"After Hamlet" Gives Another Perspective to Shakespeare’s Classic

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    By Samantha Wilson
    City on a Hill Press Reporter

    Shakespeare didn’t see this one coming.

    Imagine if William Shakespeare were to take one of his tried-and-tested works and give it a modern makeover — and no, not by allowing Baz Lurhmann to direct a remake of it or by giving Julia Stiles the lead role.

    For UC Santa Cruz, February brings “After Hamlet,” a creative reimagining of the classic Shakespearean tragedy “Hamlet.” Rather than pursuing the difficult task of creating a sequel to the masterpiece performance, collaborators Sommer Ulrickson, Drew Patterson, Alexander Polzin and Amos Elkana strove to create a show that captured the essence of the Shakespeare original, with their own added twists, Ulrickson explained.

    “After several years of seeing a lot of versions of ‘Hamlet,’ we decided to take the play and explore that theme of revenge to present something different,” she said.

    Ulrickson is a UCSC alumna who has come back to the university in recent years as a guest lecturer, and now returns to direct “After Hamlet.”

    “What we’ve done is taken the aspect of Hamlet and his obsession with revenge. It’s almost a collaboration with Shakespeare,” Ulrickson explained. “We’ve taken some of his text and some of our own, developing responses to the original work and exploring those consequences of taking revenge.”

    “After Hamlet” is not a sequel to the Shakespeare play, but rather a reimagining. The large cast includes multiple Hamlets, Ophelias and Horatios, who all play significant parts to Ulrickson’s representation of the central theme. The retelling combines notions of death, collateral damage, fear, sexual tension and, of course, ghosts.

    Fourth-year student G. Goldstein, who plays the role of Ophelia, sees the marriage of contemporary work and classical prose as both a challenge and an inspiration.

    “It’s definitely bizarre and sometimes I wonder what Shakespeare would think. It’s difficult to find a medium between the original text and this telling,” Goldstein said. “I want to hold some classic version of Ophelia in my depiction, but at the same time this isn’t a classic telling, and singing some original text can be a real challenge. The show is something we should all experience because there are always more sides of a story than we realize in our day-to-day.”

    Ulrickson touts a similar viewpoint to Goldstein — that there is something from the story for everyone to realize, be it on a visual or intellectual level. It is rare to find a show that does not simply mirror Shakespeare’s classic works. Through music, set work and original dialogue, this team of thespians has created a fresh spin on an old story to keep the UCSC audience interested and eager.

    UC Extension collaborator Nika Pappas plays one of the two Hamlets featured in the production. She appreciated the creative license allowed when creating “After Hamlet.”

    “It only makes sense for us, in a new generation, to recreate and reinterpret what to do with Shakespeare’s basic principles,” Pappas said. “Shakespeare operated on the knowledge that he was pleasing his audiences. We cannot do the same thing he did when he was alive, expecting that our audiences will still be pleased in the same way. ‘After Hamlet’ has given us the opportunity to work within the same intentions Shakespeare had, but allows us to create our own world around it.”

    “After Hamlet” comes to the UCSC Experimental Theater on Feb. 20-22, 26-28 and March 1, with Thursday through Saturday performances at 7 p.m., and Sunday performances at 3 p.m. The performances are free for UCSC undergraduate students with current student ID cards.

    “Come see this show, because you have never seen it done like this before,” Pappas said. “This performance is completely contingent on these bodies, in the space, at this time, because it’s completely personal, and yet completely politically relevant. We raised the stakes in a big way, and I think it pays off visually, audibly, and emotionally.”