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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Rachel Pott
Rachel Pott
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I am a marketing major about to start my second year at Northern Michigan University, however, this will be my third year in college. I previously attended a small community college...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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‘Hamlet’ utilizes gender-blind casting

This weekend, students will go back in time to explore family betrayal, ghosts, murders and language that flows in the form of poetry. Modern costumes and a gender-blind cast will transport the audience into a new kind of “Hamlet.”  Students and faculty are invited to join the exploration in this student-directed production.

Director Emma Couling, a senior theater major, said she chose “Hamlet” because she has loved  the play for a very long time.

“The language is beautiful and the story is timeless,” Couling said.

Couling said she was interested in taking a new approach to “Hamlet.” She was first given the idea to take on a gender-blind cast when she had heard other theater students talking about the concept.

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Polonius/Gravedigger (Becky Heldt) reads aloud as Claudius/Ghost (Brian Elliot) and Gertrude/Francisco (Sherry Bollero) look over her shoulder. // Justin Key/NW

The idea for gender-blind casting allowed for a woman to get the role of Hamlet, along with other parts normally played by men, as well as the other way around. Characters were no longer bound by gender, making the discovery of characters both interesting and challenging, she said.

The cast list is comprised of six women and three men. Although men could’ve gotten female roles, the three men in the show will play traditional male parts. A few actors given more than one role will play both female and male characters.

“It’s always amazing to see what a bunch of theater students can do in a room,” Couling said.

Along with gender-blind casting, technical aspects of the show are unique to this performance. Modern costuming and minimalistic setting were chosen as a way to both use resources at hand due to a small budget and as a new way to explore “Hamlet,” she said.

As with many Shakespeare plays, marketing has been difficult. Making the play accessible to the audience begins with marketing it. The language itself can also be a challenge, Couling said. The actors must understand the language first and then find a way to get that message to the audience.

“A lot of people will see a poster for Shakespeare and back away,” Couling said. “Shakespeare is hard. Trying to master the language is a journey.”

Despite the challenge of understanding Shakespeare, she believes students should take the opportunity to explore Shakespeare and “Hamlet.”

“It’s going to be a really beautiful show. I’m very proud of the work we have done,” Couling said.

Meghan Marquardt, a freshman theater and English writing major, was one of the women chosen to play a male role in the upcoming production of “Hamlet.”

“I’ve always really loved Shakespeare and knew that this would be a great experience,” Marquardt said.

Marquardt said she is excited to play the roles of Laertes and the First Player. She is interested in the concept of a gender-blind cast because of the opportunities to discover the character without an assigned gender playing the role.

“It’s not supposed to be a pro-female production,” Marquardt said. “It’s about finding the character by cutting gender out all together.”

Being a part of this production experience has been great, even though the rehearsal schedules are longer than she is used to, she said. Learning the language and communicating with the audience has been challenging, but fun.

Working under a student-director was not much different from working with any other director, Marquardt. She had been able to connect with directors in past performances at NMU.

“The big difference is that when it’s all students, we can all learn together,” Marquardt said.

“Hamlet” will be performed at the Black Box Theatre Thursday, April 21 through Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free and seating is first-come, first served.

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