BY SANDY STAGGS
Greenville’s newest theatre troupe, the Guerrilla Shakespeare Theatre Company, embarks on its third endeavor this week with a gender-bending production of one the Bard’s most popular tragedies “Hamlet.”
Directed by co-founder Crystal Marie Stewart, “Hamlet” stars teenage Mae Tromsness, a student at the Fine Arts Center of Greenville, as the titular Danish Prince.
Tromsness, who had a minor role in the company’s debut show last fall in “Romeo and Juliet,” so impressed Stewart with their R&J audition with a monologue from “Hamlet” that Stewart and company selected this play with the young thespian in mind.
“It’s been a while since someone has done ‘Hamlet’ … and this will be a lot different than most Hamlets you have seen,” she assures Carolina Curtain Call readers.
Like the company’s first outing, a lesbian version of “Romeo and Juliet” with Stewart herself playing Romeo, this compelling cut of the script features a nearly all-female cast of nine actors including Katie Halstensgard (Claudius & Polonius), Angelina Mussro (Horatio), Rebecca Payne (Queen Gertrude & Barnardo), Sam Nelson (Fortinbras, the Gravedigger), Abby Rose LeCompte, Becky Miller (the Ghost), Alexandria Hendricks, and Sun Schwalm.
Such creative casting forms the premise on which she and Micah Miller founded Guerrilla Shakespeare: reframing classical works and using them it to tell stories of marginal groups and the oppressed and present issues and conflicts that are relative today through a stripped-down or activist theatre.
“I think the main conflict in ‘Hamlet’ that resonates with me is that of identity,” Stewart said. “In our show some characters are struggling with their gender and sexuality.”
“Everyone in it is trying to reconcile who they are with what they do, what they’ve done and what that means,” she explained. “And the results are messy and beautiful and sad.”
The cast is somewhat smaller than last year’s R&J, she added, which “makes it a little more manageable,” since she is also producer and overseer of duties such as finding locations to perform and the entire myriad of minute details that go into a theatrical production of any budget size.
“Also, we have momentum from last time (“Romeo and Juliet”) and a lot of repeat actors and venues,” she said. “This time I could go to places we have already been before and it’s nice to partner with these businesses again.”
This play will be more immersive than their first show, Stewart said. At the March 4 performance, for instance, at the former RH Gettys Middle School in Easley, the action and the audience “will move from room to room.”
In addition, the technical elements are more elaborate thanks to Eric Spears (owner of Bow Tie Events), who is enhancing the production with lighting and sound.
And though the company bears the Shakespeare moniker in its name, this collective also stages other works that fall within the realm of its artistic mission. Miller, for example, just ended a two week run of the company’s first solo show “My Name is Rachel Corrie.” And Robert Fuson, who directed “Romeo and Juliet,” is also spearheading some projects this summer.
Stewart said mounting this play has been a really great experience: “Everyone loves working on it and they all get along. It’s been a very collaborative process.”
“Hamlet” is generously sponsored by Tom and Debra Strange and Brittany Wolfe.
“Hamlet” runs March 1-11. All tickets are $8. For more information and ticket links, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/145523676115356/
Shows are Thursdays, March 1 & 8 at 8 p.m. at Quest Brewing Company, 55 Airview Dr. in Greenville;
Fridays, March 2 & 9 at 8 p.m. at Studio Unknown Village of West Greenville, 914 Easley Bridge Rd.;
Saturdays, March 3 & 10 at Sans Souci Community Garden 12 Ethelridge Dr.;
Sunday, March 4 at 3 p.m. at the former RH Gettys Middle School, 105 Stewart Dr. in Easley;
(Talkback immediately following this matinee performance)
Sunday, March 11 at 8 p.m. at The Radio Room , 110 Poinsett Hwy.