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'Hamlet' in Bryant Park Honors Shakespeare 450th Birthday

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To honor Shakespeare's 450th birthday, Bryant Park Corporation and The Drilling Company's Shakespeare in the Parking Lot will present "Hamlet" in Bryant Park May 15 to 31, 2014. It is Bryant Park's first Shakespeare production and The Drilling Company's first Shakespeare production outside the municipal parking lot at the corner of Ludlow and Broome Streets, where its intrepid, bare-boned productions have become a New York tradition.

When The Drilling Company was invited by the Bryant Park Corporation to inaugurate a new Shakespeare program for Bryant Park, TDC's Artistic Director, Hamilton Clancy, selected his company's production of "Hamlet," which was a Lower East Side hit when presented in the Parking Lot by The Drilling Company in 2011. In an unusual interpretation, the production is intended to illuminate the modern dysfunctional family unit.

Hamlet
Alessandro Colla as the title character in "Hamlet," to be performed by The Drilling Company's Shakespeare in the Parking Lot in Bryant Park May 15-31. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Clancy was intrigued with moving a production that was done in the "decidedly uncorporate" atmosphere of a Lower East Side parking lot to the "very heart of corporate America" in Midtown Manhattan. He says, "So much within the play is about honor and revenge, which we see being played out on a daily basis in the interworkings of our economy and culture." The move uptown also presented an opportunity for the production to grow because of the difference in venues. Clancy observes, "The 'personality' of the parking lot is quite different from that of Bryant Park, where it's not only a green oasis and historic, but it is one of the world's busiest public spaces." Returning actors of the 2011 production include Alessandro Colla as Hamlet, Karla Hendrick as Gertrude and Amanda Dillard as Ophelia. Hamilton Clancy directs.

The production views Hamlet's family as dysfunctional in a modern sense. Gertrude is an alcoholic mother; Ophelia is manic depressive; Claudius is overworked, power-obsessed and success oriented. Everyone but Hamlet and Horatio are suffering from one of the maladies that we identify in modern culture as a problem for human development. Clancy observes, "Hamlet is unhappy with his mother. This is a deep problem and not the first time she has disappointed him. He has difficulty confronting his mother about this problem, and as he does, it's a textbook case of adult children of alcoholics. The ghost of his father is a classic enabler; his message to young Hamlet is essentially 'Don't get mad at your mom.' The tragedy, then, is that people go swirling out of control."

In this light, Hamlet is imagined as sane but reacting to the dysfunction. He is provoked to the point of inaction, which is something that many adult children of alcoholics wrestle with. "Horatio is the only other sane person," says Clancy, "that's why he is left alive at the end."

Most productions center on the male characters, says Clancy, but he is interested in the female characters and the relationship they have with Hamlet as the element that ignites the action. Essentially, in this production, what propels Hamlet is not his uncle's betrayal but his mother's. To set this up, the first ghost scene is cut and "Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I" becomes the entry point to Hamlet's emotional journey, as opposed to his political journey.

The actors are Alessandro Colla as Hamlet, Amanda Dillard as Ophelia, Jonathan Eric Foster as Guildenstern, Jennifer Fouche as Player Queen, Michael Gnat as Polonius, Bill Green as The Ghost/Player King, Karla Hendrick as Gertrude, Kevin Hoffman as Osric/Marcellus, Andy Markert as Rosencrantz, Nathan Ramos as Horatio, Lukas Raphael as Laertes, J.M. Russ as Claudius and Dan Teachout as Gravedigger. Production design is by Jennifer Varbalow. Costume design is by Mimi Maxmen. Fight choreography is by Kathy Curtiss.

Alessandro Colla (Hamlet) played the central character in The Drilling Company's much-acclaimed production of "Reservoir," a modern adaptation of "Woyzeck" by Eric Henry Sanders, directed by Hamilton Clancy. Sanders' play remade Buchner's masterpiece into the tragic homecoming of a Mideastern War veteran-a lowly truck mechanic with PTSD. The unsettling, provocative new work, presented in The Drilling Company's intimate theater at 236 West 78th Street in 2010-11, had an extended run and a return engagement.

Karla Hendrick (Gertrude) is a versatile actress who played the psychiatrist in "Reservoir." She is currently featured as Betty in The Drilling Company's long-running comedy, "The Norwegians" by C. Denby Swanson, which depicts women scorned in Minnesota who hire Norwegian hit men to 'take care' of their ex-boyfriends.

Amanda Dillard (Ophelia) played the Woyzeck character's wife in "Reservoir" and has been featured in Shakespeare in the Parking Lot productions of "Hamlet" and "Cymbeline," among others.

Hamilton Clancy (Director) is Artistic Director of The Drilling Company and the most frequent director of Shakespeare in the Parking lot, where he has also appeared as Henry V, Julius Caesar, Petruchio and Benedick, among others. He plays Tor, a Norwegian mobster, in "The Norwegians."

Bryant Park Corporation (BPC), a private not-for-profit company, was founded in 1980 to renovate, finance and operate Bryant Park, one of the busiest public spaces in the world, without government or philanthropic funding. In addition to providing security and sanitation services, and tending the lawn and seasonal gardens, BPC creates amenities and activities in Bryant Park for over 6 million visitors each year. BPC's website, www.bryantpark.org, has more detailed information plus a complete schedule of the upcoming wide range of free events.

The Drilling Company, under the direction of Hamilton Clancy, has been an incubator of new American plays since 1999, working in its intimate theater space at 236 West 78th Street, which was formerly 78th Street Theater Lab. The company began co-producing Shakespeare in the Parking Lot in 2002 and became its exclusive producer in 2005. This summer, it will present "Twelfth Night" July 10 to 26 and "Othello" July 31 to August 16 in the traditional home of that series, the municipal parking lot at the corner of Ludlow and Broome Streets on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Bryant Park Corporation and The Drilling Company will present 'Hamlet' in Bryant Park, bet 5th and 6th Aves. & betw. 40th and 42nd Streets, May 15 - May 31, 2014, Thursday through Saturday at 7:00 PM. Admission is free. For more information call 212-873-9050 or visit www.shakespeareintheparkinglot.com.

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