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Department of Theatre and Drama

Jennifer Piurek
University Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, November 5, 2008

“Hamlet” returns to IU stage for first time in 50 years

Nov. 5, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Imagine going home from college to mourn the death of your father, only to discover that your mother has married your uncle, your lover is falling off the deep end . . . and the only way out is to follow your father's ghost.

Dramatic literature's most celebrated student returns to the Indiana University stage for the first time since 1956 -- after two years of planning -- when William Shakespeare's Hamlet opens at the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center Nov. 14. Additional performances are Nov. 15 and Nov. 18-22.


Harper Jones as Hamlet and Justine Salata as Ophelia in IU Theatre and Drama's production of "Hamlet."

Print-Quality Photo

After a whirlwind summer culminating in the opening of his award-winning production of Black Mamba in London, Associate Professor of Acting and Directing Murray McGibbon directs this production of Hamlet, which he calls a "truly great play" that's also very contemporary.

"Hamlet deals with family issues and human issues on an alarmingly immediate scale that will touch students and adults alike," McGibbon said. The themes of family tragedy -- death, adultery, mental illness -- are ever-present in modern society. McGibbon presents a production with a fresh aesthetic and slightly modernized language that will open this play to a wide audience.

Third-year MFA acting student Harper Jones plays the title role as his thesis project. "Harper is Hamlet," said McGibbon. "He possesses an 'every man' quality that will reach everyone in the audience."

Jones says it has been an honor to play such an iconic role that's also relevant to today's audiences. "This production focuses on every part of what it is to be in a family," Jones said. "It's a piece of work that exists now as a play that we can bring to a college audience. It's about this time, this place that we exist in now."

In addition to immersing himself in the role of Hamlet, Harper has been visiting Bloomington high schools and sharing his craft with the next generation of college students. He has previously appeared as Orpheus and others in Metamorphoses, Claudio in Measure for Measure, Petey in The Birthday Party and Al in Side Man.

The cast also features Josh Hambrock (The Seagull) in the double role of Hamlet's usurping uncle Claudius and the ghost of Hamlet's deposed father. Bethany Barber plays Hamlet's conflicted mother Gertrude, while the other woman in Hamlet's life -- Ophelia -- is portrayed by Justine Salata (The Seagull). Ophelia's father Polonius and brother Laertes also figure heavily in Hamlet's fate, and are portrayed by Neal Utterback and Kevin Anderson (Twelfth Night), respectively.

The production features the work of Scenic Designer Fred M. Duer (assistant professor of scenic design), Costume Designer Linda Pisano (associate professor of costume design), Lighting Designer and third-year M.F.A. student Cynthia Murphy (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Jimmy Cory), Sound Designer Andrew Hopson (assistant professor of sound design), and Technical Director I. Christopher Berg (assistant technical director of the department of theatre and drama).

Ticket Information

Hamlet opens Friday, Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. with additional performances Nov. 18-22, all at 7:30 p.m., with a Nov. 22 matinee at 2 p.m. All performances will take place on the Ruth N. Halls Stage at the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center.

Ticket prices are $20 for adults, $15 for 30-and-under, students, and seniors on Tuesday-Thursday evenings and at the Saturday matinee. Student rush tickets for $12 cash (with a valid IU Bloomington student ID), are available the day of each performance. Group prices are available.

For ticket information, call 812-855-1103, visit the IU Auditorium box office Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., or stop by the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center box office, which opens an hour before curtain. To purchase tickets by phone, call Ticketmaster at 812-333-9955, or buy online at