Opportunity Knocks for Students in I Hate Hamlet

April 24, 2009

Annie Russell may not be the only ghost haunting the Annie Russell Theatre this spring. Through April 25, the Rollins College Department of Theatre and Dance presents performances of Paul Rudnick’s comedy I Hate Hamlet.

The play’s synopsis is sure to captivate Shakespeare-weary audience members: “In this romantic comedy, a washed-up TV star relocates to New York, renting the gothic apartment once owned by stage great John Barrymore.  When an impromptu séance summons the towering, intoxicated ghost of Barrymore, a wildly funny duel ensues over women, art and codpieces.” 

While the department has dazzled audiences with two stage dramas and a musical comedy this year, I Hate Hamlet shines as another phenomenal student-driven play. The opportunities provided by this show prove depictive of the unprecedented access provided for students within the Rollins College Department of Theatre and Dance. Not only does Rollins offer outstanding roles for performers, but students design costuming, lighting and other technical aspects of the production. According to Associate Professor of Performance, Eric Zivot “[the production displays] not only very good work done by our students, but also the hallmark of our department. Unlike other programs, we graduate people who have had the opportunity to work on full-blown productions… Our students experience the kinds of pressure faced in the professional world at the undergraduate level.”

In addition to these unprecedented technical opportunities, student performers were given the chance to perform opposite the professionally trained Zivot, who performs as John Barrymore. Students ranging from freshmen to seniors received the chance to collaborate with Zivot in this production, who trained at the American Conservatory of Theatre in San Francisco and has acted in various mediums throughout the world. “This is a rare experience for students at the undergraduate level.” By day Zivot instructs Rollins undergraduates, only to work with the same performers later that evening: “It is unusual for students to be in class with a teacher all day and then practice the skills learned opposite their educator…students find it odd and intimidating until they see your first failure.”

Once again, audiences can expect performances of a professional caliber from Rollins undergraduate students.  A combination of opportunity and class teachings allow the benefits of Rollins’s liberal arts education to enhance the production:  “The most interesting [actors and directors] I have met were the ones who were most broadly educated and knowledgeable …These are highly motivated kids, which speaks for the type of students we attract to Rollins.”

Performances of I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick, directed by Thomas Ouellette and featuring Eric Zivot as John Barrymore, will run through April 25. For more information, please visit the Rollins College Department of Theatre’s Web site.

--Ellease Bender

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