By Linda Sickler, DoSavannah
What if the Prince of Denmark was a beat poet in 1950s America?
Savannah Shakes explores that question in the upcoming production of “Hamlet,” set for Dec. 12 at Trustees Theater and Dec. 13 at Tybee Post Theater.
“Savannah Shakes is a newly formed company dedicated to bringing Shakespeare to Savannah audiences,” director Chris Soucy says. “We had our first production, ‘Taming of the Shrew,’ over the summer.
“It was set in 1940s America,” he says. “Our second production, ‘Hamlet,’ is set in the 1950s.
“When we first struck out to do these productions, we decided to do them in more contemporary settings,” Soucy says. “We are huge fans of allowing Shakespeare to thrive in different time eras so the audience can have a different reaction to the work.”
The post-World War II era worked perfectly for “Shrew.”
“We felt it was a very natural placement of ‘Taming of the Shrew’ in the 1940s post-war era, which gave us Rosie the Riveter/Kate the shrew,” he says. “That made sense.”
“Taming of the Shrew” was a big hit with local audiences.
“We decided to progress decade by decade,” Soucy says. “The 1950s saw the burgeoning of the Beat Generation and the first time television was a representation of society.
“We had all these ’50s TV shows in our heads, like ‘Leave It to Beaver’ and ‘Father Knows Best,’
“They were portrayed as being part of a clean-cut world, but having the Beat Generation then was interesting to us,” he says. “We felt ‘Hamlet’ was a perfect fit.”
The cast consists of Jeremiah Kizer as Hamlet, Sheila Lynne Bolda as Gertrude, Zachary Burke as Claudius, Sam Collura as Laertes, Abigail Eller as Ophelia, Marshall Frey as Polonius and a grave digger, Travis Spangenburg as Horatio, John Dorsey as Osric and the second clown, Danielle Frasier as Voltemand and the captain, Thomas Houston as Cornelius, Doug McIlwain as Player Lucianus, Carl Kimberly as Fortinbras, Elyssa LeMay as Rosencrantz and Francisco, Mike Moore as Guildenstern and Barnardo, Brett Levine as the ghost and the Player King, Justine Beauchamp as Marcellus and the Player Queen, Sarah Maker as the First Ambassador and Christi Mancha as the lord, messenger and Reynaldo,
“Our ‘Hamlet’ is set against the backdrop of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ suburbia,” Soucy says. “He is sort of moody, a brooding poet, a beat person who doesn’t fit into the picture Claudius is trying to represent.
“Now we know that to be a facade,” Soucy says. “We know there is plenty of trouble and pain and work to be done.”
There will be just two performances of “Hamlet.” The first performance will be downtown, and Savannah Shakes will also take the bard to the beach.
With “Shrew,” several performances were held in a smaller space.
“What we’re hoping to create is the idea of exclusivity,” Soucy says. “We’re trying to foster an idea that it is an event, something you don’t want to miss.
“We would love for the annual winter show to be this one moment where if you miss it, you’re out of the loop.
“Theater should be something where you say, ‘I’ve got to go see this,” he says. “It’s a communal experience and we want to have as many people participate at one time as possible.”
It’s a quest he believes is important to Savannah.
“The Trustees has more than 1,000 seats,” Soucy says. “We’re bringing people together to have a shared moment.
“With the announcement that the Tybee Theater had opened, we thought, ‘What a lovely space.’ We wanted to be part of the excitement.
“We went into negotiations so we could do ‘Hamlet’ there,” he says. “It is sort of a split audience world, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
“The Taming of the Shrew” was as popular with its cast and crew as it was with audiences.
“In our hearts, we loved it so much,” Soucy says. “I feel strongly that if you love something, people will see the love and will appreciate it.
“We were grateful that we were able to share with so many people and have such a good reaction and response. We’re really excited to be on the second production.
“We’re looking forward to many years of bringing Shakespeare to Savannah,” Soucy says. “We’re doing ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in June at Muse Arts Warehouse.”
Savannah Shakes will do comedies in the spring and summer and tragedies in the winter and fall.
“It will be set in kind of a ‘Mad Men’ era, the advertising world,” Soucy says. “We’re going to tackle the Vietnam era with ‘Henry V’ in the winter of next year.”
IF YOU GO
What: Savannah Shakes presents “Hamlet”
When: 5 p.m. Dec. 13
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
Cost: $20 reserved seating; $18 members; $15 students 17 and younger
Info: www.tybeeposttheater.org, 912-472-4790