Hamlet on Jazz at UA (UA News)

The play premieres Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Marian Gallaway Theatre on UA’s campus. It continues at
that time and location through Oct. 8. The final performance of the play will be Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. A special
performance will be held for Tuscaloosa County High School students Oct. 6.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Hamlet is an age-old Shakespearean tale of revenge,
betrayal, ghosts, incest, depression and murder.

If that wasn’t enough to hold the interest of modern audiences of this more
than 400-year-old legendary play, what if award-winning University of
Alabama theatre and dance professor Seth Panitch jazzed it up a bit?
“There’s a lot to be said for doing Shakespeare the way he intended, and
there’s a great market for that, but there’s also a great reason to interpret
Shakespeare because he interpreted a lot of people’s plays as well,” Panitch
said.

Panitch, who is also head of the MFA acting program, said his vision for
Hamlet is combining the great lines of the play such as Hamlet’s famous
suicidal contemplation “to be or not to be, that is the question,” with great music.
In this rendition, that music is namely jazz.

“So, I met a great jazz musician who used to study at UA named Nick Boyd,” Panitch said. “He’s a pretty
well known local musician. I asked him to compose a full score to all of the speeches, and he and I worked
over the whole summer to create music that would twist and turn with the speeches.
“We’re using the speeches as a model to write the music. All these famous speeches in Hamlet that the
audience knows so well will be perceived in a totally different way. They’ll be hearing the words from the
actor mixed with music.”

Additional twists to Panitch’s interpretation of Hamlet includes a visual window into Hamlet’s mind and
the setting, which places the play in the 1950s in a location that’s a cross between Greenwich Village – a
famous Bohemian neighborhood in New York City – and Shakespeare’s England.

“There’s a giant projection screen that will express colors and shapes to the music, and during Hamlet’s
speeches you’ll see his memories — as in, when he talks about his mother, you’ll see a wedding ring and
whatever Hamlet is thinking,” he said. “So, our set is Hamlet’s mind.”

Panitch’s Hamlet cuts the traditionally four-hour play down to two to keep modern audiences engaged.
The cast is a mix of UA undergraduate and graduate students, but most of the graduate students were
professional actors before they enrolled in UA’s theatre and dance department.
A special guest actor in the play will be Dr. Kevin Whitaker, UA’s interim provost. Whitaker is playing Osric
in what will be his first time acting.

“Dr. Whitaker is a professional musician, but he has never acted,” Panitch said. “So, come see our provost
act.”

The play premieres Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Marian Gallaway Theatre. It continues at that time and
location through Oct. 8. The final performance of the play will be Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. A special performance will
be held for Tuscaloosa County High School students Oct. 6.