UK students put their own spin on ‘Hamlet’ with free performance

Rebecca Watters

This weekend, two students will be bringing a modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” to life in UK Shakes’ first performance.

University of Kentucky Shakespeare in the Park, or UKShakes, was created by classical sophomores Michael Main and Sydney Consalvi to give students the opportunity to perform Shakespeare and raise awareness of contemporary issues.

“Shakespeare explores many issues that are still relevant to college students today,” Consalvi said. “For Hamlet we’re really focusing on sexuality and family relations.”

In addition to sexuality issues, including a gender-swap by having a female play Hamlet, Main said the performance will also include instances of drug and alcohol abuse due to Hamlet’s grief, an issue he said is important to college students.

“We want our performances to start discussions,” he said. “And we hope to do it through exposing people to classical theater.”

According to UKShakes advisor Christina Ritter, Shakespeare is only performed in the department every three or four years. She said opening the doors to more Shakespeare performances is important.

“The language is beautiful and iconic. I think it’s great that Michael and Sydney are doing this. They’re devoting themselves and are really trying to perform the plays of who some may say is one of the greatest playwrights of all time,” Ritter said.

Since UKShakes began, Consalvi said it has been an uphill battle.

“It’s been really difficult since we aren’t affiliated with the college, so it’s been hard to get a performance space,” Consalvi said. “This is both of our first time directing, so it’s been a learning experience for all of us.”

Main said the rehearsal process has been difficult as well, especially since all the cast members are busy with school, but that in the end, he believes it will all come together.

“We’ve tried to get as many rehearsals with as many actors as possible. It’s been hard to get everyone in the same place working at the same time since we are all students and this production isn’t always first priority,” Main said. “But the work we have gotten has been wonderful.”

Hamlet will be the opening performance for UKShakes. In the future, Main and Consalvi plan to perform “The Temptest” and “The Twelfth Night,” and plan to bring in other students from the theater department to direct. They also hope to raise awareness about more issues that they believe affect today’s college students, like morality, as well as continuing the discussion of sexuality.

“We want to reach out to other groups on campus, like the gay-straight alliance so that we can spread word of the show and extend the dialogue and talk about the resources and support that’s offered,” Main said.