Hamlet in love: Silverton playwright Michael Smith gives tragedy a twist

October 2010 Posted in Arts, Culture & History

By Kristine ThomasPlaywright and director Michael Smith

Michael Smith doesn’t like how Shakespeare plays with Hamlet’s emotions, taking him on roller coaster ride from rage to grief to love and back again.

So Smith did something to change the Prince of Denmark’s fate.

“I love the character of Hamlet and I am very sympathetic to him,” Smith said. “I had a terribly hard time with how Shakespeare wrote his play Hamlet. I didn’t like the tragedy and I don’t believe in ghosts so I don’t necessarily believe what happened in the play is true.”

Contemplating what rang false in the play lead Smith to think about what was true.

And that’s how he ended up writing and directing his own work, Hamlet in Love. It’s a fresh take on Hamlet’s story and in Smith’s version– unlike Shakespeare’s – no one dies and Hamlet’s love for Ophelia blossoms.

Kory Crozen, a 2005 Silverton High grad, plays Hamlet, with Diane Bates, Kelley Morehouse, Vere McCarty, Alfred St. John Smith and Norman Gouveia completing the cast. They rehearse in Smith’s studio, a remodeled chicken coop.

Hamlet in Love
An original play
by Michael Smith
8 p.m. Nov. 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13
2 p.m. Nov. 14
Black Box Theater
Silverton High
1456 Pine St. Tickets:
$10 general, $5 students

With the actors shifting from talking in a “Shakespearean way” to like today’s teens, Smith said he writes from a director’s point of view, always thinking about how the play should move with a rhythm and change directions with elements of surprise.

Chuckling, he can only imagine what Shakespeare would think if he were sitting in the audience and heard Hamlet say about Ophelia, “Are you kidding? She is a total fox.”

Smith has written several plays. His work has been produced in New York, London, Denver and Santa Barbara. He has received awards but Smith, 75, shies away from talking about the first play he wrote. “I wrote it as a private joke,” he said. “But it’s the play that lead me to writing.”

A graduate of Yale University, he moved to New York to direct for the theater. He got his first job as a theater critic for The Village Voice. He has directed many plays.

Over the years, he has seen “thousands of plays. I love all the elements of theater,” he said. “I love to see what works and what doesn’t.”

He writes a daily blog and recently had a book published of his poetry. He and his partner, Carol Storke, moved from Santa Barbara to Silverton a few years ago with Smith eagerly getting involved in arts-related projects including Brush Creek Playhouse and the Silverton Poetry Association.

“Since I was a teen, I’ve wanted to be a writer,” Smith said. “Writing happens wherever I am.”

What he writes, he said, is based on his personal experiences and ideas. And when he writes and directs a play it must be believable.

“I have lots of ideas to explore and things I want to write about,” he said. “My challenge to myself is to write plays no one else is.”

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