BAR HARBOR, Maine — “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. Performances for the HSC “Hamlet” production are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 25 and 26, at the Neighborhood House, 1 Kimball Road Northeast Harbor; 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1, at Schoodic Arts for All, 427 Main St., Winter Harbor; 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 9 and 10, at College of the Atlantic, 105 Eden St., Bar Harbor; and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16, at the Grand Auditorium, 165 Main St., Ellsworth. Tickets are $8 for children, $10 for students and 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.”
Unlike most directors, Hynes has also chosen to use the First Quarto sequence of the play, which offers a different order of scenes. 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 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 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.
For more information, call 939-6929, or visit www.harborsideshakespeare.org.