HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — After a year of darkness, Gamut Theatre Group is excited to be back at Harrisburg’s Reservoir Park for its 28th Annual Free Shakespeare in the Park production.
After starting last week, the company will continue its run through June 19. This year, the company re-adapted and expanded an Educational Engagement Tour script of “Hamlet” to show off programming the company performs for schools, and bring people back together for the magic of live theatre.
“Originally, [in a past production], we had a cast of seven and most everyone, besides Hamlet, played multiple roles,” Resident Theatre Manager Abby Carroll said. “In taking this show out to the park, we were able to expand to a cast of ten. Of those, most were living in the same bubble and had been vaccinated, making it safe to perform in close proximity. Everyone was able to perform together safely and almost as though things were ‘normal’ again.”
Since they’ve done this in the past, all elements were ready to go for this production, and rehearsals were spent translating their production to a park venue. And they are able to bring in a more modern take on the play, taking some freedoms in design.
“Aesthetic focus is on the essential parts of the story presented, and what remains in the raw dynamics of the play’s construction with an emphasis on Shakespeare’s language,” director Clark Nicholson said in his director’s note. “While contemporary in setting, [the production] hearkens back in time some 30-40 years to the musical era I call ‘proto-Goth.’ This Hamlet’s fashion and musical taste tend toward those sounds and sights rooted in the work of Joy Division, Gary Numan, late 70s David Bowie, and Kraftwerk. Why? It’s because that’s a large part of where my head and heart were at when I was Hamlet’s age, and his brooding introspection was something that I understood in that time and empathized with in that context.”
Since the company was unable to put on their season last year, they’re ready to come back strong with this annual tradition, and doing it safely.
“Each year, we perform to thousands of audience members,” Carroll said. “This year has been crazy for everyone, of course, and as a theatre company we’ve been trying to figure out how to do what we do safely and responsibly. To be able to put together something like [this], that is typically such a large-scale production and requires large numbers of people with so few people involved, was a major feat for us.”
The shows run Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Levitt Pavilion, and all tickets for the event are free.
The theatre is planning for their big return to in-person performances at its Fourth Street location. It’ll start with its children’s productions this summer, and continue with a full slate in the fall.
“We plan on running a regular season of shows at Gamut for the 2021-2022 year. Our season is still yet to be announced, but we’re continuing to follow CDC and Pennsylvania guidelines for capacity limits and requirements for mask-wearing and social distancing,” Carroll said.