In case you were wondering how Alex’s Scottish Political Theatre background might figure into Muse of Fire Theatre Company‘s Hamlet, here are his thoughts as told to The Chicago Tribune’s Evanston Review:
You can view Muse of Fire Theatre Company’s free production of “Hamlet” outdoors at Evanston’s Ingraham Park or indoors at the Evanston Public Library. Either way, you are bound to become immersed in the world of the title character as are Artistic Director Jemma Alix Levy and lead actor Alex Fthenakis.
“It’s a director’s dream job to get to direct Hamlet,” Levy said. “But it’s also one of those plays that you can only do if you have a Hamlet in mind. When Alex and I worked together two years ago on ‘Taming of the Shrew,’ one of the first things I asked him was if he would be willing to do ‘Hamlet’ with me. Alex is one of the smartest actors I’ve ever encountered and Hamlet is obviously a really smart guy. It helps to have an actor who understands the intellectual aspects of all of that.”
Fthenakis believes that “Hamlet,” “is probably on every actor’s dream list. The Hamlet character encompasses so many different things about being human. Maybe this is why everybody has called it the greatest play ever for 400 years.
“I think any actor finds himself in it,” Fthenakis continued, “because Hamlet is an actor and a political activist. All these things we tend to do as artists, Hamlet does as a character.”
By way of explanation, the actor said that the idea of “me against the establishment has become a big thing culturally and politically for myself and fellow artists over the last few years. The establishment means many different things to people. In each aspect of our lives, there is an establishment.”
Levy agrees that the play is particularly relevant today. “People are struggling with what it means to be in power, what it means to rule,” she related. “I think that ‘Hamlet’ looks at the idea of fighting back against an institution or an administration in an interesting way.”
Levy integrated three different scripts to create this version of “Hamlet.” In doing so and in guiding Fthenakis she is attempting to humanize Hamlet, who is often portrayed as so intellectually superior that people can not relate to him. “What I am trying to focus on is Hamlet as like us,” Levy explained.
Levy decided to move the show indoors for four performances because she thought the library would be a particularly appropriate setting for the intellectual lead character. “There’s something about the proliferation of words in both the play and in the building that seems to me an important parallel to draw,” she said. “And using an indoor space gives us a different kind of freedom in terms of how we’re going to perform.”
The actors and audience will move to different locations in the library throughout the course of the play. “That is also going to allow us to tell a slightly different story than we’re able to tell outside,” Levy said.
Muse of Fire Theatre Company presents ‘Hamlet’
3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, July 25-Aug. 30 (no outdoor shows Aug. 22 and 23), at Ingraham Park, 2100 Ridge Ave., Evanston
7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Aug. 21-29 at Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., Evanston