Gertrude and Claudius

by Mark St. Germain
adapted from a novel by John Updike
directed by Jim Helsinger
Originally produced at Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando, FL
February 20 to March 23, 2019


About the Premiere Production:

Synopsis: Gertrude and Claudius is an imaginative prequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The play follows young Gertrude through her forced marriage to Hamlet’s father and her relationship with his brother, Claudius, which begins with friendship, blossoms into love, and ends in murder. Gertrude and Claudius finishes with the first court scene of Hamlet, as Claudius says to the audience: “I got away with it. All will be well.” As we know, nothing could be farther from the truth. 

Artistic Statement: Gertrude and Claudius fills a missing link in the most famous play ever written and we are excited to bring it to the stage. With the combined genius of William Shakespeare, John Updike, and Mark St. Germain, it is dramatic, ironic, thrilling, and entertaining. The popularity of other Shakespeare-inspired pieces like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Wittenberg, Shakespeare in Love, and many more prove that there is an active interest from both theaters and patrons towards having new companion plays to Shakespeare. Helsinger presented a breakout session on Gertrude and Claudius at the recent international Shakespeare Theatre Association Conference (January 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio) and there was a great deal of interest from other theatres. OST believes that Gertrude and Claudius will be a frequently produced companion play by Shakespeare, regional, and other theatres in the near future.

Grant Statement: With this award, we plan to add an additional week of rehearsal to Gertrude and Claudius to work through the play. This will allow Mark St. Germain to make rewrites after hearing the actors work on the lines each day—a much more productive format than a playwright working in a vacuum and never hearing the words actually come alive in rehearsal. We will also use the extra time for staging issues. There are three challenging technical scenes in particular that we are considering several solutions in order to create the most exciting moments on stage: Gertrude and Claudius go on a long horse ride in the forest; Gertrude and Claudius enter a bird’s den and witness a falcon strike his prey; and the appearance of the ghost. We have looked into puppets, rear projections, drones, and other ideas to find the best approach to these moments. Additional rehearsal will allow us to experiment with mockups and collaborative design/acting/playwriting.

Director: Jim Helsinger
Set Designer: Jim Hunter
Lighting Designer: Bert Scott
Costume Designer: Lisa Zinni
Sound Designer:Britt Sandusky
Video/Production Designer: Vandy Wood


Additional funders: John & Rita Lowndes

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