When Alicia Hynes thinks about directing Shakespeare, she thinks about things other than traditional settings with Elizabethan costumes and sets. The College of the Atlantic senior thinks about Bollywood, shadow puppets and video projections, as in the case of the two other Bard plays she’s co-directed at COA with college alum Dan Mahler, “The Tempest” and “Macbeth.”
For her new production, which she’s helming with assistant director Gina Sabatini, Hynes knew early on what she wanted to do: a glam rock and punk rock influenced version of “Hamlet.”
“I think rock stars like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury are inherently kind of tragic,” said Hynes. “Hamlet himself is of course a tragic figure, so I think their music fits in really well with the story.”
David Bowie’s iconic album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust,” Queen’s song “Bohemian Rhapsody” and songs from the Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop provide the thematic setting for “Hamlet.” It will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 12 and 13, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, at the Gates Auditorium at COA.
Hynes, who calls herself a “massive Bowie fan,” names “Hamlet” as her favorite Shakespeare play.
“I love it, and I always have, ever since I first read it in middle school,” she said. “As we did auditions for the play, I realized that it means a lot to a lot people, as much as it does to me. It’s incredible to me that something written 400 years ago is still so totally relevant. It’s really special.”
“Ziggy Stardust” in particular plays a starring role in the fourth and fifth acts of the play, with the title character of Bowie’s concept album aligned with Hamlet — not so much in character specifics, but aesthetically. Actors will be clad in costumes mixing punk rock, glam rock, and artsy suits, dresses and other ensembles.
“A few characters have really flamboyant Bowie inspired costumes, and a few are wearing all black, for a kind of arty Beatnik kind of look,” said Hynes. “There are some pretty nice suits and blazers that are very 70s looking. It’s a neat mix.”
In another glam-rock inspired element, Clara Dennis will play Hamlet, in a gender-bending twist that’s only appropriate for Shakespeare.
“I always imagined him played by an androgynous male,” said Hynes.
And, in his third appearance in the COA Shakespeare production, COA President David Hales will play the ghost of Hamlet’s father.
“We always want a staff or faculty member to be in the play, and he was always into it,” said Hynes. “He played the drunken gatekeeper in ‘Macbeth.’ It’s good to have a kind of older, authority figure in the show.”