Just Words, Words, Words:
Local Shakespeare Company Plans Raw Version Of ‘Hamlet’
By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
Michael Barnhart lifted his sword to strike Nathaniel Hinson down the middle, but Hinson quickly blocked the attack by bringing his sword and shield horizontally above his face.
The two dueled on the Woodstock Green recently until Barnhart struck Hinson in the side with his blade. It was Barnhart’s and Hinson’s first day rehearsing the sword fight for their upcoming play “Hamlet.”
“I want this to be real,” said Barnhart, the director, as he clacked swords with Hinson, 19, who is playing Laertes.
The Raw Shakespeare Company, comprised of both experienced actors and beginners, will perform at the Little Theater in June. The company formed last year after Barnhart led a Shakespeare workshop for a group of 20 people. “Shakespeare has this bizarre veil of exclusivity tied to him and I don’t think it needs to be that,” Barnhart said. “That’s why I wanted a group of community players to do it.”
Barnhart worked as a professional actor in New York City and San Diego for eight years, performing in Shakespeare in the Park and the New York Public Theater. But he became frustrated with the elaborate costumes and set designs.
“It seemed to me a lot of times Shakespeare would become more gimmicky,” he said.
Barnhart gave up on acting and moved to Barnard around 2001. After 12 years, he returned to the stage in a BarnArts production last year. A group of people from the play wanted to continue acting with Barnhart, but he only wanted to do Shakespeare and he wanted to do it simply.
There will be minimal costumes and lighting in Hamlet so Shakespeare’s words are at the forefront. Barnhart, who is playing Hamlet, taught the troupe to forget about who’s good and who’s bad in the play.
“Shakespeare isn’t right or wrong,” he said.
The troupe has had long conversations about the text and the characters.
“There’s the whole knowing what all the words mean, which has taken some time,” said Danelle Sims, who will be the First Player.
They’ve been rehearsing at the library three times a week since January and plan to practice the sword fight scene on the Green with choreographer Greg Clasby every Thursday.
Clasby is a blacksmith from Barnard who is providing the swords and making the actor’s shields himself. This is his first time choreographing.
“It will be hard to teach the footwork,” he said.
Barnhart reads Shakespeare everyday.
“It’s my bedtime reading,” he said, adding: “It’s the combination of what people have to go through in life as they hit these milestones and the poetry that takes it to so many levels.”
Barnhart wanted to perform “Hamlet” since the play is so widely known, but he’s weary of how locals will take to it.
“I don’t know if there is going to be an appetite for Shakespeare,” he said. “Most of them; their only acquaintance is high school and they say, ‘Oh I don’t ever want to read ‘Romeo and Juliet’ again.’” Barnhart hopes that the raw acting will attract a crowd.
“I just want to go back to the language and the verse that kind of inspire people in life and make it more enriching,” he said.
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