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IU Theatre presents 'Hamlet' with majority female cast


Graduate student Anna Doyle plays Ophelia on Dec. 3 in dress rehearsal for "Hamlet" at the Musical Arts Center. Eight showings of "Hamlet" will hit the Ruth N. Halls Theatre stage Dec. 6-14. Izzy Myszak

Eight showings of "Hamlet" will hit the Ruth N. Halls Theatre stage Dec. 6-14, and the production breaks from the norm by casting 12 women in a traditionally male-dominated play.

Glynnis Kunkel-Ruiz plays her thesis role as Horatio, a character Shakespeare originally wrote as a man. She said the theater was thinking about casting Hamlet traditionally when she argued against the idea. Kunkel-Ruiz said to truly cast Shakespeare in this way, all roles would have to be filled by men because that is how it would be performed in the time period. 

“Coming into this role, I made the argument that we should try to, as a company, to move away from concepts of gender when it comes to Shakespeare,” Kunkel-Ruiz said. “Gender is one of those things that is amorphous and has nothing to do with the story that is being told in the long run.”

Kunkel-Ruiz also said the production by the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance tried to not make her role overly masculine or feminine. She said instead they emphasized Horatio’s qualities and friendship with Hamlet.

Kunkel-Ruiz added that casting more women in different roles is a move in the right direction for theater to reflect the demographics of its audience. 

“The fact that we have more women in these roles, the fact that we are peopling the faces with women and in very powerful roles, that is such an empowering thing to see,” Kunkel-Ruiz said.

Along with diversity in casting, director Jonathan Robert Michaelsen said he had to edit the script to make it a suitable length. With more than 4,000 lines in the original text, the abbreviated play runs for two hours and 40 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

“I always try and look as closely as I can to the script and what’s there and what I think will resonate with us in terms of a modern audience,” Michaelsen said. 

Michaelsen said he made no updates to Shakespeare’s language but only condensed and clarified the play to help the audience better understand the story. 

Michaelsen also said people often regard “Hamlet” as one of Shakespeare's best plays and that the group has been up to the challenge of recreating the production. The cast is a mixture of both underclassmen and graduate students. 

“It’s been a great group,” Michaelson said. “They really bonded together. They are really supportive of each other.” 

Michaelsen also said lead actor Michael Bayler has been influential in setting a great tone for everyone involved. Bayler is playing his thesis role as Hamlet in his fifth production at IU. Bayler said the cast and staff have been a great group to work with and there was a lot of excitement for the production.

“It’s a really interesting production,” Bayler said. “I think the story is great. I hope people come and enjoy it and get something out of it.”

The first two shows are this weekend at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Next week there are shows at 7:30 p.m. every night Dec. 10-14. A matinee time is also available at 2 p.m. Dec. 14.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and children.

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