Alexandria Area Arts is excited to present a Viking-era adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, Hamlet, September 11-13, 2015, at the Alexandria Area Arts Theatre in historic downtown Alexandria. This adaptation sets the Hamlet tale almost 600 years earlier than Shakespeare’s time, in the height of the Viking civilization.
“It is certainly a unique setting for Hamlet,” said Benjamin Klipfel, Executive Director of Alexandria Area Arts and the production’s producer. “We see Hamlet set in a variety of times from modern to World War II, but this version goes back to the era of the Vikings, and the era of ancestry for much of our region.”
While this adaptation is unique, the story of Hamlet is an important part of Scandinavian folklore. In fact, the Danish legend of Amleth is the folk story that Shakespeare used when he created Hamlet. Both stories deal with themes of moral corruption, revenge, morality, and appearance versus perception. In Hamlet, the King of Denmark is dead and has been succeeded by his brother, Claudius, who has married Gertrude, the widowed queen. Hamlet, Gertrude’s son and the Prince of Denmark, is already distressed by his father’s death and the hasty remarriage; when his father’s ghost appears to tell him that he was murdered by his own brother, Hamlet vows revenge.
What follows is a tale of feigned madness and an intricate plot to expose the corruption of Claudius, now king, at any cost – even the cost of Hamlet’s life.
Though the Shakespeare tale is known to most, this adaptation has made cultural changes to more closely align with Viking society. Most noticeable to audiences will be the use of female warriors and members of the royal court. Shakespeare’s script only includes 2 women, Queen Gertrude, and Ophelia, who is promised in marriage to Hamlet. However, in the Viking-era, women were not kept from the rank of warriors and there is significant archeological and historical evidence of Viking-era female warriors and shield-maidens, which will be evident in this production.
The costumes, skillfully and meticulously created by regional artisans and crafters, are also authentic to the height of Viking civilization and will be noticeably different than most people expect when seeing Shakespeare. In addition, regional crafters have worked to create the swords, armor, shields and set items to be authentic to the time period, and pieces of art in their own right. The set even includes a keel and stempost from a replica Viking longboat created several years ago by the Science Museum of Minnesota. The production has also taken on a more fast-paced delivery style and has a runtime of around 2 hours (significantly shorter than typical Hamlet productions). As a classic tragedy, the play contains treachery and sword fights, and several characters do perish. However, the production is considered one of the best written plays in the English language and is suitable for all ages of audience. Audiences of any age will be able to recognize many common phrases and words that Shakespeare invented for this tale, including “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” “Brevity is the soul of wit,” “Method to the madness,” “Woe is me,” and the most famous lines from the play, “What a piece of work is man,” and “To be or not to be.”
About the Adaptation
18 months ago, Director Sharon Thalmann and theatre artist Philip Goellner conceived a version of Hamlet that more closely touched on the ancestry of our region and one that would include a variety of artistic disciplines, from weavers and spinners, to quilters, to sword-smiths and metal workers. Over the course of several months, and several re-writes, Goellner blended the cultures of the Viking-era Amleth and Shakespeare’s Hamlet into one story that draws upon the Scandinavian ancestry of the region. Several heritage artists and crafters around the region were brought together to plan and design authentic costumes, props and weaponry while the script was being informally workshopped. Beginning in January 2015, Professor Mark Rosenwinkel, MFA, chair of theatre at Concordia St. Paul, began holding workshops and master classes with area actors and audience members on Shakespeare, the language, and on acting. These workshops and classes were open to audience members, actors, and the community at large. In addition, Twin Cities based fight and battle choreographer Tom Ringberg hosted fight-choreography training classes, and began working with cast members on the fatal sword fight that ends the play, which includes the breaking of an actor’s arm onstage. The production also hosted a Viking Encampment at this year’s Art in the Park which featured crafts, costuming and apparel, and weapon and fight demonstration.
“It’s been an incredible and exciting journey,” said production director Sharon Thalmann. “It’s been amazing to collaborate with artists from various disciplines, to bring new life to this timeless story and too see our actors and designers thrive with challenging material.”
Hamlet: A Viking Adaptation features a regional cast including:
Hamlet- Philip Goellner
Claudius- Pete Woit
Gertrude- Jamie Sandberg
Ophelia- Leah Drexler
Horatio- Randy Martin
Polonius- Kevin Lee
Laertes- Joe Johnson
Rosencrantz- Scott Giannone
Guildenstern- Chuck Grussing
Ghost/Player King- Allen Alvig
Marcellus- Dedra Zwieg
Barnardo- Carolyn Giannone
Gravedigger/Court Member- Kirk Landman
Francisco/Player- Daniel Roers
Player Queen/Shieldmaiden- Deb Long
Court Member/Player-Katelyn Niemeyer
Player/Warrior- Tyler Carlson
Player/Warrior- James Reisinger
Monk/Warrior- Mike Roers
Lady in Waiting- Claudia Bursch
Lady in Waiting- Rachel Barduson
Warrior- John Thalmann
Shieldmaiden- Christy Meier
Hamlet: A Viking Adaptation, was adapted by Philip Goellner from the play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare and is directed by Sharon Thalmann. Christy Meier is the assistant director and John Thalmann is the set designer. Quincy Roers designed lights and sound. Costumes were designed by Mark Paulson and Deb Long, and the costume team included several regional artisans, including Leila Mikkelson Preston (Weavings), Karen Obermiller (Knittings), and Yvonne Hanley, Hannah Wagner, Matti Wangerin and Audrey Jensen (Costume Construction). Deb Long designed hair and makeup. Professor Mark Rosenwinkel was the Shakespeare Consultant and Tom Ringberg provided the fight choreography. Props and set decorations were designed by John Thalmann and Sharon Thalmann.
Hamlet: A Viking Adaptation has showings September 11 and 12 at 7:30pm with a Sunday matinee on September 13 at 2:00pm. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for students and seniors and $10 for children 10 and under. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased in person (cash, check, card) or over the phone (card) Monday – Friday from 11am to 5pm at the AAAA Box Office (618 Broadway Street) at 320-762-8300. The box office will also be open 1 hour before each performance for walk up tickets. There is a group rate available for parties of 10 or more.
Hamlet: A Viking Adaptation is sponsored by the Scandinavian Gift Shop in Alexandria.
Sneak Peak and Performances for School Groups Scheduled
Audiences can get a sneak peak of the Hamlet production Wednesday, September 9, at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria. The sneak peak will feature 30 minutes of selected scenes from the production as well as an opportunity for question and answer, and to see the authentic costumes and weaponry up close. The performance will take place in the courtyard of Fort Alexandria and only costs $3, which includes admission to the museum’s exhibits featuring many Viking artifacts, including a replica ship and the new Viking portrait. Sneak Peak attendees will also get a coupon for discounted admission to the full performance.
A special performance for school groups is also scheduled for Thursday, September 10, at 9:30am. For more information on the school group performances, contact the Box Office at 320-762-8300.
Hamlet: A Viking Adaptation is a unique cultural story that is one part Shakespeare, one part Game of Thrones, with a splash of the History Channel’s Vikings. Experience this new take on an old tale, almost 1,000 years in the making. Hamlet is a presentation of Alexandria Area Arts Association and was conceived, created, and cast with local and regional talent. For more information, contact Alexandria Area Arts at 320-762-8300 or online at alexandriaareaarts.org.