Rob Matsushita describes the story as a 'Shakespeare Tragedy,' not a 'Shakespeare He-Could-Still-Be-Okay.'
Fear, madness, and death will haunt the Madison stage this month as Hamlet is such a classic tale in so many genres. It's a ghost story, it's about the pursuit of vengeance, or justice, depending on your point of view, and it is a tragedy in every sense. It's interesting to note that it almost seems novel to set it in its intended time period."
The play has been pared down from its full-length five acts in four hours presentation. "It's one of the tightest, fastest productions of Hamlet I've seen," says playwright and filmmaker Rob Matsushita, who has shot a pair of trailers for Strollers to promote the show.
"Yes, it's a cut-down script, but all the fat has been stripped away," he notes. "Admittedly, I'm kind of a slob when it comes to theatre -- I'm not really a Shakespeare guy. But Hamlet is one of those visceral plays that strikes right at the core of where revenge will lead. Hamlet himself is both an orchestrator of vengeance, and a pawn of fate. If he seems indecisive, it's because the goal is so important it consumes him. Plus, if he could make a choice any earlier, the stage would be filled with bodies in Act 1, then the remainder of the play would just be Horatio awkwardly trying to make small talk with the Gravedigger."
For a play that's so iconic, the caliber of the acting is particularly important. "Jeff Knupp has directed a truly all-star cast of local talent," declares Saari. Matsushita likewise praises the cast as "amazing," noting that the production assembles a mix Strollers regulars along with many actors new to the company. Both also commend the fight choreography by Sarah Luedtke.
Will Madison theatergoers be interested in another production of Hamlet? That's one of the goals of the trailers. "Obviously, whenever I put one of these together, the primary focus is to get people excited about the show," says Matsushita, who has created video previews for two previous Strollers shows, along with several other local productions.
"I've been a fan of movie trailers my whole life, and they're fun to put together," he notes. "Usually, I try to keep them spoiler-free, but with Hamlet, everyone basically knows." He described the story as a "Shakespeare Tragedy," not a "Shakespeare He-Could-Still-Be-Okay" when pitching the trailer to Saari. "So there was complete license to show all the good stuff," Matsushita continues, "the killing, the hitting, the poisoning, the hey-hey-hey, it hurts me."
The action throughout the preview is set to the appropriately tense crescendo of "In the House - In a Heartbeat," a title composed by John Murphy for the 28 Days Later soundtrack and inspired by "East Hastings" by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This full trailer follows.
A 30-second trailer for the production is also available for viewing online.
Hamlet: Prince of Denmark opens on the Drury Stage at the Bartell Theatre on Thursday, November 6 and runs through Saturday, November 29. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, along with a 4 p.m. matinee on Saturdays. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance by calling (608) 661-9696, #2, and cost $15. Reservations are recommended.