Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Vanguard University and its resident professional theatre, American Coast Theater Company, will soon be launching concurrent productions of Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. What can you tell us about these legendary productions, and what makes ACTC’s productions unique?
Jeremy Aluma: It’s an exciting venture to be producing these two pieces side by side with the same actors in every role for both productions. That, in and of itself, is a unique undertaking.
Often, when people talk about the play, Hamlet, they mention Hamlet’s hesitancy to kill. I think the context for that is because they’re not looking at Hamlet on his own, but rather in relationship to Shakespeare’s other great murderers – Macbeth and Richard III, for example. But when you think about it, the idea of committing a murder is almost as high stakes as they come. What would it take for you to commit murder? If a dead relative came back as a ghost and told you to do it, would you?
Because of this I decided to explore the themes of life and death the most, what it takes to murder, and how much a life is worth. In this day and age where drones are killing people without trial, and abortion and capital punishment remain controversial topics, I think it’s important for us to explore the value of a life.
We start the play with Hamlet dying: “The rest is silence.” And then go into a flashback of Hamlet's life, rewinding through the deaths of Claudius, Gertrude, and Laertes, then Ophelia, then Polonius – going chronologically backwards to the start of the play. Horatio then becomes a storyteller, telling the audience the tale of Hamlet’s life and death.
The text however, remains unchanged (though shortened), and it is a very text-based show. We made some strong choices with high stakes, all of which are rooted in the text.
I’m also using ghosts of all the dead characters as a sort of séance or coven to help tell this story. The ghosts are constantly pulling Hamlet towards death while he fights for life.
By placing the play in this context, it helps us avoid realism so we can embrace the theatrical. It also lets us use the audience as a more involved participant in the play. I really want the characters to connect to the audience and use them like another character in the play.
Life is precious and Hamlet’s hesitancy to kill his uncle is not cowardice; it is a result of his understanding that life is important, which hopefully leads us to think about what life is worth.
BD: Given that the casts for both shows will be the same, how do you feel that the creative process has impacted the cast and crew in their preparation?
JA: We have a huge advantage in sharing casts. From the outset it allowed us to get exceptional actors in all roles. I think if we were only presenting one of the plays, strong actors would have declined the smaller roles. But because they have the opportunity to perform in two shows, it has upped the ante.
BD: What do you hope that audiences will take away from these performances?
JA: I hope audiences will be moved by the show. I hope they will look at their own lives and think about the time they have to do the things they want with the people they love. Life is short and we can all be more assertive in taking advantage of it each and every day.
BD: Are there any additional upcoming projects that you would care to share with our readers?
JA: I will be moving to Chicago in early July to pursue my MFA in directing at DePaul University. This will be my last show in Southern California for the foreseeable future. My recent Four Clowns production of Lunatics & Actors did really well in Los Angeles, and I’m currently pitching it to other theatres across the country.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead?
What: Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead in rep with the same cast for both shows.
Who: American Coast Theatre Company presents Hamlet directed by Jeremy Aluma and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead directed by Christi McHale.
When: Hamlet plays for 12 performances
Friday, 6/10 at 7:30pm
Saturday, 6/11 at 7:30pm
Sunday, 6/12 at 2pm
Friday, 6/17 at 7:30pm
Saturday, 6/18 at 3pm
Sunday, 6/19 at 7:30pm
Friday, 6/24 at 7:30pm
Saturday, 6/25 at 2pm
Sunday, 6/26 at 7:30pm
Friday, 7/1 at 7:30pm
Saturday, 7/2 at 7:30pm
Sunday, 7/3 at 2pm
Where: The Lyceum Theatre
55 Fair Drive Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tickets: $15 - $19 at www.ACTCtickets.com
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead runs June 3, 4, 18, 25, July 3 at 7:30 p.m; and June 5, 11, 19, 26, July 2 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $19 general admission, $15 for seniors and groups. For more information on the American Coast Theater’s Summer 2016 Series, or to purchase show tickets, visit www.ACTCtickets.com.