Students meet Shakespeare characters

By Lindsey Harris
Correspondent

On Thursday, Nov. 10, and Friday, Nov. 11, All College Theatre (ACT) presented “A Murder Most Foul,” an interactive dinner theater where the audience was able to mingle with Shakespeare characters while trying to help the cast solve the mystery: Who killed Hamlet?

Thirty minutes before the show, the characters were walking around and interacting with the audience. They explained that their director, Billy Pearson (played by Rob Birnbohm, one of The Signal’s cartoonists) has had them method acting for the past four weeks, in honor of Shakespeare’s 400th “deathiversary.”

The cast explained that they, along with the audience, are all at a Shakespeare festival, and they’re in character awaiting their respective shows, such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet” and “Macbeth.”

Slightly out of character, however, Joely Torres as Juliet said she goes to New York University, while Kelly Colleran as Macbeth carries around a copy of Stephen King’s “It.” They’re regular young people who are developing traits of their assigned roles. The characters all seemed to be tense, even before the murder of Hamlet backstage.

“To be honest, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth are the best,” Macbeth said onstage.

“It’s only Romeo and Juliet,” Juliet whispered back, and the two continued to bicker and curse at each other.

Juliet was cynical, likely due to her tragic love story.

“Do you know how many people have asked me for love advice in the past 15 minutes?” she asked. “Has anyone ever even seen the play?”

And this was all before the real show began. After dinner was served, everyone was eager to watch the rest of the show.

“I came last year. It’s really fun, the food is really good, too,” said Katherine Smith, a sophomore communication studies and women’s and gender studies double major.

Once the show started, the opening lines of “Hamlet” were recited before a scream from backstage was heard. Ophelia (played by Kate Augustin) ran onto the main stage and yelled, “Hamlet is dead!”

Confused, as Hamlet isn’t supposed to be dead until the end of the play, they just looked at her until she said more clearly, “Guys, Dale is dead!”

Throughout the entire room, the cast started panicking about their colleague’s death. In an attempt to stop the chaos, character Nick Bottom (played by Haley Witko) walked across a dinner table in the audience and said, “The show must go on.”

While reciting Hamlet, “To be or not to be, that is the question,” the cast members who weren’t backstage during the murder interrupted Bottom to lead an investigation.

Calling everyone to the stage for interrogation, the main characters of the featured Shakespeare plays were at the forefront. Meanwhile, the other extras remained in the audience, scattered from table to table to create a surround sound for the audience as the chaotic first act ensued.

At the end of the first act’s madness, Lady MacBeth iterated, “I need some pie. I think we all need pie. Can we get some pie up here?” While the audience looks around at each other, she introduced intermission by reiterating, “The people need pie!”

During intermission, the audience was offered pie and cookies and the cast enjoyed it with them, while still in character.

“The backstories are really cool,” junior biology major Amanda Pegher said. “One girl told me she was 17 and got accepted to Brown, and I was like ‘What? And you’re going to TCNJ?’”

The characters defended themselves to the audience during intermission, but were soon called back to the stage, where the audience could ask interrogate the cast.

After the Q and A, the cast returned to determine who the murderer was among them.

After Bottom claimed a dagger that the cast had discovered, she explained that she was planning on murdering Hamlet for his role, but didn’t need to stab him when she was able to push him under a sandbag falling from the rafters above. The others tied her up, and a police officer arrived to take Bottom away.