THE305 has decided to keep The Ophelia Perspective on YouTube for another week- a spinoff play from Shakspeare’s Hamlet told from Opelia’s perspective. SUNY Plattsburgh’s THE305 class is a 3-credit production workshop class for theatre and production majors. Every semester, the class does one to two different plays. Laura-Jean Schwartau, creator and co-director knew she would have to make the play virtual because of COVID-19. Before even coming up with the idea for the play, Schwartau knew she didn’t want it to be a Zoom play.
“It’s like the people sit at their desk and read a play and you can tell they’re looking at their lines you know? And they’re just sitting there,” she said. She didn’t want people reading from a script, she wanted movement- because “movement conveys communication”.
The cast for the play was determined last semester. Every student was allowed to come to and audition. There were two audition sessions: one in-person and one virtual. Those who were auditioning had to roleplay an improvisation of one of the play’s characters based on a scene given to them as well as reading part of the Hamlet text aloud because the play includes lines from the original play. It wasn’t mandatory to have already read Hamlet. During callbacks, Shwartau and student co-director, Mason Barber roles were decided based on stage chemistry between different auditioning students.
The upcoming THE305 class met eight times before this semester started to read and analyze the original Hamlet. As a team, they discussed how each character would act and what their personalities would be like. Since the beginning of the semester, posters were displayed on campus, teasers for the play were put out on social media and mentioning of the play was in the Student Digest as well as in a radio interview with WNBZ-FM, a Plattsburgh broadcast radio station.
Last week, The Ophelia Perspective was finally released on Youtube. Normally, the play would have been released in March, but this play specifically, required more time for cinematographer and editor Benjamin Jones to film and edit, because the play was virtual instead of on a stage in person.
Not only does the play switch perspectives, it has dance scenes from stage manager Autumn Knight, an iMessage conversation between Ophelia and Hamlet and a “To Be or Not to Be” game show. Benjamin Jones, who is also a musician, composed an original score for the play in order to avoid paying heavy royalty fees for using someone else’s songs.
Originally, the play was only going to be aired through the weekend, from April 9-11. Now, the play will be up for the remainder of this week, and potentially until the end of the semester. This was decided to allow students another opportunity to check out the play for anyone who missed it or wanted to watch it again.
With The Ophelia Perspective, we get to see Ophelia’s side of things, since Hamlet tends to overlook its female characters. For example, Hamlet doesn’t go into much detail about Ophelia. Readers only know the gist of who Ophelia is- the girlfriend of Hamlet (until they break up) who lost her mother when she was ten and who is constantly manipulated by the men in her life.
The near-modern-day spinoff starts off with Ophelia seeing a therapist for the first time. When the therapist asks her if she would be okay with taking medication she refuses right away. As the play goes on, things start to unfold that allow the audience to understand why she declines so quickly, why she’s seeing a therapist in the first place and why her therapist eventually has to place her in the building as a psych ward patient.
Now that the play is done, Shwartau says she feels somewhat lost but happy to complete it. Other crew members have noted how they feel about the play’s completion as well.
Lighting Designer and special education major Amanda Rice said her favorite thing about the play was The experience itself of managing a production in the time of a global pandemic where all around the world theatres and shows are being delayed or canceled. “Through all the ups and downs, we were still able to work together as cast and crew to help each other learn and grow. In this time of uncertainty there is always one thing I’m certain of and it’s that the bonds and new information we all learn from each other and from the show will help us grow and support our next projects and ourselves as actors and crew members,” said Rice.
Knight, who is a graduating senior and theatre major, also saw the play as challenging but successful. “It was amazing to finally have this film released. It was a lot of work recording scenes and making sure the filming process followed Covid guidelines. It was also stressful because we were on a schedule and we wanted to make sure everything was filmed in case we had to go back home,” said Knight, “I am happy with the final product.”