Brahma Drama takes on Shakespeare

Ted Yarmoski, Asst. Opinion Editor

Diamond Bar High School Theater is transitioning from the bright hip-hop vibes of the spring musical’s “In the Heights” to the dark Shakespearean tragedy of “Hamlet” for  this year’s fall production.

“Hamlet,” one of William Shakespeare’s best-known tragedies, takes place in the royal palace in Elsinore, Denmark. The play is named after the main protagonist, who struggles to decide how to act in the face of a family tragedy.

“I chose Hamlet precisely because it is Shakespeare’s greatest masterpiece,” DBHS theater teacher Beatrice Casagran said via email. “Hamlet speaks to the complications of our modern world.”

The play begins with Hamlet, after returning to Denmark because of his father’s death, finding his mother Gertrude, the queen, already remarried to King Hamlet’s brother, Claudius, who is now king. Outside the palace, Hamlet encounters the ghost of his father, after the guards exclaim that they have seen his spirit, who tells him that he was murdered.  

Hamlet does not blindly believe the words of the ghost and struggles to discover the truth of the downfall of King Hamlet and seek closure to his turmoil.

The starring role, Hamlet, will be shared by Pilar Alcazar and Arvind Singh, leading two different casts for the performances that begin Thursday.

The original play, as with all Shakespearean tragedies, contains bloody conflict and mature ideas. While some of these will not be included in the production, many will remain.

“Violence and adult themes are part of what makes tragedies compelling and tragic, so the themes are still in there as they are inherent in the plot,” Casagran said.

The biggest challenge with rehearsal and preparation, according to various members of the DBHS theater department, is tackling the Early Modern  English, which will remain completely unchanged in the dialogue according to stagecraft teacher Dexter Rogers.

“The original ‘Hamlet’ was three or four hours long, so we trimmed some of the less relevant scenes down, but the text itself is unaltered,” Rogers said.

Otherwise, the cast members are confident in their ability to be fully prepared for any problems that may arise and are rehearsing about five hours a day to ready themselves.

“If there’s a challenge, we’re going to find a way to overcome that challenge and do anything we can to make the production better,” said DBHS senior Amelia Anijielo who plays Gertrude in cast one.

While the play is  dark and tragic, it does contain humor and irony to break up the more serious parts. This was taken into consideration during the planning for the stage and set took, as they tried to create a “somewhat whimsical yet disturbing” atmosphere, according to Casagran. The set features architecture influenced by Spanish designer Antoni Gaudí aimed at emulating Hamlet’s emotions throughout the play.

“Though Gaudi buildings are very beautiful, they have this surreal, melted, absurd look that I think works well as a scenic representation of Hamlet’s angst,” Casagran said.

After preparing since the second week of school, the theater department is excited to be performing this famous Shakespeare piece for this year’s fall play.

“Hamlet and other Shakespearean plays are harder because of the difficult language but it’s always interesting to look back at the classics and see how much they shaped modern theatre,” DBHS junior Jeremiah Reyes, who plays Polonius in  cast two, said.

The musical will open tomorrow, and run through Sunday Shows will start at 7 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday, and 4 p.m. on Sunday; tickets are $12 for students and $17 for adults at the door or $10 for students and $15 for adults when bought from  a DBHS drama student.