By Ron VandenBoom
A classic tale of royal intrigue, revenge, and murder most foul will be offered Havre audiences when the Montana Actor's Theatre presents its first ever production of the Shakespearean classic Hamlet later this month.
"It's probably one of the most well known of Shakespeare's plays and also one of the hardest," said Jay Pyette, director of the production. "You have to have a pretty talented group of actors to pull it off."
Pyette has assembled a cast of 24 local actors and for the first time in Havre is presenting the play in a theater-in-the-round type production. To accomplish this the troop of actors constructed a special stage-on-a-stage in the Havre High School auditorium.
"The audience will actually be sitting on the stage," Pyette said. "It's going to be very intimate (and) very close. We are right up in the audience at points."
Special lighting, music, and other special effects have also been added to the production to lend an emotional dimension to the play.
The plot revolves around the death of Hamlet's father, the king of Denmark.
Hamlet, already upset over his father's death, becomes even more incensed when his mother almost immediately marries his uncle, Claudius, who places himself on the throne n a throne that rightfully belongs to Hamlet.
Further complicating Hamlet's emotional trauma is the appearance of Hamlet's father's ghost. The ghost tells Hamlet that Claudius murdered him.
Stacy Williams plays Ophelia, Hamlet's love interest in the play, admits that playing Shakespeare is a challenge but says she doesn't mind the long hours of rehearsal and missing out on summer activities.
"It's fun and I like the people that I work with," she said. "It's what I love to do. I'd rather do this then anything else actually."
Sam Stuart, who plays Claudius's advisor Polonius, and the father of Ophelia, echoes the words of Williams.
"I've been doing this for over 30 years and it's something that I really enjoy," he said. "But being able to do Shakespeare n something that Havre doesn't have very often n is a real thrill and a treat."
Mike Zook, who plays the evil king Claudius, said the Montana Actor's Theatre has really come into its own in the last two years and has become something really enjoyable to everyone.
"It's something that this area has needed (and) wanted," he said. "It really will enrich the local culture of Havre."
Zook also appreciates the challenge of being able to act in the theater-in-the-round environment noting that the audience is almost in an active role within the play.
"Part of the challenge is that we don't dare falter," he said. "Because the (audience) will be right on top of us."
Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for high school students and are already on sale at Creative Leisure and Mel's Foods in Havre.
Pyette said they are strongly encouraging people to buy their tickets in advance because seating will be very limited.
Only about 120 tickets will be available for each performance, Pyette said.
Each day's tickets will also be dated and a different color and only surplus ticket will be available at the door before each performance.
"And when they're gone, they're gone," Pyette said.