“Hamlet” Fall Tour — Week 1

By Grace Andrews

Rehearsals begin. The start of a new project always brings such anticipation, joy and hope for the weeks ahead – it’s a golden few hours where anything is possible. We have the freedom and power to take the enormity of this text, Hamlet, a play with such a powerful pulse – and make it live. What an opportunity! I walk through the hazy Brixton streets on Day 1, clutching the crutch of my morning coffee, and take a breath.

I’m there early, and wait in the stillness of the empty rehearsal room. A space we have to fill with words. I’m struck by the fact that, somehow, the five of us have found our way here – brought together by the task to tell this story. Our lives, professional and personal journeys are unique and unlike each others, and will each inform the way we approach this work – each having already made many small or huge conscious or unconscious decisions about the way we think it should be told. With no comforting outside eye of a director, we will each have to lead, yield, shift, surprise each other and join forces – it is our job to form an ensemble. The words bring us together. The play’s the thing.

We’re off, and we start with a read-through. There is an undeniable passion, drive and care in the room. I instantly feel supported – which helps, as to be honest, I began this process overwhelmed by the stretch of playing Ophelia. I have lost sleep over how to speak her words with truth and integrity, from a place of honesty, and do her justice. In the months leading up to this week, I have had moments of stark realisation of who she is. Lines have jumped out at me with gut-wrenching clarity. And then occasionally I lose the sense, and the arc of her journey and madness seems so far from anything I know. But I do know what it is to be misunderstood. I know what it is to have strong men in my family. I know what it is to be in love, and I know what it is to lose it. So I have to trust that. And in doing so, I suddenly I see her as the most sane of them all.

Throughout the week we work, hard, and begin to unlock this play and discover a dynamic between us. Sometimes it’s glorious. Sometimes it isn’t easy. There is an atmosphere of joy, fear, courage, and play. We are all different, and stronger together for it. We are polite, but we also challenge, provoke and inspire simultaneously as we find our way of working. We have conflict, we share the brilliance of breakthroughs, and we laugh a lot. I can’t get the image of Chinese bamboo out of my head – which you water for five years with only stillness in the soil. Then suddenly, BAM! – a strong and beautiful bamboo grows at an alarming rate, up and out.

We share a sense of the political, unable to ignore the world outside our little room in South London. We talk about America, Trump, gun-crime, gender politics, misogyny, #metoo, the male gaze, female empowerment, technology, the threat of terror, war, mental health, betrayal, revenge, fake-news, global warming… as all the while the streets of London get hotter and hotter. We share our fears and our hopes. We bang a drum, and imagine and play out an under-world of this story – what Hamlet really sees in his mother, in Ophelia, in his father’s ghost. I shudder in imagining this in our lives, how we live so close to hearing a drum beat and our worst fears being realised. I share a Janis Joplin quote, that we must ‘Dare to go for the underbelly.’

We face week 2. We have marked out a circle on the floor in tape, which is our playing space. It sometimes seems like a boxing ring as we take on this beast of a play. I look forward to the wrestle.

Exploring the outcast, the excluded, and the other.

The theme of this summer’s Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival is, unfortunately, quite timely. What does Shakespeare have to say about those on the margins of society? Those who are cast out, forgotten, pushed aside? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Through three of his most famous works, this NDSF season explores what it means to exist on the edges of an arbitrarily selective culture.

“Poison his delight.”
So much has changed since Shakespeare’s time, and yet, so much remains the same. The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, one of Shakespeare’s most powerful (and famed) dramas, comes ready-made with controversial themes; race, duty, jealousy, prejudice, and manipulation all swirl about in its tragic story.

And yet the hope of all dramatists, excoriating though their material can be, is to help us move forward into a better world. As director Cameron Knight notes in his season essay, “Will we continue to seek safety and community in hate? Or can we have the hard conversations and take the strong actions to make a world we all can be proud of?”

Othello comes to life in a bold new Professional Company production here at Notre Dame beginning August 14th. Starring in the title role is Esau Pritchett, a powerful and dynamic actor seen often onscreen (Orange is the New Black, Luke Cage, The Night Of, The Blacklist) and onstage (Broadway’s Vivian Beaumont Theater, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Orlando Shakespeare Festival, and Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, among many others). The cast also includes veteran stage actor Robert Ramirez as Iago, Delaney Feener as Desdemona, Paul Hurley as Roderigo, and Chicago actor Maggie Kettering as Emilia.

  • WHEN: August 14-26, 2018
  • WHERE: Patricia George Decio Theatre, Marie P. DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, Notre Dame, IN

Tickets for Othello are $15-$40 and can be purchased here.

Giving back to our community.
The mission of the Fremont Park Foundation is both simple and grand: To provide positive activities for young people and adults alike. Indeed, the Fremont Park Foundation has made a huge impact in areas of the city that have, until now, been overlooked or underserved. Fremont Park itself has been bestowed with transformative new additions, including a splash pad, new playground equipment, and new basketball courts. Why not add some Shakespeare into the mix as well?

To that end: Shakespeare in Fremont Park, a seven-week program involving community based organizations in South Bend. Focused on the city’s west side, the effort will allow young people to work directly with adults to create, rehearse, and perform a theatre production inspired by Shakespeare. Performing July 26 & 27 at 7pm, the Shakespeare in Fremont Park performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream features a cast drawn from local neighborhoods, in a bouncy and vibrant new staging directed by upcoming talent Marlon Burnley.

  • WHEN: Thursday, July 26 & Friday, July 27, 2018 at 7:00pm
  • WHERE: Fremont Park, 1800 Fremont St. ad W. Hamilton St., South Bend, IN

For more information about Shakespeare in Fremont Park, click here.

Don’t forget…
The Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival’s Touring Company performance of The Merchant of Venice is on the road now! Check out an exclusive musical performance from the show below, and be sure to catch one of their shows, touring now through August 20 to multiple outdoor locations across Michiana.

Visit shakespeare.nd.edu for more information.

Summer Means Shakespeare.

This summer’s Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival kicks off Friday, July 13. Lucky you. This six-week celebration of all things Shakespeare draws thousands of attendees from across the country and around the world every summer. And this year’s festival will be one to remember.

Boozy. Bawdy. Bloody good fun.
The festival kicks off with Shakespeare After Hours. This ain’t ya mama’s Shakespeare. It’s a little boozy. A little raunchy. And it’s a lot of fun. This freewheeling audience favorite packed the house in its inaugural year, and it’s back and bawdier than ever. Bring cash for the bar — and leave the kids at home. It’s Shakespeare on the scandalous side, and it’s not to be missed.

  • WHEN: Friday, July 13 at 9pm
  • WHERE: LangLab, 1302 High Street, South Bend, IN

This event is currently SOLD OUT. Missed tickets? Have no fear. Any tickets not claimed by 9pm on Friday, July 13 will be released. Check with us at the door!

Bite-sized bits of the Bard’s best.
So you’ve had your grown-up fun. Now get the rest of the family in on it. Enter ShakeScenes — a staple of the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival for over 15 years. Come cheer on young people from across Michiana as they perform selections from Shakespeare’s greatest moments. It’s the perfect summer-afternoon entertainment, held annually in Notre Dame’s beautiful Washington Hall.

  • WHEN: Saturday, July 14 at 2pm
  • WHERE: Washington Hall, Notre Dame, IN

Reserve your FREE tickets for ShakeScenes here.

Laughter under the wide open sky.
Perennial favorite The Merchant of Venice is a fast-paced, pratfall-heavy comic joyride, brought to electric life by director Jemma Alix Levy and the NDSF Touring Company in their signature style. The tour kicks off July 15 at Taltree Arboretum and Gardens, and travels to multiple locations across Michiana through Aug. 20. Bring the family, pack a picnic dinner, and enjoy 80 minutes of family-friendly hilarity in the beautiful outdoor venue of your choice.

  • WHEN: Touring July 15-August 20
  • WHERE: Various locations across Michiana.

Click here for a complete list of NDSF Touring Company dates and times.

Check out a special performance from Merchant cast members Kayla Rundquist and Dana Gary!

And that’s just the beginning — look forward to Shakespeare in Fremont Park on July 26-27, and finally the Professional Company production of The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice from August 14-26.

Visit shakespeare.nd.edu for more information.

Honolulu, Hawaii

By Chris Donnelly

Aloha! Unbelievably, we have reached the last week of our tour and what an unbelievable ending it!

On first hearing about the itinerary for this Spring tour, Hawaii, or Havi’i, as the Islanders pronounce it, was a mouth-watering prospect. Images of a tropical paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean were conjured in my mind and I am delighted to say that the islands lived up to those images, and indeed surpassed them in every conceivable way.

After our usual Monday-is-travel-day early start, we left Utah, with images of the breathtaking Arches National Park still fresh in our minds’ eyes, and flew the three hundred and seventy miles to Denver, Colorado.

Our connecting flight took us from thence on the two thousand and three thousand three-hundred and fifty mile journey to the first of two of the Hawaiian Islands which were to make up this final week’s residency – Honolulu. As you can see from the following picture, our well-heeled team were not too displeased about it…







On the journey to the Lincoln Hall apartments on the University of Hawaii campus, I was initially surprised to note how incredibly heavy the traffic was. I was even more surprised when informed that the reason for this is that Honolulu is one of the bigger cities in the USA.

At the faculty meeting, the university coordinator, Tim Slaughter and his right-hand man, Todd Farley, greeted us and gave each of us a lei, a beautiful wreath of flowers. As is Hawaiian tradition, they were presented in a semi-formal, traditional fashion in honour of guests. This created a wonderful and warm atmosphere from the onset.

Tim and his team have done a great deal to build up a strong outreach programme on behalf of the university and therefore the majority of the workshops were for high schools. There was a good turnout, therefore, of teachers from various schools on the Island. There was also a veritable fleet of U of H students, who were to be our drivers for the three days we were there. Todd stipulated that he and the students would not only ferry us to our various workshops and the theatre for our one show there, but that they would be available for anywhere we wished to go – the grocery store, the beach, wherever – nothing was too much trouble.

This was put into practice immediately after the meeting, when we were convoyed to the Surf Ride restaurant near Honolulu downtown – the Waikiki beach region.







Here is Todd, giving the traditional Hawaiian sign of friendship and good will, which involves rotating the wrist back and forth slightly, with only thumb and little finger visible. We were informed that this was is honour of a Hawaiian man who was renowned for his philanthropic ways and general friendliness to others. He somehow lost three fingers apparently, but this would by no means deter him from waving at people he met. This is not an empty gesture, therefore, more a very accurate symbol of the Islands psyche.







Here’s Lizzie and I sampling the local brews, with one of our guides, Michelle, who really could not have been friendlier and accommodating throughout our brief time there!

Surf Tide was a very lovely experience and my fish tacos were sublime. However, we were then taken through the bustling market stores for a nightcap at a place called Dukes which was…







…right on the beach front!!














To be fortunate enough to be taken to such beautiful and evocative places in a work capacity is something I will always be grateful to AFTLS for. These iconic names – Honolulu, Waikiki – they seemed almost otherworldly to me and are possibly on most people’s bucket lists. And if they are not, they really ought to be.

Looking back at previous blogs, to Wisconsin specifically, I noted that it began with the heading, it’s all about the weather! If you have read my earlier ramblings, you couldn’t help but notice my preoccupation with the subject.

I resurrect this subject now because touring from February to April, to these places that are polar extremes to one another, is nothing short of staggering.

It seems a lifetime ago that we were soaking in South Bend, nippy in New Jersey and ice-wrought in Wisconsin. Now, as we strolled along the beach, our feet gently bathing in the warmth of the Pacific, we all agreed that we didn’t care to think how we might have felt if the schedule were the other way around!

I now feel the need to insert a couple of pictures I took of the trees on this most lush and verdant Island. Firstly, the palm tree, because it is synonymous with exotic places and warmth and, in my humble opinion, is beautiful.…







…then the Banyan tree.









Because I was amazed to discover that its new, lower branches actually grow downwards from its bigger branches and over the years take root in the earth. If this is very common knowledge, I apologise, but it blew my mind.







And then a beautiful tree I confess I don’t know the name of!

Two of my three workshops were for the lovely Larry Wayman, at Farrington High School, one on the Tuesday and the next the day after. I was driven there by designated driver, Maseeh, who is a director, puppeteer and performer, presently completing his PHD in theatre, specialising in Chinese Opera. What a lovely and fascinating fella.

On arrival, after being presented with my second Lae, I was introduced to George Kon, the executive director of T-shirt theatre and the Alliance for Drama Education, who specialises in theatre for young people. The course he runs is entitled ‘rehearse for life,’ its motto ‘Educate the heart!’ Kipuko was the title of their latest, totally improvised piece, around the theme of bullying.

George informed me that the whole catchment area for the school is a very tight knit community. This was proven by the fact that, with only three days’ notice, over a thousand people attended the showing at the school theatre. The theatre’s roof, incidentally, was very badly damaged by storms four years ago and was reopened only in February.

With regard to my Shakespeare workshop, the students were quite reticent to begin with. However, they gradually warmed to the task and by the second session especially, they had committed to it wholly. Here are a couple of stills of them, taken on the Wednesday morning.


















Sandwiched between Larry and Farrington’s workshop, I was to be escorted by Todd to the University of Hawaii’s Windward community college. But not before he had provided lunch, however. So, I sampled my first taste of poke, a local delicacy, comprising spicy raw fish, usually yellowfin tuna, and rice – it was beautiful.

I passed comment on how beautiful the scenery was and how I expected King Kong to appear over the evergreen mountain top at any second. To this Todd replied, ”That’s not really surprising; a lot of the Andy Circus movie was filmed here. And lots of Jurassic Park!”












…not the worst place in the world to receive an education!

It proceeded to be a quite lovely workshop experience with their drama students, ably led by the course leader Nicolas Logue. Once again, I was ceremoniously handed my third lei and some chocolates, to boot. (Over the last many years, Hawaii has become a grower of premier grade chocolate.)

The text I used in this workshop was act 4 scene 2 of Shrew, which our cast have labelled the Servant scene, because Evvy and Tom play a whole line of Petruchio’s household staff with varying degrees of ability and disability and is one of the highlights of the show, in our opinion.

I split the students into groups of five, gave them their line of parts, which they cast amongst themselves. They were then given twenty minutes or so to take it from page to stage, to give them a glimpse of how the AFTLS rehearsal process is. Everyone watched each other’s interpretation as the climax of the session and, due to their absolute commitment and bravery, a good time was had by all.

Here are some sample pictures of them in action…
























And a picture of the whole group at the end of the session, with Todd at the back extreme left and Tori, the college theatre director extreme right and yours truly in the stage centre – as it should be, of course!






My workshops, however, were topped by Carl’s. When we went for a quick powhana, (their word for an after-work drink) he explained that he had run a workshop for some of the teachers at Punahou High School. The thrust of the session was to help them to teach Shakespeare to their pupils with more confidence. However, the more impressive part was that it was held where the iconic President Barack Obama was schooled!

Having completed all our workshop duties, we had only the show to perform on the Wednesday evening. Tom and I managed to find time to go to Diamond Head beach for a couple of hour’s R&R beforehand, very kindly escorted by his assigned student, Kiki. It goes without saying, what we saw needs to be seen by you….














…in any way….







….too shabby!

The evening performance and indeed the Mark’s Garage theatre was remarkable for various reasons.

It is a black box studio space with a capacity of approximately one hundred audience, next to the downtown area in Chinatown.

It is another brilliant factor of doing the AFTLS tour that one really gets to test/flex one’s technical skills. Last week it was a large proscenium arch theatre and a big capacity, this week a tiny thrust space which was wholly intense in its intimacy.

This, by the way, is perfect for the tombre of our piece being as we all mingle with the audience from the moment they enter the space, until the show begins. And as often as we can after that!

In the same vein, last week large dressing rooms, this week… suffice it to say, none of us had ever got into costume in a book store, whilst audience politely browsed the shelves behind us or queued for the restrooms. Meanwhile, a jazz band plays at the entrance to the theatre on the corner of the road. Vive la difference!

Furthermore, it was an extremely warm evening and the air conditioning was broken. It was going to be a hot one.

I was thrilled to note that a good number of the students from my workshops attended the performance and it was, we felt, the best show we have done, due in no small part to the quality of the audience.

From the onset they were up for it and wonderfully vocal. Witness the fact that when Carl’s Petruchio provocatively challenges the audience early in the second half with…

“He who knows better how to tame a shrew,
let him now speak…”

The voice of a young man proffered….


…which is exactly what we all hoped might happen one day. It created such a wonderful moment of synergy between performer and viewer, all barriers gone.

The comedic elements the audience found hysterical, but even more impressive, however, was their seemingly absolute understanding of every little nuance and detail we had worked so hard to create in rehearsal. All praise to them.

So, drowned in sweat, but very pleased, a big number of we cast, students, tutors and some other audience members went for a few beers.

Such a pity we had a 5.30am call to go to Big Island. Such a pity we had to leave this piece of paradise at all!

Brigham Young, Utah

By Chris Donnelly

Our week’s residency here at Brigham Young was nothing short of extraordinary for a variety of reasons. Sadly, it began in a very inauspicious manner.

Our Monday travel days are often a tiring, arduous affair; however, this journey was particularly stressful.

We were up at silly-o’clock to say goodbye to wonderful Zoltan and leave Vassar. However, the first of our two flights was delayed by an hour. This meant that we would have a matter of minutes, on arriving at O’Hare airport, Chicago, to get our connecting flight to Utah.

Of course, it was not made easier by the fact that we arrived at terminal F and our connection was the extreme far end of terminal B. Officially, we had two minutes before they closed the gate and the next flight was not until 7pm that evening. If anyone has any knowledge of the size of Chicago’s major airport and therefore the distances involved, you will understand the magnitude of this challenge.

Suffice it to say that we all did our very best impersonation of Usain Bolt at the absolute peak of his powers, with a following wind, running downhill and got there, a heaving mass of sweat and hold bags, just as they were closing the gate.

Having gone into post-sprint shock, followed by several cardiac arrests and a lung transplant, we were finally calmed by the stunning views we beheld, as we began our descent into Utah. It was obvious to see that we were entering into an unique landscape of breath-taking natural beauty. As the first couple of many pictures of this blog testify…







Here is a view of the mountains and the lake from which Utah’s major city derives its name.







And here the glorious snow-capped mountains that surround Salt Lake City.

After the aforementioned trauma, we were very pleased that the journey to Provo at the other end was perfectly perfunctory, the hotel and the hotel rooms lovely. Unusually, the faculty meeting would not be until the following morning, so it was delightful to have the evening free to explore the downtown and have a good feed.

My personal experience of working for AFTLS and the all-encompassing nature of the work you are immersed in, means that I rarely look too far ahead, with the odd notable exception. However, this was one such exception.

I had scant knowledge of the tenant of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints, apart from the fact that Utah was its home and often named a Mormon state. This and the image of the occasional two smartly dressed, extremely polite Americans carrying out their missionary work in the UK when I was growing up.

However, we were previously informed that the university would be alcohol and coffee free and moreover, that the state as a whole largely followed the same tenet.

This, in all honesty, was a topic of conversation that became more and more prevalent the nearer the week came. Without, I hope, being disrespectful to their religious beliefs and proclivities, actors, for the most part (and certainly for we five’s part) like coffee and alcohol.

Imagine our relief and delight, then, that on venturing to the pretty downtown, with, it must be stated, its most spectacular mountain-scape backdrop…







…we fell upon (purely for medicinal purposes, you understand, to calm our frayed nerves!) a fantastic bar, called ABG’S, which was to become our spiritual home for the week.

So, after a rather protracted i.d checking process, we had a couple of glasses, put a few tunes on the classic jukebox and enjoyed a few frames of pool…







After this we became ravenous (Evvy’s perpetual state, it seems!) and again we were delighted to discover a delightful Indian restaurant…








….which made us all extremely happy!







So, tired but sated, the traumatic travel day done, we all retired for a good night’s rest in anticipation of the working week.

You would be a very hard person to please if you didn’t enjoy the view on opening the curtains the following morning!





The campus…







…was equally pretty!








By virtue of that fact that this was an extremely light week of workshops, although a heavier one in respect of the number of shows we were to perform later in the week, the faculty meeting was a brief affair, after which I had an interview with the Provo Daily Herald. Here is the link to the article.

This free time gave we intrepid travellers good opportunity to explore the surrounding area and we made good use of it. We had a wonderful drive around and eventually arrived at Deer Creek State Park.

We got our stride going and proceeded to walk up the mountain for several miles. As you can see, the views were wonderful!







We only contemplated stopping when we found snow!

This was followed by another visit to ABG’S, before we attended a wonderful concert, by the BYU Philharmonic, entitled “Happy 100th, Leonard Bernstein!” This was very kindly arranged by our lovely administrator, Bridget Benton. We were all extremely impressed; considering the majority of the students were not professional, the standard was extremely high!

The following morning, I had a wonderful workshop with Junior and Senior acting students. They performed duologues from Chekhov’s The Seagull and Uncle Vanya¸ Ibsen’s The Doll’s House and The Enemy of the People and George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man. We then re-worked moments and a good time was had by all!

Once again, our group met for a social in the evening at our neighbouring hotel. It was very interesting for us to note that state law dictates that wherever alcohol is to be served, food has to be purchased and brought to the table in advance of said alcohol, or else the establishment’s licence can be revoked.

The majority of food available was… cake. So it was that over a two-hour period we amassed…















….more cake….and finally…







Perhaps now would be a good moment to return to my staple subject of Meteorology.
As stated in previous blogs, we Brits are no strangers to changeable weather. However, Utah, or Provo at least, takes it to a whole new level in Springtime. The Wednesday was beautiful, clear blue skies and twenty-three degrees – just what the doctor ordered.

We were, therefore, vey unprepared for waking up on Thursday morning to find the following vista…














By lunchtime it was all gone and we were back to this…








And so to the shows…our first show in the University of Utah theater, which has a five hundred and fifty seat capacity.








The house was good, roughly two-thirds full; the response to the play, fascinating. There seemed to be a good general knowledge of the piece and we all felt that they got it and were with us from beginning to end. Indeed, it was amongst the most vocal (in a good way) audiences we have played to on the entire tour.

However, there were some definite moments of atmospheric silence (apart from the odd person who couldn’t help but laugh) at the more, shall we say, overt sexual moments.
Before the Friday performance, it transpired that a few of the more senior members of the audience, who are patrons to the theatre arts programme, had raised a couple of issues regarding the above and therefore Bridget very politely requested that we extract a couple of moments of business in the remaining performances, which, of course, we did. It wasn’t wholly unexpected, but it was interesting to experience, nonetheless.

And undeterred, below, our actors prepared….









Carl, svelte but strong….









Tom, mean and moody…









Myself….I have no idea whatsoever!

Of course, never forgetting the team mascot. One of the coconut skins used to simulate the sound of a horse and carriage in act 4, scene 5, but more commonly known as… Shrew!









There were still moments whereby we felt shifts in atmosphere at certain other moments in the play that we weren’t asked to tamper with, however, the houses and the general reaction to the rest of the run was overwhelmingly enthusiastic and positive.

Another new experience for us in this residency was that we had two shows in one day. This is by no means rare in the life of an actor, but it is the only time in my experience of four tours with AFTLS that I have been called on to do so. But it was seized on with alacrity, the job, and the residency, were done.

Which leads me to my final chapter of my Provo blog and our day off.

Rather than use Sunday as a day of rest, we decided to take our two hire cars on a seven hour round trip to one of Utah’s premier tourist attractions, the Arches National Park.

Here I become lost for words – I am no Shakespeare! Someone did once write that a picture speaks a thousand words…and therefore, I will let the pictures do the talking!



























































And so….to Hawaii!!