‘Alas, poor Yorick . . .’

ProArts latest incarnation tackles the melancholy Dane in its first youth show

Oona Griffin is the Danish prince in ProArts’ inaugural Youth Theater production of “Hamlet: Abridged” by William Shakespeare. Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, at the ProArts Playhouse in Azeka Place Makai in Kihei. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com. Photo courtesy ProArts Playhouse

William Shakespeare wrote his most frequently produced play, “Hamlet,” over 400 years ago, and this weekend Maui’s south side middle school students will present an abridged version in the inaugural ProArts Youth Theater production at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei.

Just as “Hamlet: Abridged” is an adaptation based on Shakespeare’s lengthier script, his original script is based on a Viking tale that was nearly 400 years old when Shakespeare wrote “Hamlet.”

In the 13th-century historical telling by Saxo Grammaticus (an historian, theologian and advisor to King Valdemar I of Demark), Prince Amleth (an anagram of Hamlet) is a figure in a medieval Scandinavian legend who is a direct predecessor of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He is the son of King Horvendill and Queen Gerutha of Denmark.

King Horvendill’s jealous brother Prince Feng murders the King and persuades Queen Gerutha to marry him. Amleth, filled with rage, feigns insanity and bides his time for revenge.

There are several Shakespeare subplots that mirror Grammaticus’ tale of Amleth, such as the murder of King Feng’s advisor while he’s hiding behind a curtain and the suicide of Amleth’s true love. Shakespeare was even rumored to have visited Amleth’s Kronborg Castle (located in Helsingor, Denmark) in 1586.

Caleb Teicher leads six Maui dancers in Maui Chamber Orchestra’s concert performance of “Crazy For You.” David Needleman photo

In “Hamlet: Abridged,” Hamlet (Oona Griffin) is called home to Elsinore Castle from his studies due to his father’s sudden death. He finds that his mother, Queen Gertrude (Amelia Johnson), has quickly remarried Hamlet’s uncle Claudius (Makoa Montero).

Depressed, crazed and haunted by the ghost of his father (Samson Ching), Hamlet confounds his girlfriend, Ophelia (Kelsey Hendricks), his friends (Dayna Fronda and Isobella Kent), his family and himself, as he seeks to avenge his father’s murder.

I asked co-director Kristi Scott why she chose “Hamlet” for the Kihei students.

“Most of these students have been in my classes since they were in sixth grade, and it was time to do something with a little teeth before they become high school students,” she said.

The adapted version runs one hour, and Scott shared the differences between full-length Shakespeare and “Hamlet: Abridged.”

“The original ‘Hamlet’ has no less than ten lengthy monologues as well as a strong political aspect. The monologues have been pared down, but they still let us into the inner life of Hamlet even though they are not as lengthy. The political part has little to no effect on the plot and is not missed in this version. We (Scott and co-director Francis Tau’a), have restored a few lines and partial scenes to retain integrity,” Scott shared.

I asked her what are the difficulties in presenting Shakespeare’s words and style with a middle school-aged cast.

“The biggest challenge is always going to be making them comfortable with what they are innately uncomfortable with at this age — being vulnerable, making eye contact and physically touching someone else. There is the language aspect — we just have to keep reminding them it is only English. One of the things we did to help keep their interest is modernized it — creating Elsinore Castle into a modern corporation, and using technologies such as phones and the (projection) screens already up from ‘You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,’ “ Scott explained.

When I inquired if ProArts Youth Theater will be presenting more works in the future, Scott replied, “I certainly hope so,” and shared her vision as executive director of ProArts.

“There is a niche here in Kihei for theater for all ages. I hope to increase our youth theater to accommodate all ages. That may require a separate space so we do not interfere with set building or rehearsals and can run more than one class at a time. We will have to also increase our teaching staff. Right now, that is just me and Francis Tau’a.”

*****

Each school year, Seabury Hall Performing Arts concludes its season with “Side Shows,” a festival of ten-minute one-act plays that co-director Todd Van Amburgh describes as “great education and great fun.”

This weekend marks 23 years of “Side Shows” coordinated by longtime Seabury dramatic instructors Sally Sefton and Van Amburgh. The 2018 lineup will showcase eight plays — five of which are written by Seabury students — at ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury campus in Makawao.

In Lauren Sieberg’s “Fate Accompli,” a college-bound senior faces “The Fates.” Zachary Kubo addresses separate lead-ups to a date in “Mirror/rorriM.” In “Life of a Barista,” by Alex Abraham, a deadbeat dad tries to reunite with his daughter. Veronica Winham’s “The Substitute,” presents kids who trick a substitute into doing their bidding. Finally, in Bailey Dalzell’s “The Taxi,” learning how to hail a cab yields surprising results.

Festival directors Sefton and Van Amburgh shared their gratitude towards all the faculty, friends and students that are volunteering their time to work with the two dozen student actors, including directors Heidi Bruning, Vinnie Linares, Aaron Romano-Meade and Scott Winham. Students Kubo and Sieberg will direct their own plays.

“The one-act festival has proven to be an ideal experience for students and audiences,” says Van Amurgh. “The show is fast and fun — a rollercoaster ride for the audience. Students get lead parts, and because the plays are all about 10 minutes, they don’t have the taxing rehearsal schedule they get for longer shows. As teachers, we also get to include more students. Veterans end their high-school careers with this show, while others are discovered here. Over two dozen students get to work with other directors, and directors get to experiment.”

* Seabury Hall Performing Arts concludes its season with the 23rd annual “Side Shows.” Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury Hall campus in Makawao. Admission is free, donations are welcomed. For more information visit www.seaburyhall.org or call 572-7235.

Also this week

Captured live on film last weekend in London, the National Theatre’s highly-praised post-modern production of “Macbeth” will be screened at 7 tonight at the Maui Mall Megaplex 12 in Kahului.

In the ruined aftermath of a bloody civil war, the Macbeths are propelled toward the Scottish crown by forces of darkness. Shakespeare’s terrifying tragedy stars Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

* Screening is at 7 tonight at the Maui Mall Megaplex 12 in Kahului. This production should be treated as R-rated as its graphic content is not suitable for all audiences. Reserved tickets are $22.92 (plus applicable fees) and are available through www.fathomevents.com.

Upcoming

The Maui Chamber Orchestra presents a concert performance of “Crazy For You,” based on the 1930 musical “Girl Crazy,” featuring music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, directed by Ally Shore, with a full orchestra conducted by Robert E. Wills.

Billed as “the new Gershwin musical comedy” when it debuted in 1992, the Tony Award-winning “Crazy For You” incorporates Gershwin standards such as “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Slap That Bass,” “Embraceable You,” “I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “Shall We Dance,” “But Not For Me,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and the title track.

The MCO cast will feature 19 of Maui’s most lauded musical theater actors including Dale Button, Laura Cole, Jerry Eiting, Kathryn Holtkamp, Sara Jelley and Leighanna Locke, in addition to six Maui-based dancers led by guest star Caleb Teicher of New York City.

* Performances are at 7:30 p.m. May 25 and 26 and 3 p.m. May 27 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. The May 27 show is preceded by “Talk Story with the Artists” at 1:30 p.m. for ticket holders. Tickets range from $27 to $55. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

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