“Can we Perform ‘Hamlet’ in 30 Seconds?”: That is the Question

Theatre students perform stellar collection of Shakespeare’s plays for Honors English II students
Claire Dopkins
Under the dim lights of the Black Box theater Jan. 26, Senior Trent Rocha and Sophomore Nate Digiacomo sword fight with golf clubs during “Big Ben.” The intense battle is one of many duels in the show, complete with thunderstorm sound effects.

Honors English II classes murmur with anticipation as they fill the Black Box Theater’s seats Jan. 26. With a grand total of six shows in one day, theatre students poured energy, intention, and drama into their final showing at their eighth period performance of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).”

The show features a humorous and fast-paced rendition of Shakespeare’s most notable works of literature, including “Romeo and Juliet, “Twelfth Night,” an experimental presentation of “Hamlet,” and more. As noted by theatre director, Ms. Yanchak, and the play’s introducers, the objective of the performance was to get through all 38 Shakespeare plays under a 50 minute time constraint. This obstacle created a witty atmosphere where challenges and games were immersed into the play, such as a cooking show, rapid switches of props and scenes in “Twelfth Night,” a football spinoff, the fastest production of  “Hamlet” ever recorded, and multiple sword fights. The line “He’s poisoned on the 10 yard line” during the Shakespearean football scene scored some laughter from the audience, who enjoyed the sprinkled in digs at Shakespeare cliches.

Another creative take on one of Shakespeare’s works featured a gory cooking show in place of “Titus Andronicus,” with Sophomore Laura Narveaz as the show’s host. Although there is no cooking whatsoever in the original play, one of the most significant parts of it–where Titus’ hand gets chopped off–acts as the main course of the show. Narveaz’s energized and pitchy character intentionally disturbed the audience, and many cringed when she took a chef’s knife to her fellow actor’s hand while a bowl filled up with fake blood–impersonated by red tissue paper. I was most entertained by Narvaez and the screaming actor’s commitment to their roles; it felt like I was attending House of Torment instead of Shakespeare. 

Sophomore Laura Narveaz performs an enthusiastic and gory cooking show in the Black Box theater Jan. 26. She gives a tutorial on making the best human hands with tips on how to collect the most blood.
(Claire Dopkins)

In the middle of their show, the theatre students performed a short intermission, where they poked fun at common characteristics of Shakespeare’s writing. Each audience member let out a laugh as the students questioned “which play had the shipwreck again?” while another actor answered: “all of them?”. At this point in the show, the students began to realize how many plays Shakespeare has, and how unrealistic it would be for them to get through all 38 in a 50 minute show. Three plays in ten minutes just was not good enough, and the actors posed a question for the enthused audience: “should we just quit?”. I loved that the theatre students incorporated ironic lines making fun of Shakespeare, the very focus of their show. Their ability to make fun of themselves and continue to recite the rest of the show passionately was impressive and made the experience all the more enjoyable for me. 

Additionally, the unexpected lightheartedness in a show that many sophomore Honors English students expected to be traditionally Shakespearean created an electric atmosphere where audience members enjoyed the unique and entertaining approach to each scene while still understanding the main objectives of the plays. 

For example, actors incorporated an array of props to amuse the audience in “Romeo and Juliet,” “Twelfth Night,” and “Macbeth” including Mickey and Minnie Mouse hand puppets, a horse on a stick, ladders, messily-applied wigs, golf clubs in place of swords, and fairy wings. Each prop was completely unexpected and although sometimes seemingly out of place, would add character and excitement to each scene. The flashing red lighting during fight scenes, sound effects after an epilogue, and spotlights in dramatic death scenes also heightened the already thrilling experience.

One of the moments that stuck out to me was the students’ rendition of “Hamlet,” the final play in the production. Sophomore Noah Sanders played an enthusiastic, destructive, and slightly hysterical Hamlet; with a suspenseful intro, slow motion death scene, and dramatic recitation of the iconic “to be, or not to be” line, Sanders shared a range of his talents with the crowd and entranced us through his role. Being the final play, “Hamlet” was longer than the others and featured somber monologues, ironic interjections poking fun at Shakespearean works, and the fastest production of “Hamlet” not once, but twice. 

Impressively, theatre students performed their first “fastest run” in a mere 30 seconds, where they acted out each scene in the play at quadruple the speed of the original run. I was stunned at their ability to reenact each scene, props and all, in such a speedy run; As I watched the students recite old english phrases as if they were lines from a Nicki Minaj song, I had to remind myself that I was watching in real time–there was not a “1.5x speed” setting turned on. Then, launching their swords, wigs, and wings into the air, every theatre student participated in the 3 second rendition of “Hamlet,” making for a suitable closing to a show whose goal is to act as fast as possible. Honors English II students then gave a well-deserved round of applause, still experiencing the aftershock of the precision they just witnessed. 

As the lights went back up in the Black Box Theater, I was in awe of theatre students’ and Yanchak’s efforts to execute a show so fast-paced, whimsical, and unique–all while incorporating masterfully executed old English lines directly from Shakespeare’s works. Undeniably, it is incredible to witness the talented theatre students’ work and their determination to give their all in each show, especially their sixth and final performance of Friday.

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