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BIG ARTS wraps up international production of Hamlet {solo}

By Staff | Dec 17, 2013

Raoul Bhaneja in Hamlet {solo}. PHOTO PROVIDED.

The week-long production of Hamlet {solo} at the Herb Strauss Theater concluded on Dec. 5, heralding a successful two year partnership between BIG ARTS and the London-based Richard Jordan Productions.

Jordan’s international production company has been responsible for over 180 productions in 19 countries and won a Tony Award in 2013 for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, by Christopher Durang and starring Sigourney Weaver.

Originally, it had been a BIG ARTS volunteer serving on the theater committee who sparked the partnership between the two organizations after seeing one of Jordan’s shows in Chicago, and asking if he would be interested in producing something on Sanibel Island.

They have been working together ever since.

“We have been cultivating this relationship for the last two years,” said Bobby Logue, theater production manager at BIG ARTS. “They are a powerhouse.”

Although Jordan’s shows are different from the “lighter” side of theater that tourists crave, and BIG ARTS typically produces, hosting one of his international productions puts the island on the map and offers up dramatic and educational pieces for a specific type of audience.

“We felt some trepidation because they were of such a high caliber, but they were excited to get in with our theater which is growing very fast,” said Logue.

One of the biggest challenges of hosting one of his productions is logistics, said Logue, not only determining if the local theater is able to support the show but whether the cast can relocate from another part of the world.

Last year, BIG ARTS hosted Jordan’s production of Dickens’ Women starring Miriam Margolyes, an English actress of Harry Potter-fame. In the show, she portrayed many of Charles Dickens’ beloved female characters.

Hamlet {solo}, which ran this year from Nov. 30 to Dec. 5, featured Canadian actor Raoul Bhaneja as 17 different characters reading the 15,000 words of the Shakespearean tragedy. It was directed by Robert Ross Parker.

The Herb Strauss Theater offered an intimate venue for Hamlet {solo}, where Bhaneja often walked into the audience during his performance. He differentiated between characters and scenes by using movement, gesture, the pitch of his voice, and he even manufactured the sounds of a whistling wind and the moaning of a ghost.

Bhaneja stretched the power of the audience’s imagination, using his tools as an actor to bring an invisible world to life that hadn’t existed moments before the show began, with nothing but an empty stage and a black shirt with black jeans.

Betsy Bender, marketing director at BIG ARTS, said the theater’s mission is not only to entertain but also to educate, and that’s why they offered discounted tickets to students from Fort Myers High whose homework assignment was to see the show.

Logue said he was pleased with Hamlet {solo} and is in the process of deciding what shows will be produced for the theater’s 2014-2015 season. They will also negotiate with Richard Jordan Productions to decide on a suitable show and usher in a successful third year in concert.

“It’s a great relationship and they enjoy working with us and we love working with them. We hope to work with them in the future,” said Bender.

For more information about BIG ARTS or upcoming shows, visit bigarts.org.