Q&A: Making Hamlet intimate

BY HOPE WILSON | JUNE 13, 2013 5:00 AM

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Christopher Peltier returns to the Riverside Theater in the Park to play the title role in Hamlet and Sir Charles Surface in The School for Scandal for the 2013 summer season. Trained in classical theater at the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program, Peltier came to Riverside in the summer of 2011 to play Richard Miller in Ah, Wilderness!, as well as to perform in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. The Daily Iowan sat down to talk with Peltier about the upcoming performance.

DI: What have you done to prepare for this performance?

Peltier: I was talking with an old director friend of mine, just kind of getting any advice he had about Hamlet. He said the first thing you have to do is learn the lines. It seems like a simple thing, but really you can’t do anything unless you have that underneath you. This is my second time getting to do Hamlet, and last time, I was just finding my way through it. This time, I’m delving deeper and finding those unique moments that he has. I’m working to be able to connect with the audience in an exciting way for them. Hamlet gets to break all the rules. I get to break down those walls and talk with the audience more.

DI: How has the change of venue affected the production? Normally, this is an intimate experience in the park.

Peltier: I think it changes the experience. It also affords us a lot of things — just the fact that we’re going to be inside in air conditioning, with no bugs and not fighting the toads that make noise. We’re working right now to ensure it remains a very intimate experience. It also gives us a lot more freedom. On stage, there is more space. There is the ability to open up the stage and partition it off and to bring it down closer to the audience. Additionally, we can light the first half of the show, where as in the park, it’s always in the daylight.

DI: What makes this performance of Hamlet different from others?

Peltier: We have a phenomenal group of actors here, including people who have a vast knowledge of Shakespeare and of the play. Additionally, with this play, there’s nowhere to hide. You can’t hide behind a character or anything. It’s going to get down to you as a person pretty quickly. All of the people in the cast are very open and sharing, so that the performances are going to be incredibly honest and incredibly rounded while at the same time maintaining the heightened, epic scope of the play.

DI:  Why should people attend Hamlet?

Peltier: People, when they come to the show, are going to hear a lot of famous lines. It’s our job to make [the words] connect to a human being. Playing Hamlet, I talk to the audience so much that it’s really fun to draw them in and become one point of view. When you ask everyone about Hamlet, everyone knows what [it] is, but we have the opportunity to make it real and make it human.

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