Hamlet comes to downtown Rutland

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(Host)   Shakespeare and Company will perform Hamlet at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre this Friday.  It’s the first stop on a national tour for the acclaimed, Massachusetts-based theater company.   

Many consider Hamlet to be one of the most influential tragedies ever written.  

VPR’s Nina Keck has more.

(Bouchard) "Hamlet is about what does it mean to be human?

(Keck)    That’s Bruce Bouchard, an actor, producer and now Executive Director of Rutland’s Paramount Theatre.  

(Bouchard) "What does it mean to follow my instincts?  To be or not to be?     To kill or not to kill?   To avenge or not to avenge?  To love or not to love?   It’s life – it’s the central dilemma of being human, that’s the play’s greatness."

(Keck)   Bouchard says Hamlet works through all those weighty issues while he and the other characters throw out some of the best known lines in literature.   Here’s the gist:

Hamlet is the prince of Denmark, and he’s depressed.     His father, the King, has recently died – and his mother – Queen Gertrude – is now remarried to his father’s brother, who has taken over as King.   Now here’s where it gets interesting. . . . A ghost of the dead king appears to Hamlet and tells his son that he was murdered by none other than his uncle, who’s now on the thrown and married to his mother, the Queen. The ghost of the dead king wants revenge and Hamlet, poor boy, agonizes over what to do.

Gail Paster, Director the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C., says Hamlet is the quintessential guy in a jam.  

(Paster) "Even though the language of the play is very elevated and very dense, and even though none of us is a prince of Denmark and our family problems have no dynastic implications, we can somehow pierce through and remember moments where we, too, feel unprepared for the circumstances of our lives.”

(Keck)   Matt McDonough, an English teacher at Rutland High School, says prior to Hamlet, stories were typically told with action or violence.   Shakespeare broke new ground he says by developing a character who used his brain more than his sword.

(McDonough) "We get a lot of him thinking to himself, `Is the ghost real; is the ghost fake?  Is the ghost good; is the ghost evil?   Should I take care of Claudius now?   No, if I take care of him now he’s going to go to heaven.’  All these problems over and over again and he talks them through.  The romantic poet Samuel Coleridge thought that Hamlet’s flaw was that he thought too much.  And Nietzsche, the German philospher said he didn’t think too much, he thought too well."  

(Keck)    Bruce Bouchard, Director of Rutland’s Paramount Theater, says for people who haven’t had a chance to experience Hamlet, Friday’s production is a must-see.  Partly, he says, because of Shakespeare and Company’s reputation, but also because of the unusual casting.   Tina Packer, who founded Shakespeare and Company 30 years ago, plays Queen Gertrude, while her real-life husband and son round out the cast.

(Bouchard) "It’s mom playing Gertrude, her son, Jason Asprey, playing her son in the play, the troubled Dane  Hamlet and her husband of 30 years playing Polonius, the father who is killed, who Hamlet sets out to revenge.    Wow!   Ben Brantley in the Times said – in addition to his raving about the production’s clarity and intension – he said enough for Freud to chew on for years."

(Keck) To borrow shamelessly from Shakespeare "more relative than this, the play’s the thing."

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

(Host) Friday’s production of Hamlet begins at 7 at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre. 

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