Fall Play 2015 - "Hamlet"

Bring in the Bard!...

The WG Drama Department finally decided to produce one of William Shakespeare's plays in their season. It had been over 15 years since the department produced any full length Shakespeare plays. We have had touring festivals bring shows, we have gone to the Rep with classes to see the pros do it, and we have performed small scenes, monologues and played with swords in acting class. It only seemed fitting that if we were to do one William's plays...it should be the best one of all...HAMLET

                                                         Poster design by Kate Arendes

We did not make the choice lightly. The department has been talking about doing this for awhile, but it took time to get our actors to play with various forms of lyrical cuttings of text in a classroom setting. In our Advanced Drama class we've been playing with Shakespeare cuttings, sonnets, some original writing and performing of SLAM poetry, and children's theater for the past three or four years. It has taken a few years to build the skills needed and the confidence that is necessary to handle the work involved in staging a full length Shakespeare play (and we even cut it down a lot).

See what got us going...

Watch last year's Shakespeare Showcase 
WG Drama performed for All Write Week

It is extremely challenging material to research, analyze, design, block, and perform effectively. Especially in high school. It is good that our students were up for the task. The script was exciting, and we knew we made a good choice when we had a large number turn out for the auditions at the start of the year.

Watch our  ENTIRE production of Hamlet 
on YouTube right now!!!   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukU3BF-VGJE

Special thanks to Mr. Arendes for recording our Thursday Oct 22nd performance 



The students who were interested in auditioning had the choice of cuttings from almost every character in the play. They were placed on a table for several days before the audition so they could look over the material before the audition. 

We had around 45 students audition for 19 parts. 

NOTE:A few of the roles were being doubled up for budget and microphone logistics. (We only have 8 cordless mics to pass between actors in our Auditorium plays. We rent additional microphones for the musicals)

We held the audition in one afternoon with out holding any callbacks. The auditions were pretty straight forward. The students who came in prepared for the audition and had done work on the cuttings ahead of time did the best and were given roles in the show. The casting table consisted of two faculty members of the Drama Department (Mr. S and Mrs. R.), we had a couple of technical theater students who had read the play in their class in prep to design the show, and we had the student director's assistant. Like all of our auditions the casting table is given a rubric and a numerical scale for scoring. This audition involved a scoring based on: character and ability to have a clear diction with the lyrical text, we watched for who decided to memorize, we looked at their choice of movement, and we observed their focus and emotional impact with the cutting. 

Auditioning is a wonderful process cleverly built into the craft of acting.
It gives every actor a moment to shine.   

Shakespeare is tough to do well, and this audition was tough. We were also planning to have the show judged for State, and so that was in our minds as we watched the auditions. The State judges are tough and so we had to be as well so we knew we could compete when the time came.

(Visit our conference log page to see the page on our trip to the 2016 State Conference with our production of Hamlet

A moment on the Music Hall Stage in KC at State Thescon 2016

The calendar is getting pretty full in the Fall semester with all sorts of events for the students to participate in...This can cause us to sweat a little when scheduling events for the department.

This year we were asked to move our dates back into Oct from Nov (pushing us into a shorter rehearsal schedule) due to the Veteren's Day celebration in first part of Nov that needs a week of rehearsal and rather elaborate technical design. Knowing that we were being squeezed a bit, we had to pick actors that could do the job quicker than normal. 

The shorter rehearsal schedule leaves less time in the process to train new actors. 

In the audition the younger actors in the department definitely had a harder time with the cuttings, but like all our auditions there are always fresh faces of every grade level that come out for a part and wow the casting table. This cast had several new-to-the-stage performers (freshman thru senior).   

Elliot Williams, Annelise Kerr-Grant and Tea Gardner making their entrance in rehearsal

               The process of preparing the audition is much like the process of preparing a role. 
    Those that do their homework bring life to a character in an audition. It is also those same                         actors who will do the homework needed to bring life to that character 
                                                        in front of a paying audience. 

                          The Cast

                    Bernardo…………….Joe Castleman                        Marcellus…………….Alec Reeves
                    Horatio………………..Nick Suber                            Ghost…………………..Dylan Martin
                    Claudius……………….Rowan Van Horn               Gertrude……………..Kate Arendes
                    Hamlet…………………Hannah Leatherbarrow      Laertes………………..Jacob Noce
                    Polonius……………….Justin Comegys                   Ophelia………………..Loren Kahrhoff
                    Attendant…………….Kate Becker                            Rosencrantz………...Lily Newsham
                    Guildenstern……….Bridget Kahrhoff                      1st Player……………..Elliot Williams
                    2nd Player…………….Tea Gardner                           3rd Player……………..Annelise Kerr Grant
                    1st Gravedigger……Molly Kurtz                               2nd Gravedigger…...Miles Umbaugh
                    Priest…………………..Elliot Williams                     Sailor……………………AKG
                    Messenger…………..................AKG                          Osric…………………….Jonah Schnell

                       The amazing cast of Hamlet at final dress and ready to open their show!

          The Staff

         Director………………………Mr. Schaefer
         Stage Manager/Crew……………Maddy Toskin
             Asst. Director/Crew………………Connor Hanneken
   Asst. Stage Manager/Crew……Maggie Pool
          Running Crew……………………….Jake Schutt
                      Props/Crew…………………………..Erica Donermeyer
         Lighting Design/Sound Op…….Jonah Schnell
         Sound Design / Crew…………….Sam Toskin
              Light Crew/ Board Op…………..Nick Wylie        
         Light and Sound Crew…………..Robert Hood
           Light crew……………………………..Jacob Noce
                         Light Crew...............................Kennedy Bingman                  
        Costumes/Make-up……………..Emma Dowling
                           Wigs and Hair……………………….Mrs. Romanowski        
         Hair/Make-up Crew………………Micah Wilson
          Make-up Crew………………………Maddy Toskin
          Make-up Crew………………………Lily Newsham
                Make-up Crew……………………..Annelise Kerr-Grant
  Make-up Crew……………………..Sam Reeves
   Make-up Crew……………………..Grey Ferber
Spot Op/ Light crew..……………Alex White
          Fly Op.............................................Michael Hubbard

The climatic moment when Gertrude dies, 
Laertes is dying and Hamlet stabs Claudius in the chest. 

We held rehearsal through the months of September and October 2015

The play within the play staging in the auditorium. The cast staged this scene first in the drama room and then when we moved into the aud we had to adjust the spacing and blocking.

Rehearsal were during the week and were held after school. We usually start blocking the show in a rehearsal hall (our drama room) and then move into the space once we are almost memorized. This play had a lot to work through in the blocking phase and the memorization was tough to get through, but the cast did an amazing job!!!

We Monday, Tues, Wed and Thurs at various times and with various members of the cast to work scenes and soliloquies. We also broke the show into two acts.

The players and Horatio (Nick Suber)

Working in the auditorium is a good break from the drama room. It is bigger and has all of the conventions of the theater around the cast and crew. It puts us in the mood to do the craft.

          Molly (Gravedigger) and Grey Ferber (Make-up) in the Aud for rehearsal 
Maddy Toskin (Stage Manager) on book and Jacob Noce (Laertes) 
sitting in the house during rehearsal after school.

Being in the space also allows the actors to make the necessary adjustments for the size of the house. Diction is usually the big hurdle for the new actors.

Mr. Schaefer getting the space ready for 
rehearsal after a day of building with the Tech classes

and members of the cast chill for a picture on the set while waiting to get started 


PR Marketing

The Technical Theater Classes create all of the PR materials for the show. They design T-shirt designs first. One design is selected by the cast/crew and it becomes the show shirt for the production. 


Hamlet's PR Design Gallery
The marketig materials that the class generates is mounted on banners and hung in the lobby as decoration. The parents love to see the work and there are a lot of great designs.

The T-shirt project is a hand drawn/sharpie project that pushed the student to create an original font, incorporate a symbol from the show and create a simple selling tool for the show.

The T-shirt design that was chosen by the cast was designed by Alicia DeBroix

The classes also design a poster for the show that gets printed and like th t-shirts is hung in the lobby for the audiences to enjoy. Hamlet was a neat show to design for and the students got into the thriller aspect of the show.


VIDEO Promos

The teasers were created as a side project for the Reel Film Project and Simon Moore's team. Magie pool helped orchestrate the shoots. Mostly they were filmed in the Little Theater and they revolved around one character in the story. They used lighting and minimal costume, make-up and props to get it done.

The Reel Film Club ran with it and created three very cool promos for the show. The school's teachers were sent the links and many English teachers showed the trailers for their classes.

Teaser #1 - "Claudius"

To see teaser #2 follow the link

To see teaser #3 follow the link


The PR we accomplished for this show was outstanding. This was largely in part to the dedication of the Thespian Officers, the cast, the crew, and Kate Arendes leading the pack.


The banners really helped push the information to the student body so they knew when the show ran, and so they knew how much it costs.

The ECHO is always very supportive of our productions and they help get the word out as well.

All of the large black banners were hand painted and hand lettered. The students that worked on these did an amazing job. Caroline Lesch, Kate Konyk and Caroline Fellows. Also the painters who came in after school and helped finish them all and get them hung.

Kate also created a ton of stuff on the #Troupe191 Instagram feed. She made funny memes and great video promos that got a lot of people talking about the show and gave her some valuable marketing opportunity.

 We used some of the crowns we couldn't use in the show to decorate the display case in the senior entrance.

The Box Office and House Management  

The lobby had a great sign next to the box office and one for food sales at intermission. The house management team did great and was headed by Natalia Sauer. The Senior Display case was assembled by Maggie Pool and looked amazing. Mrs. G. did a display outside of her art classroom with skulls and a banner.

We had a great team of ushers each night and many of them dressed to the nines!

Set Design
The set was designed and built as a collaborative effort of both technical theater classes. They read a good amount of the script aloud in class and several had already studied the script in English class. We had brainstorming sessions and sketching happening in the tech classes to get ideas flowing and we mostly used stock flats and platforms to get the structure made.

The trick to the design is that we made it to float and not be directly screwed to the floor of the stage in case we couldn't screw it into the floor at state. We used braces and stage weights.

Once the structure is up we have a couple of late nights working on the textures and painting


The kids in the WG Drama Department have always loved to come in and work on the technical elements of the show at night. Music is usually playing and everyone has a great time getting the show to come to life. This is the way we get it done by deadline. We try and keep it to just a couple of nights.

The 4th and 5th Hour Technical Theater classes worked for three weeks on the set and scenic pieces used in the show. They did some research on types of castle structures and furniture, and on the different items the story required the actors to have in their hands.
We started by bringing in the platforms and flats. 
Then they legged the platforms and got the two raised levels DSR and DSL at the right height. 

Each student in the class drew pictures of their ideal set (wall by wall). these were helpful in getting them to a level of confidence needed to go into the build and make decisions that fit the general nature of the story and the world of the play. Collaborative design is tough, and keeping everyone on the same page is the challenge. We have been doing it this way for awhile now at the high school and the tech theater classes always pull out some great design work. 


The set is based out in one color. This helps everyone see the silloette of the design better. It helps the lighting designer finalize his designs and also to keep the texture applications that the scenic artists match over the entire set. A crew of painters stayed pretty late and really did a great job!
The stock pieces used in this set have been used in over 10 years of shows. The base coat helps unify the design and get the pieces to all match in tone. We usually try and get a base coat on the week before we open. Depending on the size of the set it can take several students painting on the set at once to get it done in a couple of hours.

Mr. Schaefer does a couple of painting workshops in the tech classes and then we stay additonal nights to do the texturing and the more detailed paint work on the set. This involves a steady hand and keen eye on the details. It is tough work but very rewarding. We use a lot of different techiniques when painting sets. This set included three or four different fuax painting techniques. (Stone, Brick, wood, metal...)
                                             The Hamlet Set completed!

We used cardboard and masking tape to create the bricks and we lined the backside of the platform facing with craft paper to allow the lighting designer to backlight the platforms.

The color pallette for the set was decided early on to be black, grey, dark blue, silver, and a touch of red and orange. We decided to leave the floor black.


We loved the way the thrones turned out                 The archways gave the stage a great shape

                       The other piece we had to build was the coffin for Ophelia's funeral 

                             James Owenby, Time Weise and Jackson berger built the coffin in Tech Class
Alex White testing the size to make sure we built it big enough to fit a person inside, but we never ended up putting a real person in it for the show.

Lighting Design

Jonah Schnell designed, hung and focused the lights for our production with a great team working with him on the project.

Nick Wylie
Alex White
Kennedy Bingman
Sam Toskin
Robert Hood
Kate becker
(and others that we can't remember, but thank you!!!)

                     The lighting was simply amazing in this show!

 We used every circuit available, and we had al kinds of color from all kinds of angles. It made the stage and the scenes look beautiful.

Jonah Schnell and Kate Becker working on lighting supplies during a rehearsal 

Hannah and Nick thinking about poor Yorick in the graveyard. The lighting in this scene helped create the eerie mood of impending doom...

The lighting provided a much needed change in the day and mood. Here the lighting was made warm and gave the feeling of afternoon in Denmark

Hamlet finally gets the truth out of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern 

The throne room had a red theme 
and that made for a rather dark atmosphere around Claudius and the Queen.  


Joe, Alec, Hannah and Nick confront the ghost and swear that they will not reveal it

The costumes were designed and built (or assembled) by a lot of different people. Without the dedication of so many people, so many hands and all of the collaborative energy we would have never achieved the great costumes we had on that stage each night. It truly took a village.

Mr. Schaefer
Micah Wilson
Lily Newsham
Mrs. Romanowksi
Mrs. Kahrhoff
Karis Robinson
Maddy Toskin
Bridget Kahrhoff
(and the many others who lended a hand and got something done in the name of costumes!)  

The leading players of the show during a mic check...looking sharp! 

We created our costumes for these characters to have an Elizabethen feel but with some elements in the clothing that suggest a modern flair. The outfits were assembled by taking multiple pieces of contemporary clothing found in our stock, cutting them into pieces and reassembling them into the characters we invisioned. We used notions and ribbon and lots of hot glue to manufacture the looks.

Rowan Van Horn as King Claudius 

We used a lot of texture where we could. We added fur and stones to the clothing to bulk up the size of the actor. Rowan had 8 or 9 pieces to this outfit and he would change the robe and vest during intermission to get two looks in the show. The vest had ribbon added and the robe had the fur added. the crown was originally gold but we changed it to silver. The collar is made from the skirt of an old Victorian lace dress that had stains on the botice and couldn't be worn anymore. 

We rented a few items as well. The St Louis rep has a great rental program and we got some boots from them for this show and didn't break the bank.

Claudius needed some lace up rock and roll boots to slink around the stage in...

The two ladies of the night...

Hannah was dressed in a white men's tux shirt that was cut into tabs and ribbon was added on the boarder. Along the collar of the shirt we added lace trim. She wore grey stretch jeans (she bought), short black boots she borrowed from a cast member, and a black corset. We took a black leather jacket, pulled back the lapel to open the front up a bit more, and we cut the sleeves into 3/4 length and then into strips. Then we hot glued the strips and the shoulder of the jacket onto the sleeve of the white tux shirt. We trimmed in black ribbon to hide any flaws along the way.

Gertrude's dress was also rented from the Repertory Theater of Saint Louis's costume stock. It was a great find and it made kate like a queen. The dress wasn't our first choice in color, but the shape of the dress worked great on our large stage and gave Kate the stature she needed.

We also purchased a wig, eyelashes, and some jewelry to make sure the queen sparkled.

Hannah and Loren play out one of the most famous scenes in the play...  

We are so fortunate to have parents that help out and provide us with a fabulous costume for the show. Loren's mother was wonderful and made Ophelia's dress for the show. Micah and Mr. Schaefer went to the fabric store and picked out the fabrics and the trims and the dress arrived show week. 

It looked amazing on stage and gave Ophelia a real soft look, and it gave her sense of polish that Loren slowly lost throughout the play. 

In the end we were trying to make Hamlet a tomboy with strength. She is the rebel. We wanted a bit of rock an roll in her and Claudius. The leather really helped bring a sense of power to the character. 

The costume design also pushed the gender labels a bit as well...

Rowan (Claudius), Justin (Polonius), and Kate (Gertrude) discuss the source of Hamlet's lunacy  

The initial renderings for Hamlet, Polonius and the Crown we purchased for Claudius. 

                       Rosencratz (Lily) and Guildenstern (Bridget), Hamlet's so-called friends from school were gender switched in our production and we really wanted to make sure their characters retained a bit of both genders in the end.  

These two costumes were also created from other clothing we had in stock.

The designs for these two characters originated from the imagination 
of designer Lily Newsham who also played Rosencrantz in the production. Lily used the same tricks we used on ther costumes to keep them all in the same world. We used lace and ribbon for boardering the sleeves and tabs along the waist (like Hamlet). We also made the sleeves for Guildenstern match Hamlet's. 
Costumes for this show were orgamized and managed by the incredible Emma Dowling. She made sure each costume was complete, and back on the hangers and prep's for the next night. The cast would have been missing bits and pieces of their costumes if she hadn;t joined the team and took the bull by the horns. 

Emma was hyper organized like a real professional and had a binder with check in/out forms and inventory for each actor. the show went smooth on the costume front because of her!

Nick as Horatio in his second costume                   The players in their outfits for the play

We were very lucky to have access to some of the choir's old mandrgal costumes and they helped costume some of the more traditional characters in the show. They also helped add some traditional Elizabethan flair to the look.

Make-Up and Hair

the design team for make-up worked very hard to get everyone painted up and dolled up in time each night. It was a lot of actors and the crew did an excellent job.

Micah Wilson
Maddy Toskin
Sam Cohen
Grey Ferber
Caitlin Voda
Annelise Kerr-Grant
Always lively before the show
The dressing room madness!


Loren (Ophelia) and Dylan (The Ghost) looking spooky for Halloween

                                          Joe Castleman (Guard) and Alec Reeves (Guard) 
                           We added some five-o'clock shadow to the guys to rough them up a bit.

                                                    Kate and Loren painted up the stage

We tried to make as many of the props as we could. It cuts down on costs and becuase the space allows for distance from the actor to the audience it is easier to trick the audience. 

 We didn't have a huge number of props to manage for the show, but some were coming in from both sides of the stage and there were several that were placed on the stage at the beginning of the show.

Our crew had a few people on each side that helped with props and set changes. They were awesome and helped keep the show moving.

The props for the show were fun to find and many we were lucky to have or found someone who had them. A special thanks to Mr. Johnson for lending us the 3 rapier fncing swords and the rubber daggers. The guards swords we made from scratch. Special thanks to the kids in Tech who handcrafted some great swords. Sam Reeves is a genius.  

                                                  Hannah and Micah playing with the flute


The sword fight took some practice...

Hannah (Hamlet) and Jacob (Laertes) had to spend many hours playing through the sword sequence at the end of the show. The used the rapiers we borrowed from Mr. Johnson and the Fencing Club. The cheerleading mats provided some comfort and bounce during practice. 

 We were fortunate to have had Mr. Brian Peter's sword fighting workshop at conference, and then had him into teach our advanced drama class last year. The students felt a bit more comfortable with the swords and understood the safety element.  

Our Composer
(on keyboard/synth)
Owen Ragland joined the production once we got into the space and started running the show's acts. We decided to place him on stage and designed him into the set so he could keep an eye on the show.

Owen composed an original soundscape the show as it played out in front of him each night. It evolved and changed a little each time and the music really helped build suspense and tension when needed. The actors loved performing with the score. many of them said it felt empty without it...they loved it when Owen played for their scene. 

He also provided some of the other sounds needed from onstage. He did the cracking of Elliot's character's back with bubble-wrap, he provided the knap for the slap Justin gives to Loren's character. Owen had a computer back there with him as well and he used that to play the festival music for the play within the play and the final scene of sword play. 

Owen also ran the hazer that was next to him to keep the foggy atmosphere throughout the play.

Maggie Pool ran the fog machine from SL and Owen was in charge of the Hazer USC

We really liked the way the hazer made everything a bit more creepy

Other Special FX
We had a really great opportunity to do a blood effect in the show. Polonius dies behind the curtain and we wanted blood to soak the curtain. 

We used the classic soap and koolaid squib and Justin used the them to bloody the curtain from behind. He also squeezed them onto himself to make the stab wound.

Each night the costume and curtain had to be soaked in warm water and rinsed and dried for the next night. Polonius always smelled like cherry kool-aid and Palmolive soap.



The cast and crew at Steak and Shake after the show Friday night..a tradition the last few years that Dr.Clark picks up the bill...always nice! 


Special thanks to everyone who helped make this show possible



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