To park or not to park

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

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Despite its name, Riverside Theater in the Park will perform Shakespeare’s Hamlet indoors this summer. Recent flooding forced the 13-year-old theater program to migrate to Iowa City’s West High Auditorium, 2901 Melrose Ave, for the opening of Hamlet at 8 p.m. Friday.

The cast began rehearsing in its new venue on June 6 — eight days before opening night. Despite the short notice, director Kristin Horton said she looks forward to the opportunities presented by the new venue.

“While it can be terrifying to make such big changes at the last minute, it can also be quite liberating,” Horton said. “We’re presenting the same story we rehearsed; however, we’re refocusing the staging so that it makes use of our new space in a new dynamic.”

Known as one of Shakespeare’s greatest works, Hamlet is the story of a prince’s struggle after the death of his father. As Hamlet seeks to, among other things, avenge his father’s death, his love, Ophelia, is forced to choose between her love for Hamlet and her loyalty to her father. All the while, spies seek to expose the royal family’s secrets.

Jody Hovland, the artistic director and cofounder of Riverside Theater, said Riverside chose Hamlet because although the plot is familiar, the play is not frequently available for audiences to see. Hovland believes *Hamlet* will provide a mix of themes that will excite the audience.

“It’s a great play, with elements of a ghost story, a political thriller, and a compelling examination of a family in crisis,” she said.

Remaining true to tradition, the “Green Show” will take place on the West High front lawn one hour prior to the play. The “Green Show” is a condensed and often humorous rendition of the night’s main attraction. Guests are encouraged to pack a picnic or purchase concessions.

Christopher Peltier, who will play Hamlet, will perform in his second season with Riverside Theater in the Park. He said the change in venue challenges the cast to illustrate the story and setting for the audience.

While the Riverside Festival Stage in Lower City Park provided a specific ambiance for the audience, performing at West places that responsibility on the actors, he said.

“Here, we get to paint [images] for the audience,” Peltier said. “If we’re able to do that, it’s going to be a unique experience.”

New to Riverside is Corliss Preston, who will play Gertrude. She attended Indiana University, and received a master’s degree at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in England. Through her 27 years of acting experience, she has had the opportunity to act in many Shakespearian productions.

Preston believes that Shakespeare’s language throughout Hamlet should be experienced by all kinds of audiences.

“There’s nothing to compare with the language of Shakespeare,” she said. “I think even if you come and just have the experience of those words washing over you, they will affect you.”

WHAT: Riverside Theater in the Park presents Hamlet
WHERE: Iowa City West High Auditorium, 2901 Melrose Ave.
WHEN: Friday & June 28, 8 p.m.; Saturday & July 6, 8 p.m.; June 16 & 30, 7 p.m.; June 25, 7 p.m.; June 26 & July 3, 8 p.m.
ADMISSION: $18-$40 depending on seating. Tickets may be purchased at the Riverside Theater Box Office, or online at www.riversidetheatre.org

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