Before winning an Oscar as a writer of Shakespeare in Love, Tom Stoppard delivered another ingenious comic retelling involving the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon. In 1967 he dove into the world’s most famous play, Hamlet, and retold it from the point of view of two bumbling support players. The entire world is a stage, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern play their part, finding themselves unwitting pawns in history’s greatest tragedy.
This contemporary classic of the theater was the winner of both the Tony and NY Drama Critics Circle awards when it premiered. Simply: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are the college chums of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and this is the story of what “really” happened behind the scenes. What were they doing there in Elsinore anyway? The Players come and go; Hamlet comes through reading words, words, words; foul deeds are done; Hamlet is sent abroad, escapes death; and in turn Rosencrantz and Guildenstern find their only true exit.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead has also drawn many parallels to another play – Samuel Beckett’s absurdist Waiting for Godot, particularly in the main characters’ feelings of lack of purpose and incomprehension of their situation.
In 1991, the play was turned into a film featuring Tim Roth and Gary Oldman as the title characters and Richard Dreyfuss as the Lead Player. The film won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
Stoppard says of his play that “Quite a lot of solemn and scholarly stuff has been written about it…” but insists, “…whatever else it is, is a comedy. My intention was comic, and if the play had not turned out funny I would have considered that I had failed.”
About the Playwright
Tom Stoppard is the author of over two dozen plays and numerous screenplays. Stoppard is considered to be a master of comic invention, visual humor, and remarkably witty wordplay. He uses his considerable skills to investigate philosophical questions in an extremely entertaining manner. In 2007 Stoppard won a Tony Award for his play Coast of Utopia and was also knighted in his home of England.
- Katrina Stevenson – Director
- Jennifer Longmuir – Stage Manager
- Jason Evans – Polonius / Tragedian
- Jaime Giangrande-Holcom – Ophelia / Horatio
- Kari Goetz – Gertrude / Alfred
- David M. Jenkins – Rosencrantz
- Matt Lunsford – Hamlet / Tragedian
- Michael C. McGreevy – Claudius / Tragedian
- Shawn Paonessa – Guildenstern
- Paul J. Potenza – The Player
- Karla Hartley – Lighting Designer
- Spencer Meyers – Costume Designer
- Brian M. Smallheer – Scenic Designer
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