February 21, 2018
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Dustbowl “Hamlet” coming to COA

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Dan Mahler as Hamlet communes with the skull of his old friend Yorick.

Harborside Shakespeare Company Depression-era setting of Shakespeare at Gates Aug. 9 and 10

BAR HARBOR, ME—“To be or not to be?” asks the young Hamlet, standing by the grave of his father. The scene is recognizable to many—except for the 1930’s dustbowl setting of the Harborside Shakespeare Company’s summer 2014 production. The performances at College of the Atlantic’s Gates Community Center (at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 9 and at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 10) follow performances on July 25 and 26 at the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor and Aug. 1 at Winter Harbor’s Schoodic Arts for All. The final performance will be Aug. 16 at the Grand Auditorium in Ellsworth. Tickets are $8 for children, $10 for students/seniors, and $12 for adults.

Known for vibrant, atypical settings of William Shakespeare’s plays, HSC places “Hamlet” in the Great Depression. The family farm of the successful “King” Hamlet has been failing since his death, and Hamlet, the eldest son, is struggling with the resulting whirling winds of change—especially once he discovers that his jealous Uncle Claudius has murdered his father. Adding to the eerie, barren atmosphere is an evocative soundtrack featuring Mumford & Sons, Robert Plant, Patti Smith, and others.

“I’ve always wanted to place ‘Hamlet’ in a rural setting,” says director Alicia Hynes. “The more time I spend with the text, the more I realize that the story and the language lend itself perfectly to the dustbowl.”

Hynes has also chosen to use the First Quarto sequence of the play, which offers a different order of scenes (most productions use the First Folio version). Hynes prefers the interpretive richness the First Quarto offers, with the famous “To Be or Not to Be” speech occurring early in the play.

Following in the tradition of the HSC’s successful 2013 summer tour of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” HSC will perform “Hamlet” throughout Hancock County. For this summer’s production, Hamlet is played by Daniel Mahler, HSC co-founder. The cast features local actors Lisa Reilich as Queen Gertrude, Jeff Miller as King Claudius, and Cindy Robbins as Lord Polonius.

HSC is a community-driven, nonprofit theatre company founded by veteran directors and performers Alicia Hynes and Daniel Mahler in 2012. Hynes and Mahler have attracted extensive media attention to their surprising and exceedingly accessible settings of classical and original plays through HSC, and earlier, as students at College of the Atlantic. Mahler holds an MA in Theater Education from Emerson College.

In addition to the “Hamlet” performances, HSC offers several educational programs throughout the summer, including “Playing Shakespeare: From Page to Stage,” a specialty session at Camp Beech Cliff on Mt. Desert Island.

Tickets—$8 for children, $10 for students/seniors, and $12 for adults—are available online. For more information on the performances on July 25 and 26 at 7:30 pm the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor; Aug. 1 at 7 pm at Winter Harbor’s Schoodic Arts for All; Aug. 9 at 7:30 pm and Aug. 10 at 2 and 7:30 pm at College of the Atlantic’s Gates Community Center in Bar Harbor; and Aug 16 at 7:30 pm at the Grand Auditorium in Ellsworth, write info@harborsideshakespeare.org, call 207-939-6929, or visit www.harborsideshakespeare.org.