Nashville Shakespeare Festival celebrates 30 years
Kicks off season with Hamlet, starring Sam Ashdown

  Sam Ashdown as Hamlet and Chelsea Bell as Ophelia.  (photo: Rick Malkin)

Sam Ashdown as Hamlet and Chelsea Bell as Ophelia. (photo: Rick Malkin)

The Nashville Shakespeare Festival is heading into its 3rd decade of producing Shakespeare for the Mid-South community.

The 30th anniversary season kicks off with Hamlet, Shakespeare’s most famous work. Artistic Director Denice Hicks directs this intimate production that takes you on a journey into the minds and hearts of the royal family of Denmark in their darkest time. Prince Hamlet is torn between two unbearable situations: either living with his father’s murderer or committing murder himself. The show runs January 4-28 at Belmont’s Troutt Theatre in Nashville and then tours to MTSU’s Tucker Theatre in Murfreesboro from January 31- February 3, 2018.

“The Hamlet cast is the strongest ensemble we’ve ever assembled,” said Hicks “It’s marvelously diverse with regular NSF favorites and many new faces.” Women are playing two of the traditionally male roles in the play. Horatio, Hamlet’s best friend, will be played by Melinda Paul, and Lauren Berst will play Marcellus. Of the gender bent casting, Hicks says simply, “They were the best actors for those parts.”

Making his Nashville theatre debut in the title role is Sam Ashdown, a magnetic up-and-coming film and stage actor who boasts an impressive resume, having performed with companies across the country. Also a standout among the cast is Cheryl White (Gertrude), a Los Angeles transplant who has over 60 TV shows under her belt, including Major Crimes and Resurrection. The rest of the cast includes: Chelsea Bell (Ophelia), Roger Csaki (Claudius), Ethan Jones (Polonius), Audrey Tchoukoua (Laertes), Brian Russell (Ghost), Shawn Knight (Bernardo/Osric), Andy Kanies (Rosencrantz), and Santiago Sosa (Guildenstern).

Enhancing the story and creating the emotional atmosphere for the play will be an original score composed and played live by Natalie Bell and Jack Kingsley. Emerging artist Sam Lowry is designing the set and projections that will take the audience into each location in Elsinore, from graveyard to castle battlements to the great hall. Costume designer Jessica Mueller will be dressing the court in timeless elegance using a royal jewel tone palette that will contrast with Hamlet’s black attire. Lights will be designed by Anne Willingham and fights choreographed by David Wilkerson.

Performances at Belmont’s Troutt Theater (2112 Belmont Blvd, Nashville) are Jan 4–28, Thursdays–Saturdays at 7:30 pm; and Sundays at 2:30 pm. At MTSU’s Tucker Theatre (615 Champion Way, Murfreesboro) performances are Jan 31–Feb 3, Wednesday–Saturday at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $29 in advance/$32 at the door. Purchase tickets and VIP Royal Packages at nashvilleshakes.org.

Up next in Nashville Shakespeare’s 30th anniversary season, in April, is a special benefit performance by Denice Hicks of a new, one-woman show written and directed by Mark Cabus, called The Maiden Phoenix. Then, there will be a very special ‘Bard’s Birthday Bash’ on April 23 in collaboration with Vanderbilt University. Our 30th anniversary Shakespeare in the Park in August/September 2018 will be a magical, celebratory production of the Bard’s most beloved comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And in our Pop-Upright Shakespeare series, six directors will mobilize Shakespearean casts to diverse locations around Nashville to perform edited versions of Shakespeare’s most unusual plays ‘Upright’ style.

All of NSF’s programming is supported in part by Metro Nashville Arts Commission and the Tennessee Arts Commission.

Hamlet is supported in part by Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. The Nashville Shakespeare Festival is one of 40 professional theater companies selected to participate in bringing the finest productions of Shakespeare to middle and high school students in communities across the United States.




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