Prairie Post (West Edition)
Shakespeare in the Park staging ‘Hamlet’ until Aug. 19 in Lethbridge
Shakespeare in the Park is back for another summer.
The long-running summer tradition in Lethbridge is staging outdoor performances in the city until Aug. 19.
On Friday, the Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society staged “Hamlet” at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden and on Thursday night on the plaza at Casa.
On Thursday July 28, “Hamlet” will again be performed at Casa while on July 30, the show heads north to “The Venue” in High River.
Evening performances start at 7:30 p.m.
On Aug. 4-6 and 11 “Hamlet” will be staged at Galt Gardens. Nikka Yuko will be the stage for the Aug. 12 performance while the Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod will the venue on Aug. 13.
The summer performances conclude Aug. 18-19 back at Galt Gardens.
Stephanie Savage of the society said the society’s production of “Hamlet,” directed by Shelley Scott, has been condensed to a 90-minute show which she said seems to be the sweet spot with audiences.
“If we do something shorter, audiences feel cheated, if we go longer people can get bored,” Savage said in a recent interview.
Scott and producer Kate Connolly took turns cutting bits and pieces out of the Shakespeare classic.
Connolly said before Thursday’s performance she managed to cut the play to its current length by reading through it carefully and “I just take the essence of it and make sure we follow the story really closely and we keep all the important characters. And I cut out anything that could be considered superfluous because Hamlet is very very wordy. It can run as long as three and a half hours.”
The play has “every important action in there, it has every important conflict between the characters and I think it’s a good romp through Hamlet. And it’s full of fights and stabbings and blood and gore and a wonderful ghost. So it’s an interesting watch.”
Connolly calls Scott, the acting dean of Fine Arts at the University of Lethbridge, “a very, very accomplished director who’s directed at least dozens, potentially scores, of plays over the years.”
Connolly and Scott go back decades together in the world of Shakespeare.
They performed together around 1982 or ’83 in a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” directed by David Spinks, for whom the U of L has named a theatre in his honour. A native of England, Spinks was the first regular faculty member in Dramatic Arts at the university where he retired from in 1990.
Scott, a Lethbridge native, was a 17-year-old student playing a sprite while Connolly had the role of Titania, Connolly recalled.
“Hamlet” is the most famous work crafted by William Shakespeare, a fiveact tragedy that deals with life, existence, love, death, betrayal and other topics. The society is looking forward to returning in August to Galt Gardens which “feels like our home,” said Savage.
Starring in “Hamlet” are Jesse Thibert in the lead role while Darrell Croft plays Ghost/Gravedigger. John Poulsen has the role of King Claudio while Queen Gertude is played by Emily Laidlaw.
Other cast members include Ben McLuskey – Horatio; David Burton – Polonius; Cole Fetting – Laertes; Avery Raine – Ophelia; Ginny Bergsma – Rosencrantz; Stephanie Wickham – Guildenstern; Jessica Nguyen – Marcellus/ Player Poisoner/Priest; Lucas Kramps – Bernardo/Player King; and Autumn Adrian as Voltimand/Player Queen/ Osrie.
Working behind the curtain with Scott and Connolly to stage the show this season are a crew of 10 others including costume designer Amanda Epp.
The society staged its first performance – “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” – back in 2012. The response from that initial effort prompted the formation of the society.
The aspiration of the LSPS, according to its website, is “to inspire interaction across all cultures and communities, while also achieving a culturally enriching activity for all ages to enjoy. In doing so we hope to provide a safe and family fun way to enjoy theatre as well as the beautiful summer weather. We aspire to continue providing performances, further engaging a new generation of theatre-goers in Lethbridge.”