Ghosts, pratfalls, Shakespeare and swordplay

En garde! 

Paul Rudnick’s I Hate Hamlet will soon be making its way to the Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage. This tongue-in-cheek comedy about the gray area where life and art coincide features ghosts, pratfalls, Shakespeare and thrilling swordplay choreographed by Rick Sordelet, a world-renowned fight choreographer with credits on Broadway (The Lion King, Waiting for Godot, Beauty and the Beast) and abroad (European tour of Ben Hur Live). Director Ablan Roblin and actors Ben Beck and Kevin Barratt answered a few questions about the upcoming production.
Kevin Barratt as John Barrymore and Ben Beck as Andrew
What’s been the biggest challenge for you as actor in learning this fight choreography?
Ben Beck (plays Andrew): I think the biggest challenge has been taking this choreographed fight that’s been imprinted in my mind and then adding the “acting” element. Right now it’s kind of like rubbing my tummy and patting my head.
Kevin Barratt (plays John Barrymore): For me, it’s learning it as quickly as we did. We were very early in the process when Rick [Sordelet] came in. Usually we’re given time to painstakingly go through the choreography but Rick was only here for a couple days, so it was like, “Bam! Here it is and done!”

What’s your favorite moment from the fight? A particular move or sequence?
Ben: I don’t want to give anything away!
It varies from moment to moment, run to run. Things click differently each time we run through the show.

Aside from the fight itself, have there been any unexpected challenges?
(smiling) Not yet.
Kevin Barratt as John Barrymore
What was it like working with Rick?
Ben: Rick is a wonderful teacher who can recognize each actor’s strengths and weaknesses. He’s just so supportive. And despite the time constraints, Rick was able to organically create some wonderful moments and stage pictures. I can’t imagine it coming from anyone else.
Kevin: He’s marvelous, a real gentlemen. He was so positive and honest at the same time. You never felt like he was just blowing smoke with where we were at. He was straightforward and I really appreciated that.

How have rehearsals been? Any interesting stories and/or discoveries with the cast?
Ben: I love watching the scenes I’m not blocked in. It’s great being able to step back and see the other actors take on this really funny and moving work.
Ablan Roblin (director): Rehearsals have been so great. They’re just a lot of fun. I’m thrilled that the actors are listening to each other and working well as a cast.
Ben Beck as Andrew
What can audiences expect from this show?
Ablan: They can expect to have a good time, to have a good laugh and to think.

What was it like having Rick step into rehearsals and stage the fight? Did his input influence other aspects of the show?
Ablan: Oh, yeah! Rick was staging the fight, sure, but he was also staging a scene. With that came a great sense of physical realization of the characters. He helped the actors craft their characters and helped them emerge.

You can see the Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of I Hate Hamlet, running April 17–May 10, 2015; Wednesday–Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults and $21 for students. For groups of 12 or more, adult tickets are $24 and student tickets are $16. On Wednesday, April 22, tickets are $10 to that evening's show beginning at 4 p.m. at the Box Office. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call (402) 553-0800 or click here.

Story by Noah Diaz