Photo by Lauren B. Photography
Jeffrey Hatcher the playwright has made some choices in his new work that will make Jeffrey Hatcher the actor a happier camper.
"At no point will I have the actor take off his shirt," the 55-year-old Hatcher jokes while preparing his latest work for the Illusion Theater's Fresh Ink series, Jeffrey Hatcher's Hamlet.
That's right. The prolific Minnesota writer has laid claim to one of Shakespeare's most famous plays. Well, sort of. The new piece is a look back at the 10-year-old Hatcher, who roped his classmates into presenting a production of Hamlet that he had adapted. The show was a hit, selling out its one performance, and Hatcher's journey into the theater truly began.
"It's really something I wanted to do for a long time," Hatcher says. "It was the first exposure for us to that play -- and acting at all. It is interesting to throw kids at Hamlet and see what they make of it. It is also interesting to create a performance and the ephemeral quality of it."
That all of this took place on the gritty streets of Steubenville, Ohio, only makes it more intriguing for Hatcher.
The show is actually a commission from the Illusion Theater's board. It was put together as a surprise gift for Illusion founders and producing directors, Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris, to commemorate the theater's 40th anniversary. It's on the schedule for the fall of 2014.
Knowing that the theater would have to produce the commission, Hatcher set out to craft something straightforward. "There are costs involved, but they will be spare," he says.
That includes a minimal set, and a single actor.
"I knew I would love to get Jeff to do it and he wanted to perform it," says Robins, who is directing the workshop production this week.
"You are not going to see me doing pushups onstage, but it's not reader's theater. I am more aware of what actors are able to do in time and space," Hatcher says. "Actors that have been doing it for years and years have certain technical capabilities that are exercised all of the time. To be blunt, I am more than rust. I am rust with a couple of pieces that aren't rusty."
Hatcher has acted since his days in Steubenville. Back in 2001, he was at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, sharing a slot with Bill Corbett. He learned some lessons at the time about his performing and persona that he hopes to apply this time around.
"I don't want it be a lecture about Hamlet. Anytime I have veered off to that, we've been stripping it from the show," Hatcher says.
Jeffrey Hatcher's Hamlet
8 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 7 p.m. Sunday
Illusion Theater, Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, 8th Floor
528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
For tickets and more information, call 612.339.4944 or visit online.