Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Oct. 18, 1996

ISU Theatre stages Hamlet and sequel

By Erica Brizzi, News Service intern
Revenge and murder most foul will rule the stage starting Nov. 1 when ISU Theatre embarks on its most ambitious repertory series to date: Shakespeare's Hamlet alternating with Lee Blessing's Fortinbras at Iowa State Center's Fisher Theater.

ISU Theatre's repertory series, begun several years ago as an experiment, demonstrates the full scope of a program that can produce two shows at the same time, said Gregg Henry, director of ISU Theatre.

Hamlet, one of Shakespeare's most famous and timeless works, is the story of a young prince who is charged by the ghost of his father to avenge his death.

"Hamlet is one of the greatest adventures of all time, complete with impending war, a band of touring actors, madness, political intrigue, murder, pirates and a climactic duel," said Henry, who directs Hamlet.

Written by Tony-nominated playwright Lee Blessing, Fortinbras is a comical spin-off that picks up where Hamlet left off. Called one of the best plays of 1991 by Time magazine, Fortinbras takes the audience through a comical interplay of events that teach the new young king of Denmark, Fortinbras, lessons on authority, leadership and truth.

Director Shirley Basfield Dunlap, who directed last season's Eleemosynary, said Fortinbras is a far stretch from the tragedy of Hamlet.

"Performing a comedy and tragedy within a day of each other has demonstrated the breadth and sheer talent of our cast," said Dunlap, an assistant professor of music.

The student acting company will play the same roles in both plays over the course of three weeks, alternating productions nightly Nov. 1-17. The student cast includes Erica Lonesome (Ophelia), Patrick Wolfe (Claudius and the Ghost of Hamlet's father), Mark Sutch (Polonius), Cara Peterson (Gertrude), Richard Dawson (Horatio), Tim Davis (Hamlet) and Dan Fairall (Fortinbras).

"Doing a repertory series is a challenging and daunting exercise in stamina, stretching both designers and actors to the limits. It is good for a young actor to play two separate roles and maintain both with equal skill," Henry said.

Both plays are staged on a monolithic set designed by ISU Theatre's resident scenic designer Fritz Szabo, associate professor of music. The structure is the largest ever mounted on the Fisher Theater stage, with 25-foot walls, a catwalk 12 feet off the ground and a black marble floor. Both productions will feature Joe Kowalski, assistant professor of music, as costume designer and Jim Trenberth, assistant professor of music, as lighting designer.

Hamlet will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 and 16, and at 2 p.m. Nov. 3 and 17. There will be a special Saturday matinee of Hamlet at 2 p.m. on Nov. 9. Fortinbras will play at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 2, 8 and 9 and at 2 p.m. on Nov. 10. Latecomers will not be admitted during the first 15 minutes of the productions.

Tickets are $7.75 (with some discounts available) and may be purchased at the Iowa State Center box office, through TicketMaster outlets or by calling 233-1888.

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