Up front, Jeffrey Hatcher wants you to know that Jeffrey Hatcher's Hamlet -- which opens this weekend at Illusion Theater -- is not his own adaptation of the Bard's great tragedy.
"I think the title is inherently funny," Hatcher says, noting how pompous it sounds to recast Shakespeare's work in his own voice.
See also: Jeffrey Hatcher Explores His Childhood Hamlet[jump]
Instead, it is a one-man show about a production of Hamlet that Hatcher produced, adapted, and starred in (though not as the title character) as an 11-year-old in Steubenville, Ohio, in 1967.
"Hamlet is one of the plays that everyone knows about, but not everyone has seen. People know the characters, moments, and lines of dialogue, but it is not part of the popular appreciation," Hatcher says.
The original youth production was an important moment for Hatcher. "It was a place and a form I was comfortable working in," he says. "If you are me and wildly uncoordinated, it's good to find something that matches your physicality and comfort level and level of authority. You get to exhort a level of authority. I'm sure kids who are born athletes feel this."
While Hatcher was in charge, he was not the lead. Instead, he played the Ghost and Hamlet's rival, Laertes.
"I had assumed I would be [Hamlet]. A big chunk of the show is the realization that you are not suited to play a role. One has to take a step back a bit," Hatcher says.
The play debuted at the 2013 Fresh Ink series at Illusion, where works in progress are tried out on the stage. That was followed by a tour around Minnesota. All of this has given Hatcher chances to change and fine-tune the play. The biggest issues for the veteran playwright came with the beginning and end. "It's taken a while to find the right launch and the right landing," he says.
Beyond the trip into his past, the work has allowed Hatcher to further explore one of the signature plays of English-language theater. "I've returned to Hamlet in other shows, like Tyrone and Ralph [about the founding of the Guthrie Theater]. In many ways that was about Hamlet," he says.
"Without straining the point, I want to remind audiences why they go to theater. We return to theater in many different roles during a lifetime," Hatcher says. "Often theater can become a chore or a church. It's good to remember it was a joy, and not an expectation to be met."
IF YOU GO:
Jeffrey Hatcher's Hamlet Thursday through October 25 Illusion Theater Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, 8th Floor 528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis $20-$40 For tickets and more information, call 612-339-4944 or visit online.