New and returning actors combine for the arduous task of tackling Tom Stoppard’s tragic comedy “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” in Wilcox Stage Company’s fall performance.
The play, which relies heavily on the exchange and interaction between its two central characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – minor characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet – has proved to be both difficult and rewarding for the student actors.
“We have a lot of new freshmen and a lot of new upper classmen too and they’re doing really well,” says Assistant Director, Producer, Lighting and Set Designer, senior Marisa Whitmore. “I’m really proud of them because it was looking a little shaky at the beginning and through the middle as well, but then they all powered through and got exponentially better at the end.”
While watching the performance, Whitmore’s sentiments shine through as the cast, as a whole, looks polished and put together. Interestingly enough, the play’s two main characters, seniors Rebekah Granlund (Rosencrantz) and Ryan Vosper (Guildenstern) are performing in lead roles for the first time at Wilcox. Granlund had a smaller role in the company’s last production of Alice in Wonderuland and Vosper hasn’t been on stage since he was a student at Laurelwood Elementary School. Yet, even with minimal experience in starring roles, the pair shines as the oft-confused, childhood friends.
Returning the Wilcox stage are sophomore Hagen Hildebrandt (Alfred) and junior Mel Kent (Player). Although Hildebrandt doesn’t have many speaking lines, he is extremely entertaining as the dress-donning, makeup-wearing member of the Tragedians. Meanwhile, Kent is stellar as the tyrannical and maniacal Player, the leader of the Tragedians.
Missing from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s cast of characters, however, is the talented Aiden Turner. Turner, a senior who has been praised for his past on-stage roles, is trying his hand at directing for this show. “Comedies are our go-to thing in high school theater, but I wanted something that could show off that the actors were serious as well and I think this does it,” he says. “It has that good balance and it’s very complex. You’ll see with the set and the lines that it’s one of the most complicated shows that we’ve done so it was definitely a big project as my first time directing … It’s been stressful and it’s been an adventure, but I’m really glad I had the opportunity to do so.”
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is performed on a single, two-story set and uses lighting to keep the audience engaged while minor set changes take place. The three-act play runs for over two hand a half hours, and requires the audience’s full attention to completely understand language and comedic subtleties of the play-within-a-play.
“There are a lot of lines that repeat themselves and there’s wordplay that you have to get just right for it to make sense,” says Whitmore. “For both the audience and the cast it was a little difficult at first to fully understand it. Unless you know the story of Hamlet and you’re really familiar with the English language you won’t get it if you zone out.”
“It’s been a lot of work but I think it really paid off,” she continues. “It’s been fun. It’s been really fun. I really like this show. I really like the jokes and every time I watch it I get something new out of it – I see another layer of Tom Stoppard’s world that he got from Hamlet.”
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead continues this weekend at the Mission City Center for Performing Arts, 3250 Monroe St. Shows are Nov. 21-22 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $6 for students and $10 for adults and available at the box office.
WSC will hold two fundraising improv nights early next year (dates to be announced) and plans to immediately seek out its spring show once the curtain closes on Nov. 23.