Deconstructing Hamlet

February, 2009

by Barbra Alan

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Moses and Cox in Grillos's creations. Newfound Photography photo.

Murder. Lust. Deceit. Madness.  Plymouth State University’s production of Hamlet had it all.  But just what did it take to bring Shakespeare’s quintessential dramatic work to life last fall?  Plymouth Magazine talked to some of the many people who made it happen.

camera Explore more of Hamlet:
See our online photo gallery of the performance.

The Idea

It took nearly two years to bring Hamlet to the stage in the Silver Center for the Arts’ Studio Theatre. “I had been talking with Kevin Asselin, a former student of mine, for a while about coming back to play Hamlet,” explains Beth Cox, director of theatre and professor of theatre. “But it was difficult to find a time that worked with his schedule.”

As an actor, director, fight choreographer, and carpenter, Kevin Asselin ’97 has something quite rare among theatre professionals—career stability. After graduating from Plymouth State, he continued his theatre studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2000, Asselin moved to Chicago, where he has since worked with numerous theatre companies, including the famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and The Writer’s Theatre. He was recently nominated for a Jeff Award (known as Chicago’s version of the Tony Awards) for best fight choreography for As You Like It.

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Shakespeare scholars estimate that the Bard wrote Hamlet between 1599 and 1601.

“We were both anxious to put on Hamlet,” notes Asselin, who, with Cox, agreed to an early fall 2008 production. “We figured it was better to do it while I’m still young enough to jump into the role.”

This wasn’t the first time Asselin lent his professional skills to his alma mater. “Kevin has been back a few times as an instructor and director, but this is the first time he’s come back to act,” says Cox, adding that Asselin also taught a stage combat class and a unit on Shakespeare in her Acting III class while working on Hamlet. “It’s great for the students to see someone closer to their age who is working professionally and making a living in the theatre.”

For Asselin, returning to PSU to act brought forth many memories and emotions. “As a student, I had a lot of things holding me back in my acting,” he reflects, noting that he had a tendency to speak his lines too rapidly. “Over the years, I’ve worked hard at settling into my voice and finding the enjoyment of words and language. So, to come back to PSU and act with a sense of relaxation, understanding, and maturity, and to have it recognized by my former instructors, has been amazing and emotional for me.”


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