By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – When the Ghost Light Players presented William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” in April 2016 at the First Church in Marlborough, its director Kat Alix-Gaudreau wished that the show’s run could get extended. She got her wish – over a year later. The Marlborough-based community theater group reprised its production of “Hamlet” from Aug. 7 to 11 at the 70th anniversary of the famed Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland.
According to its website, “The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the single biggest celebration of arts and culture on the planet.”
Reflecting on their year-long journey from Marlborough to the festival commonly known as the Fringe, Alix-Gaudreau said, “We were just starting to feel comfortable with the show as we were finishing up last year’s run. If there ever was a cast and show that I would want to bring to an international festival, this would be the one.”
Soon after the “Hamlet” performers took their final bows last year in Marlborough, she emailed the cast and crew to ask if each was interested and available to participate in the 2017 Fringe. Within 48 hours, all replied affirmatively. The first task was script editing to accommodate the Fringe’s performance time limit.
“We had to cut an almost three-hour show down to 90 minutes,” Alix-Gaudreau noted.
A crowdfunding campaign in October 2016 raised about $10,000 toward travel expenses. A preview of the 90-minute “Hamlet” was presented free of charge July 28, 2017, at the Marlborough Senior Center with VIP seating as a perk for the fundraiser donors. A grant from the Marlborough Cultural Council offset some costs. Cast and crew members also contributed toward expenses.
On Aug. 5, Alix-Gaudreau and the other local theater enthusiasts flew to Scotland’s capital. The cast featured Roger Alix-Gaudreau, Amy DeMar-DuBois, Jennifer Drummond, Jonathan Dunlea, Quinton Kappel, Michelle Leibowitz, Chris J.M. Maloney, Anne Slotnick, Rob Slotnick, Alex Wersted and Julian Willard. Joining Alix-Gaudreau on the crew were Kim Beauchemin, Jess Brennan, Cliff Dike, Will Gelinas, Krisha Maynard, Jacob C. McDonald, Luke McDonald, Lori Rabeler and Alecia Thomas.
All of the cast’s costumes were packed into two suitcases. For the Marlborough production, the stage set consisted of two wooden cubes; for the Fringe, collapsible wooden cubes were created of which separate pieces were packed into six suitcases. An additional baggage fee was charged only for a case that carried stage swords used in a dueling scene.
The following day they conducted a three-hour technical rehearsal in which every minute counted. On performance days, they needed to set up in 10 minutes and break down in five.
“That tech rehearsal was crucial,” Alix-Gaudreau recalled. “We had to figure how to get in there and be ready for our audience to walk in the door nine minutes after we did.”
Time spent rehearsing, fundraising and traveling culminated Aug. 7 when they made their overseas debut.
“It didn’t seem real until after the first performance,” Alix-Gaudreau acknowledged. “Afterward, we walked outside where there’s theater and music happening all around with thousands of people. It was truly an amazing experience.”
Their venue was filled to capacity for each of the five performances. Alix-Gaudreau particularly appreciated their Aug. 11 performance at the Fringe.
“The lights went down at the end of our last performance and before the applause began, someone in the audience audibly said, ‘Wow!’” she relayed. “It’s a real honor for us that the international audience over there responded the way they did to our production of ‘Hamlet.’”