MUSSMANN'S H.A.M.L.E.T.

re-written and directed by: Linda Mussmann
in collaboration with & performed by: Claudia Bruce & Gerald Stoddard
set design: Jun Maeda

performance schedule:
December 5 - 22, 2002
Thursday - Saturday 8:00pm
Sunday 2:30pm
First Floor Theatre
tickets $15.00


Linda Mussmann has created a new mixed-media production, "H.A.M.L.E.T.," that stages Shakespeare's timeless tale with only two actors. A deconstructionist tragic comedy at heart, it reflects Mussmann's history of social activism and incorporates performance, music, and political commentary. It is the product of an ongoing collaboration between director/writer Mussmann and actor Claudia Bruce. Hamlet is played by Gerald Stoddard.Played by only two actors, "H.A.M.L.E.T." focuses on the bond between the Prince and Gertrude and speaks to timeless questions about war and revenge. Gerald Stoddard plays Hamlet and Guildenstern; he sings, dances and makes experimental videos. Claudia Bruce, playing Gertrude and everybody else, shares the stage in a darkly comical, hat-changing performance. The production explores the relationship between the lost Prince and the Queen Mother of Denmark, using an irreverent, post-modern, vaudevillian approach. Preliminary performances began a year ago at Mussmann and Bruce's Time & Space Limited [TSL], one of the Hudson Valley region's only alternative art spaces, which operates out of a large converted warehouse in Hudson, NY. The troupe was founded in 1973 and operated for nearly two decades in Manhattan as a theater company. Under the direction of Linda Mussmann and Claudia Bruce, it moved to Hudson, NY in 1991 where it has established itself as a performing arts center. It presents original and adapted theatrical productions and film screenings; in addition, it hosts special events including community gatherings, guest performances, art exhibitions, and youth projects. Reflected also in the production is Mussmann's history of social activism. In the 1960s, she and Bruce grew up on the radical issues of their times. They continue to address human rights in their work (with a keen eye on feminism and gay rights), and they are strongly against the war in Iraq. Since moving to Hudson, their attention has been focused on local issues involving the environment (the fight to stop St. Lawrence Cement), plans to sell the local back up water supply, efforts to employ Hudson's Bangladesh community, and community outreach to Hudson's youth. Mussmann and Bruce know that there is no life without art and no art without politics. Maintaining a fine line between their work in art and in life, last year Mussmann ran for Mayor of Hudson NY on a third party line (The Bottom Line) and got 22% of the vote. "H.A.M.L.E.T." is a result of her immersion in local politics and her thinking about the relationship between mothers and sons, fathers and sons, and about America's policy of revenge after September 11, 200l. Responding to the current political and social landscape, "H.A.M.L.E.T." also comments on the Middle East struggle. By using video monitors to run commentary about the pending war with Iraq, Mussmann points to similarities between Hamlet's family and the Bush family, alluding to filial obligation. As a revenge play, the son's challenge is not only to defend Denmark from invasion but, more importantly, to pay back his father's death. Mussmann hints at similar machinations being played out in the White House today. Mussmann and the players continue to make art outside the box with this play, using strong, sculptural visuals and haphazardly beautiful monologues set to music. Somewhere between David Lynch and Broadway, the musical vignettes shared by Stoddard and Bruce are inventive, funny, surreal and occasionally reminiscent of the Marx Brothers. The performance is divided into short scenes, incorporating both high drama and variety-show-like stunts. A host of comic gags are played out between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It all makes for a raucous, unpredictable adventure, to which Mussmann, who is usually identified with more serious fare, quips, "Why not? Life's short!" Gerald Stoddard (Hamlet) is a composer/musician from Hudson who has worked with TSL for the last two years. His compositions, singing and video work are in the project. He has acted in a variety of productions in Santa Cruz and Los Angeles. La MaMa, under the direction of Ellen Stewart, has been a supporter of Mussmann and Bruce since l980. Last spring, Mussmann directed her autobiographical play, "Blind in Time," there. Set design is by La MaMa resident artist Jun Maeda, who has designed many sets for TSL and designed "Blind in Time" last season. Videos are by Stoddard and Mussmann. Music is by Stoddard and Bruce. Lighting is by Mussmann. Time & Space Limited [TSL] is supported by box office receipts, commissioned works, grants, and the ongoing support of hundreds of members in the Hudson Valley Region. Its film series, performances, and presenting series are made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts.Time and Space Limited Website
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