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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Halee Bandt, left, who plays the titular character and Kate Black, playing Claudius, will be starring in “Hamlet” at First Presbyterian Theatre. The production runs through March 11.

  • Bandt, left, and Tara Olivero, who plays Laertes, prepares for the curtain to open today on the production of Hamlet.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Halee Bandt, who plays Hamlet, right, and Kate Black, who plays Claudius act out a scene during a dress rehearsal of the Hamlet at First Presbyterian Theatre on Monday February 26, 2018. VIDEO

  • Brandt says acting in Shakespeare productions has “kinda been my thing the last couple of years.”

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Halee Bandt, who plays Hamlet, left, and Tara Olivero, who plays Laertes battle during a scene as Kate Black, who plays Claudius watches from the shadows during a dress rehearsal of the Hamlet at First Presbyterian Theatre on Monday February 26, 2018. VIDEO

Friday, March 02, 2018 1:00 am

Women fill cast for 'Hamlet'

If you go

What: “Hamlet”

When: 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday and March 9, 10, 16 and 17; 2 p.m. March 11

Where: First Presbyterian Theater, 300 W. Wayne St.

Admission: $20 general admission; $18 seniors ages 65 and older; free for the first 30 students with a reservation at each performance, $10 after or if bought at the door; 426-7421, ext. 121, or FirstPresbyterianTheater.com

When “Hamlet” was first staged in the early 1600s, the fair Ophelia and every other female character in “Hamlet” would have been played by a man. Women performers were not allowed on stage.

Beginning this weekend, First Presbyterian Theater flips the script – or more accurately, the casting – as it opens “Hamlet” with an all-female cast.

Halee Bandt, who stars as the titular prince of Denmark, is no stranger to doing Shakespeare plays in town.

“That's kinda been my thing the last couple of years,” she says with a laugh.

Bandt is co-artistic director of local theater group Shakespearemachine and has been seen in some of the Bard's other plays locally including last season's “Taming of the Shrew” at First Presbyterian. She previously performed under the name Halee Shutt.

Though the 20-strong cast of this show is all women, Bandt says the story is the same “Hamlet” everyone knows: Hamlet is still haunted by the death of his father and remarriage of his mother, he still pines for Ophelia and, yes, the male characters are still men, even if a woman is under the costume.

She calls it a “really awesome opportunity” to play one of the most-recognized characters in Shakespeare's body of work. It doesn't hurt that “Hamlet” is one of her favorites.

“I have a love for this play. It's one of the – in my opinion – best works of Western literature,” she says.

The play is one of the widest-taught and performed shows from Shakespeare, which Bandt thinks is due to how it touches on the human experience of love and loss. She also relates to Hamlet using words to make sense of the crazy world he is living in.

“He's a bit of an over-thinker and over-analyzer. That's putting it lightly!” Bandt says, pointing to the character's long soliloquies such as the famous “To be or not to be” speech where he works through his thoughts.

Other members of the cast include Kate Black as Claudius, Teresa Bower as Gertrude and Izzy Chilian as Ophelia. It is directed by Thom Hofrichter.

Bandt says working with a cast of women has been a positive and powerful experience.

“At the end of the day, all of these women care a lot about the play,” she says. “And so it's been really cool. It's something that I wish maybe was done a little more often because it's a really neat experience.”

– Corey McMaken, The Journal Gazette