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CU Theatre uses technology to stage ‘The Marowitz Hamlet’

November 11, 2020

Marowitz Hamlet at Clarion University

Clarion University continues its fall theatre schedule with the Zoom production of "The Marowitz Hamlet." The cast and crew includes (from top left): Ben Fye, Woodland, Pa., recording/editing; assistant professor of theatre Rob Bullington, director; Shelby Hostetler, Summerhill, Pa., as Queen Gertrude, Lindsay Victoria Smelcer, Bensalem, Pa., as Polonius/clown, D'Andre Thompson, Toronto, Ohio, as ghost/Guildenstern/Captain; Ally Gillen, Haverford, Pa., as Fortinbras/Laertes; Dayse Laslo, Emlenton, Pa., costume design, Kylie Judy, Franklin, Pa., as Hamlet; Mark Pintar, McKees Rocks, as King Claudius; Ally Davis, Volant, Pa., as Ophelia; Charli Smith, Punxsutawney, as Rosencrantz/narrator/doctor; Tylar Nardei, Monaca, stage manager; Caitlin Morgan, Millheim, Pa., assistant stage manager; assistant professor of theatre Ed Powers (faculty technical advisor), Seth Hartwell, Mercer, Pa., understudy; and Amiris Maxwell, New Cumblerland, Pa., understudy.

Clarion University theatre professor Rob Bullington isn’t letting the pandemic stand in the way of providing theatre production and performance opportunities for students and quality theatre viewing experiences for the campus and community. The production and Zoom presentation of “The Marowitz Hamlet” is proof.

"It has certainly been interesting exploring this new – and hopefully temporary – art form: the Zoom play," Bullington said. "Zoom, of course, is designed for meetings, not theatrical productions. But right now it's all we have."

What's it like to watch a play presented on Zoom? Imagine watching a film in which the only shots are close-ups of the actors talking to the camera.

"There are plays that work in this format, and obviously plays that don't," Bullington said. "Traditional "staging" is gone, as are scenery, crowd scenes, special lighting effects and a host of other elements we take for granted when we go to see a play."

What's left? Words. And the actors' faces.

"For our first Zoom production this year, (assistant professor of theatre) Bob Levy found a play called "Hate Mail," which consisted of two characters reading a long series of letters to one another. It worked beautifully," Bullington said. "'The Marowitz Hamlet' was in our planned season, and I decided to stick with it and try it on Zoom because, after all, it's Shakespeare. In Shakespeare nothing is more important than the words."

"The Marowitz Hamlet" is a Hamlet "collage" in which all of the text is from Shakespeare's play, but it's all been jumbled up and rearranged to tell a different story – Hamlet's nightmare.

"My primary objective has been to make sure the student actors have a valid experience of working with Shakespearean text, and to create something that is interesting to look at," Bullington said. "We do have costume pieces and props, and our technical theatre students – who would ordinarily have been concerned with designing and building scenery or working on lighting and sound – have been busily learning and implementing the software needed to "control" and edit Zoom."

He noted that Zoom allows very little control for presenters over what viewers see on the screen, so the play will be recorded, not performed live. The recording will be uploaded to a streaming platform and will be available for viewing Nov. 18-22.

For tickets, visit www.clarionuniversitytickets.com.

Last Updated 11/11/20