At this time last year, the production of “Hamlet” that opens at the Calhoun Cabaret tonight was just as real as the ghost of King Hamlet. Though director Gabe Bloomfield ’11 had in mind a look, and even the perfect actor to play Hamlet, he was unsure whether he could find the resources to execute his vision.
The production became a reality due in part to support from the Elizabethan Club of Yale, which in honor of its 100th anniversary is sponsoring three undergraduate productions of Renaissance dramas this semester. Productions of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and “Romeo and Juliet” are each receiving $1,300 from the club, while Christopher Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus” will go up this semester with a budget enhanced by an $1,800 award, which the shows’ production staffs said will help their directors’ and designers’ visions come to fruition onstage. “Some of the best drama on this campus comes from undergraduate works,” said Justin Zaremby ’03 GRD ’09, the co-chairperson of the Elizabethan Club’s Centenary Committee. “We wanted to make sure that during our centenary year there would be a good number of Renaissance-era English productions that went up.”
The three projects were selected from a pool of applicants last spring based on the overall strength of their written proposals. They represent the theatrical component of the Elizabethan Club’s Centenary Series, a yearlong celebration that includes a lecture series, concerts, film screenings, two rare book exhibits and other events. The funds provide about half of each show’s total budget, with the rest of the costs being covered by Creative and Performing Arts Awards (formerly known as Sudler Awards).
Bloomfield, who is a member of the club himself, said he had long wanted to direct “Hamlet” and saw the centenary celebration as a perfect chance.
“The idea had come to me to stage ‘Hamlet’ in an austere, completely white and sterile environment to capitalize both on the play’s at times very sterile emotional environment and to highlight the fact that it takes place in Denmark in winter,” Bloomfield said.
An all-white setting also creates opportunities for creative lighting and projection design, he said. In order to execute this vision, the show purchased large amounts of white fabric to cover the stage — an expensive budget item given that, due to fire codes, all the soft goods in undergraduate productions must be fireproof, he said.
The play used the additional money from the Elizabethan Club to cover the cost of this fabric as well as the costumes for the show’s 16-person cast, he said.
“When you’re dealing with a play with such a big cast and a kind of pseudo-historical setting, you need to be able to dress them right, and that definitely would not have been able to be done on a Sudler budget,” Bloomfield said.
“Hamlet” producer Yinshi Lerman-Tan ’11 emphasized that the production has benefited not only from financial support but also the moral support the club has provided throughout the production process. The group has helped market the play by publicizing it on its website and through press releases, and many current members, including the president of the club and alumni, said they will attend the show.
In April, Justin Dobies ’12 will direct a production of “Romeo and Juliet” produced by Timmia Hearn Feldman ’12. The play is the second show sponsored by the Yale Original Shakespeare Company, an undergraduate organization which debuted with a production of “Julius Caesar” in the fall.
Hearn Feldmen anticipates that the extra money provided by the club will be directed toward lighting and sound equipment rentals, costumes for the large cast, and realistic-looking swords for the play’s famous fight scenes. The show will go up April 7-9 in a location to be announced.
“Even though we will have to budget and be careful, it’s really exciting to know that we’ll have a design that is effective and merits the amount of time and effort the actors and production staff put into the project as opposed to having to compromise,” Hearn Feldman said.
But even without the help of the club, Yalies doing theater are usually less pressed for funding than students at other schools, Hearn Feldman and Lerman-Tan said.
Lerman-Tan emphasized the opportunities that the Creative and Performing Arts Awards provide for undergraduate theater.
“There are always limitations for people who are putting on student productions here,” Lerman-Tan said. “However, the Sudler Fund is a huge resource for people trying to do undergraduate theater at Yale so people often don’t have the kind of limitations they would have at another school that doesn’t have that kind of resource.”
The third undergraduate production sponsored by the club, Andrew Freeburg’s ’13 production of “Doctor Faustus” will go up April 14-17 in the Calhoun Cabaret.