Theatre — The Shakespearian tragedy will hit the stage Thursday in the first of six shows

In preparing to play the title role in the Newberg High School Players’ upcoming performance of “Hamlet,” senior Garrett Gibbs researched how others before him have approached the role.

Gibbs found himself especially drawn to David Tennant’s performance opposite Patrick Stewart (as Claudius) from a stage performance that was later filmed in 2009. by: SETH GORDON - Family rivalry - Playing Hamlet and Claudius, John Miller (left) and Matthew Jones, rehearse Friday for the Newberg High School Players' upcoming presentation of Shakespeare's ‘Hamlet,' which will hit the stage at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The troupe will also perform the classic tragedy May 1-3.

Tennant, who is best known for his role as the doctor on BBC’s seminal sci-fi series “Doctor Who,” caught Gibbs’ attention for the physicality he brought to what can be very heady role, which should be no surprise to fans of the TV show.

And while Tennant’s influence may show through in Gibbs’ performance, some audiences will be treated to junior John Miller’s take on the lead role, which is the only one that was dual cast.

“He really concentrated on the text and what he’s truly saying and getting the meaning across through his words and his inflections, which are so intense,” Gibbs said of his counterpart. “So I love watching him and seeing our differences.”

The NHS troupe’s approach to the Shakespearian tragedy has been to strip the references to politics and focus on the story as a case study in human nature.

“We’re looking at it as these people, who in other circumstances might be wonderful human beings, but are put into these situations during the play that just degrade them as people,” Gibbs said. “It’s sort of the decay as the show progresses that is the overall theme we’re going for.”

At the same time, the cast has reserved a few key spots for comedic improvisation, diverting the emotional tension of the drama for a just a moment or two.

The visual style of the play, especially in the set design, reflects the approach the group has taken, according to student director Violet Fox. The visual theme of a chessboard is a major one and is played up in two ways.

The first is a checker pattern on the floor of the stage that branches and breaks off as it goes farther into the mausoleum, mirroring the theme of degradation. An actual chessboard can also be seen on stage.

“We tried not to be too overbearing with the set, although I possibly got a little carried away with garnishing — I do love that aspect of it,” said Fox, who has gravitated toward artistic direction in her role. “As the viewer, I think you should pay attention to what people are doing with (the chessboard) because the characters will sometimes mess with the set on the stage.”

In the main roles opposite Miller and Gibbs will be senior Matthew Jones as Cladius, senior Sarah Lamping as Gertrude and senior Brianna Soumokil as Ophelia. Rounding out the cast are junior Katie Husvar (Rosencrantz), senior Isaac Boyd (Guildenstern), junior Nick Jacobs (Polonius), senior Ben Kospa (Laertes), senior Jesse Groat (Horatio) and junior Julia Carmona (Marcellus).

Gibbs said he is proud of how the troupe has handled the challenging script.

“This play does present many, many a challenge,” he said. “I am very pleased with how the cast and crew have risen to accept and overcome them. As far as I can see, we’ve come together as an ensemble and fought through.”

All shows, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as May 1-3, will begin at 7 p.m. Cost is $8 for adults and $4 for students.

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