Behind the scenes of Cal’s ‘Hamlet’ production

Drama class’s show this weekend clears many hurdles thanks to amazing cast and crew


Nico Arango

Cal High’s production of “Hamlet” will be streamed Feb. 11-16. Students iperforming include, from left to right, Gavin Preisser as King Claudius, Jennifer Casavant as Queen Gertrude, and Jude Lee as Marcellus.

Usually in drama teacher Laura Woods’ theatre productions, numerous rehearsals and practice performances are hosted after school to prepare for the semester show. Dozens of people work backstage to paint backdrops and make props while actors and actresses memorize lines.

But this year’s virtual production of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, which can be streamed Feb. 11-16, is unlike any other. Streaming tickets can be purchased at the box office.

“Since COVID, our production will be way different,” said senior Kevan Vu, who plays the role of Horatio, Hamlet’s trusted friend and confidant. “Rehearsals really weren’t conducted, which was quite odd, but it was a compromise we had to do to get this done.”

Rehearsals are a large part of the production process, so one might wonder how the crew went through a seamless run of the play.

“It’s being filmed and spliced together by the techies of this year,” Vu said of the students who are working behind the scenes to ensure the production runs smoothly and efficiently with all the necessary equipment and effects.

Woods said that each techie was assigned an actor to pin to their screen and record.

“I liked the process, especially being able to re-shoot scenes that didn’t quite work,” Woods said.

Senior Olivia Kelleter, who plays Ophelia, Hamlet’s potential wife, attributes much of the production’s success to the cast and crew members.

“The cast had to act over Zoom while the techies filmed and edited it all together, and that in itself is amazing and dedicated hard work,” Kelleter said. “Normally, preparation for a show would look a lot different than how it is virtually. The auditions, character work, set design and building, light designs, and rehearsals would all be done in person.”

Under normal circumstances, the cast and crew would build bonds off-stage. This year, rehearsals were conducted over Zoom breakout rooms.

“It’s been really hard, but the cast has made it more fun,” said senior Jude Lee, who plays Marcellus, a sentry at Elsinore.

Added Woods, “The cast and crew were rock stars! They were so professional and patient with each other. I think we all want to produce good work and know that each person in the class plays an important role. Even though we are at home, we still felt like an ensemble.”

Woods had to make sure that the actors had memorized all their lines and were off-book earlier than usual. Since the filming and editing process would take several weeks, it was important that all the actors were ready to shoot their scenes.

On top of that, Woods also accounted for reshoots and pick-up shots, which were done in January. She also had to make some adjustments when it came to props and costumes for the cast.

“Our teacher had to special order costumes for some of us,” Lee said.

Woods had to use Amazon to get costumes sent to her actors’ houses.

“I dropped off swords to the actors playing Hamlet and Laertes in early December so everyone had what they needed,” Woods said.

Kelleter said there were numerous challenges the cast and crew members went through, but the fact that they were able to adapt and overcome them helped make the production a success.

“Overall, almost everything about the rehearsal process changed when done virtually, which was a challenge, but one that I think we achieved pretty well for a bunch of non-professional teenage actors,” Kelleter said. “Honestly, I would say the cast and crew were the best thing for this show, they’re all so insanely talented and cooperative. Everything that the show is, is from our hard work.”