the play in his English classes at Seabury for almost two decades. “I love the intimacy and impact we can get in the new theater. It wraps the audience around the action, helps them to hear the amazing language and energizes the actors.”
But does Van Amburgh think high school students can do “Hamlet”? “I think we forget that half the characters in Hamlet are college students. The language is a stretch, yes, but stretching is what school is for.”
Keeping with the theme, it’s possible that the Brothers Grimm never really wrote anything – but instead adapted ancient folk stories into the 18th-century fairytales that our western culture is more familiar with. Origins of Cinderella’s story range from ancient Greece to Asia. Greek mythology tells of a young girl, who while bathing, had one of her sandals stolen by an eagle. The king of Memphis (not Elvis), finds the sandal, dropped into his lap by the eagle. Moved by the situation’s strangeness, he sends men to scour his kingdom in search of the woman with the missing sandal. When she is found, he marries her, and she becomes the queen.
Another version of Cinderella comes from 9th century China, where Ye Xian, a hardworking, beautiful young girl, befriends a talking fish, who turns out to be the reincarnation of her mother, killed by her stepmother and ugly sister. The magic fish, in true mom fashion, helps Ye Xian dress appropriately for the Imperial New Year’s Festival, possibly by saying, “Are you going to wear that?” After being outed by her stepfamily, Ye Xian runs off and loses her slipper. The emperor finds her slipper, falls in love and eventually rescues her from her cruel stepmother.
However, my new favorite version comes from the Philippines, called “Mariang Alimango.” Mariang is beaten regularly by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters and is subsequently visited by the ghost of her dead mother. Ghost mom decides to turn herself into a crab (for the obvious reasons), but the evil stepmom ends up cooking and eating it (possibly with some Jufran sauce). Mariang buries the shell, and her mother’s spirit returns as a ghost fairy. The shoe thing is also in this disturbing tale after Mariang wins the heart of a prince at his 21st birthday celebration.
Although a crabby mom won’t be involved, all the magic, excitement and adventure you’d expect in this classic fairytale will come to life with Baldwin High School’s production of “Cinderella’s Glass Slipper.” Keeping with the annual tradition of presenting one show created by young people for children, BHS will present this whimsical musical sure to charm audiences of all ages.
In this adaptation, the queen (Alohilani Johnson) decides that her son, the prince (Makana Gabin), must find and marry a suitable young lady from the kingdom. When Majordomo (Noah Leong) announces a proclamation in the song, “Hear Ye, Hear Ye,” the entire kingdom makes plans to attend the ball. The wicked stepmother (Lana Canton), two obnoxious stepsisters (Nina Magnani, TJ Idemoto) and sweet Cinderella (Hannah Lewis) are all invited, but the stepmother won’t allow Cinderella to go. A fairy godmother (Veronica Russell) comes to the rescue, and Cinderella is given a magical pumpkin coach, beautiful gown and some glass slipper bling.
The show is full of all the traditional Cinderella cohorts, performing in lively song-and-dance numbers. “These beloved characters will delight you in colorful costumes and songs that you will hum all the way home,” director Linda Carnevale said. “I love to bring children’s theater to the stage. Children and adults get to see our favorite stories come to life, and the Baldwin students love to perform shows where they get to use their imagination, have fun and act out stories they loved as a child.”
The Baldwin Theatre Guild will also be hosting a gala and dinner Nov. 9 at the indoor Stagedoor Cafe at BHS just prior to the performance. The event is a benefit for the guild. Admission includes a ticket to the show, early seating, preshow entertainment and dinner. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for this special event. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $16 for students ages 11 to 17 and $12 for children 10 and younger. For details, call 727-3297.
BHS Performing Arts Learning Center and the Baldwin Theatre Guild present “Cinderella’s Glass Slipper,” book by Vera Morris, music and lyrics by Bill Francoeur, directed by Carnevale and under the musical direction of Tana Larson. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 8 through 17, with a 2 p.m. matinee Nov. 16, in the Loudon Mini-Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and teachers, $7 for ages 11 to 17 and $6 for ages 10 and younger, available at the box office one hour prior to showtime.
Next week the Maui Arts & Cultural Center brings two cutting-edge events to Maui.
“FatBoy,” a dance theater work by Teo Castellanos, is based in hip-hop but also influenced by Balinese rice rituals and mythology, as well as traditional Buddhist movement. The “FatBoy” performance is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, in Castle Theater. General admission tickets are $28 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or see mauiarts.org.
“Legend of Ko’olau,” original work by Maui playwright Gary T. Kubota, is a historical drama about the life of Kaluaiko’olau, a Hawaiian cowboy and outlaw. This one-man play is the courageous story of a Hawaiian family on Kauai, fighting for their rights amid the chaos of 1893 annexation. The world-premiere performance is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, in McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $25 (plus applicable fees).