With no auditions or rehearsals, the students brandished impromptu props like a plastic skull, originally a Halloween decoration, that stood in for “Poor Yorick” and a blown-up rubber glove with a hand-drawn face that impersonated the ghost of Hamlet’s father.
Actors drew parts randomly from a bowl, before each scene, to give them the opportunity to play more than one role.
In a room laced with glowing Christmas decorations, the actors took the stage in front of the fireplace, completing the entirety of “Hamlet” in only 50 minutes.
Event organizer and Lowell English tutor Rebecca S. Erwin explained later that Act II was skipped altogether to avoid the politics within the play and to fast-forward to the more exciting scenes.
The smell of pizza filled the room as actors prepared for the performance—not by rehearsing lines, but by eating and laughing about the props they were about to use.
Erwin kicked off the show by dubbing all the participants “the official founding members of the Lowell Last Minute Drama Society.”
At the start, actors were able to maintain their composure, but, as the show progressed, they were hard pressed to hold back the giggles.
Struggling to turn the pages in their scripts while holding props, actors continued to pour out jumbled lines, barely audible through laughter.
Entering and exiting the “stage” was a challenge in itself, occurring whenever the actors could juggle their props and scripts long enough to read the cue, or when one of the organizers barked an order from offstage: “Exit Hamlet!” Actors sheathed swords in their belt-loops and the elastics of their pants, pulling them out to punctuate fight scenes. Hamlet killed Polonius through a tapestry held by the Lowell house tutors. As the climax approached, actors deadpanned. Gertrude, the queen, drank a glass of colorful paper, meant to represent poison, and each actor languished into a dramatic death on stage.
Actor Nora K. C. Flum ’07, who last spring was in the Winthrop House Drama Society’s performance of “Cymbeline,” a lesser-known Shakespearean play, said that, as an English concentrator, she wanted to support the tutors by being a part of the performance.
“I really like Shakespeare,” she said.
Non-resident Lowell tutor Leslie E. Eckel ’98 said “Hamlet” was the play of choice because winter is the season for tragedy—although she acknowledged that the performance did morph into a comedy.
“We did it to bring some drama and to have a literary evening in Lowell,” she said.
Erwin explained that Lowell used to have a drama society, but, since no one has time for rehearsals, putting on last-minute plays is a better alternative. She said she plans to organize similar events once a semester.