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The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

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‘Hamlet’ production brings the 1600s back to life

The Paly Theatre company rehearse a scene from Palo Alto High School theater program’s latest play, “Hamlet.” The production is one of the first Shakespearean plays that Paly Theatre has hosted in the Performing Arts Center. According to senior Kyle Vetter, the rehearsal process was especially rigorous due to the complexity of the monologues and length of the script. “The rehearsal process for me took a lot of memorization,” Vetter said. “It was an obscene amount of lines, so I would sit down with somebody almost every night and go through the entire script. … Since it’s Shakespeare, it’s got a meter to it, and it’s a lot easier to get the lines stuck in your head, so after a while it just becomes automatic.” (Photo: Paly Theatre)

Additional reporting by Anna Feng and Sophia Yang

To be, or not to be, that is the question — a timeless inquiry that unfolds vividly in Palo Alto High School’s rendition of “Hamlet,” which has its last performance — a matinee — today. This version of the classic Shakespearean play from the 1600s enthralls theatergoers with its captivating story of love, revenge and deception.

Paly’s two hours and 30 minutes adaptation of “Hamlet,” directed by theater teacher Sarah Thermond, condenses the original play from five acts into two. Despite these changes, all crucial plot scenes are retained, ensuring the play runs smoothly throughout.

The play begins following the death of King Hamlet, with his brother Claudius — portrayed by senior Jack Champlin — marrying King Hamlet’s widow, Gertrude — played by senior Annalise Klenow — and assuming the throne. This occurs even though Prince Hamlet, played by senior Kyle Vetter, was the rightful heir and expected to succeed his father. Prince Hamlet, suspecting that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” embarks on a journey to uncover the cause of his father’s death and to exact revenge.

With poignant monologues scattered throughout the play, the audience is drawn into the minds of the characters. Vetter’s and Champlin’s major monologues reveal their characters’ deepest fears, desires and dilemma, adding layers of psychological depth to the performance.

According to senior Abigail Friedland, who plays Ophelia, she poured weeks into perfecting her perfect Shakespearean English.

“For Shakespeare, it’s really important that you know what you’re saying, so I make sure to figure out translations for every single line that I say,” Friedland said. “I also try to figure out what the people around me are saying. I start to think about the character and the feeling I want the audience to leave with.”

All of this practice clearly paid off. As the play progresses, we see Ophelia’s mind slowly turn from love to madness. Friedland portrays this perfectly in her depiction of the character by modulating her voice to match the high-pitched, crazy tones of a mad person.

The performative monologues and blocking throughout the play are not the only stars of the show. The ever-changing color of the lights constantly sets the mood of the scene, and the set — from hanging chandeliers to beautifully decorated backdrop — transport the audience into the Elizabethan era that the play is set in. In one scene, where Prince Hamlet confronts King Hamlet, the sound of thunder can be heard across the entirety of the house, with flashing lights adding to the intensity.

According to Friedland, the atmosphere created by the various backdrops makes it easier for the actors to get immersed in the story themselves.

“It just makes me feel really lucky that we have such an outstanding technical theater program — award-winning,” Friedland said. “The beautiful sets make the show feel that much more real.”

Paly Theatre is able to create these beautiful sets through the support it receives from the Paly community. Vetter said the main way to support the theater program at Paly is to come and see the shows and appreciate all the time that the actors and crew put in.

“If you’re a student, come see our shows, and if you want to, you can audition: anybody can join,” Vetter said. “Don’t be afraid of auditioning and not getting in for a lot of our shows. If you’re a parent, you can donate to the theater program.”

You can catch “Hamlet” 2 p.m. Sunday in the Performing Arts Center.

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About the Contributors
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki, Senior Staff Writer
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki (Class of 2024) joined The Voice his junior year and enjoys volunteering in his free time.
Maxwell Zhang
Maxwell Zhang, Senior Staff Writer
Maxwell Zhang (Class of 2024) joined The Voice his sophomore year and wishes to pursue management and STEM in college.

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