No fear Shakespeare


Asking advice from his right hand man Kevin Padilla who plays Claudius with Polonious, Randell Millan, in the play Canned Hamlet on, May 24, at schools Theater. The classic Hamlet for Dummies was directed by Jeanette Yoko Nitao and Patrick Solis.

Zaira Zamora, Writer

Taking their own twist on a Shakespeare classic, the drama production class performed Canned Hamlet from May 24 to  May 25, at 6:00 p.m., in the Downey High School Theater. The play was student produced, student directed, and student acted proving the creativity and self-independence of the members involved.

Canned Hamlet is based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which the main character, Hamlet, has suffered through his father’s death and has to face the fact that his mother is now married to his uncle. After his father’s ghost appears, Hamlet discovers that his uncle, the new king, was the one who murdered his dad and he sets out to avenge his father’s death.

In the parody, written by Tim Kochenderfer, Hamlet’s father also dies, but as a result of a poisoned tomato that his brother, Claudius, offered him. Or so it is said at the beginning, as later on it appears Hamlet’s father was killed by a cannon that Claudius pointed at him. It was surely not the “effect that tomatoes have on people” as Hamlet believed. The incredulous and forgetful guard, the childish and humorous behavior of the king, and the repeated interruption of Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech earned the most laughs.

The production was directed by seniors Patrick Solis and Jeanette Yoko Nitao who also played the main characters, Hamlet and Ophelia. The cast was decided based on the number of people in the class available to play the roles.

“I never intended to actually act in the play, but we were short on actors and we had to pull through,” Solis said.

Other major roles belonged to Kevin Padilla and Justina Clark who acted as the evil King Claudius and Queen Gertrude. Derrin Goudy played the ghost of Hamlet’s deceased father as well as the vampire and Fortibras. Randell Milan also took on three roles as Polonius, Richard III, and Man. The guards were portrayed by Anthony Rachel as Horatio, Jonathan Flores as Bernardo, and Nick Mezeraani as Marcellus. Marco Arroyo played Francisco and Laertes, Marissa Morales was the old maid, and Seleney Jimenez and Fernando Torrez were Guards 1 and 2.

The short number of available actors and having to multi-task through the rehearsals was a role that the students claim was both challenging and rewarding.

“It was kind of difficult because I had to learn my lines and at the same time make sure everybody else knew their lines,” Nitao said, “so I was in the back directing them while I recited my lines too.”

Drama Production knew that they had to put on a show, but the power to choose exactly which script was entirely under their control. The student directors found ease making the decision after they stumbled upon Kochenderfer’s script.

“Patrick actually found it in the library of Mr. Hansen’s scripts and thought it would be fun to parody it because we were reading it for English class,” Nitao said.

Before Canned Hamlet began, there was a short parody of The Glass Menagerie to start off the night. A brief ten minute break followed shortly after in which Mr. Hansen, the drama production teacher, took the opportunity to thank the audience for attending and talk about the upcoming production, Starmites.

Starmites will be coming to the Downey Theater on June 18 and tickets are now on sale. Mr. Hansen said students have worked extremely hard on the production and they will not disappoint.”

The students definitely faced some challenges, but the finishing product was worth the effort. The audience enjoyed the parody and throughout the night the theater filled with laughter and applause.