OSWEGO — The Acting Company, the renowned ensemble founded by actor and director John Houseman, will present two views of one of William Shakespeare’s most famous characters at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26 and 27, in Waterman Theatre at SUNY Oswego.
In a rare pairing, the 12-member touring company will perform Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and Sir Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” on the same stage on consecutive evenings.
The two plays are closely related, but worlds apart in style. While both involve the same story, setting and characters, the classic tale is told from two perspectives — one tragic and the other absurdly tragicomic.
The Acting Company is performing “Hamlet” for the first time in its 40-year history. Among Shakespeare’s most powerful and influential tragedies, it was one of the playwright’s most popular works during his lifetime and is still among the most performed.
“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” is the best-known stage work by Stoppard, the accomplished British playwright and screenwriter (“Shakespeare in Love,” “Anna Karenina”). Turning the familiar Hamlet narrative upside down, the play elevates two hapless minor characters from the original play into leading roles.
“Presenting these plays on consecutive nights lets audience members enjoy the interplay of two masterful scripts from two creative eras,” said John Shaffer, director of SUNY Oswego’s Artswego Performing Arts Series.
The Rosencrantz and Guildenstern characters appear onstage in Stoppard’s play when offstage in Shakespeare. The original Hamlet tale still advances, but now only partly comprehended — and largely in the wings.
The first of Stoppard’s plays to appear on Broadway, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” received Best Play honors from both the American Theatre Wing and New York Drama Critics Circle in 1968. Stoppard also directed the feature film version in 1990 with Gary Oldman, Tim Roth and Richard Dreyfuss.
Tony Award winner John Rando directs the production that is coming to Oswego. Along with the company’s “Hamlet,” directed by Ian Belknap, it debuted in New York City and will end its national tour with an extended run at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis.
The Acting Company has been honored with the Obie Award, the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, Citibank’s Excellence in Education Award and Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre. Former members of the ensemble, which provides classical performance experience for emerging professional actors, include Kevin Kline, Rainn Wilson and Patti LuPone. For these productions, Joshua Johnston, LuPone’s son and an Ithaca College graduate in fine arts and Academic All-American on its ice hockey team, joins the ensemble.
Tickets for each Acting Company performance in Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre are $18, or $25 for both plays. Student tickets for college or secondary school students cost $5 per performance. Information, preview videos and a link for ticket purchases are available at www.oswego.edu/arts. Tickets also may be purchased at any SUNY Oswego box office, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 315-312-2141.
Patrons with disabilities needing assistance should call 312-2141. Parking for each performance is included in the cost of the ticket, and is available in the lot in front of Culkin Hall, the rear half of the lot behind Hart and Funnelle halls and the adjacent commuter lot.
The Acting Company’s members will augment their stay on campus by appearing in at least a dozen classes, from an English course titled “Transformations” to two courses on Shakespeare, and from graphic design to philosophy.