BROWNSTOWN

If you like many a Dr. Seuss rhyme, head to Royal-Off-the-Square Theatre this weekend for a good time.

The show features William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” with a modern twist. It’s a story line you just can’t resist.

There’s Hamlet and Claudius and Horatio, too. All the young actors want to see in the crowd is you.

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The Jackson County Young Artists’ Theatre production of “Seusspeare: Hamlet Hears a Who,” a Seussified spoof of one of Shakespeare’s classic stories, debuts at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the theater at 121 W. Walnut St., Brownstown. The show also will be at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 3 and 4.

While Hamlet battles his sanity as he seeks the truth behind his father’s untimely death, the unique retelling, written by Christina Hamlett and Jamie Dare, includes characters who won’t put down their cellphones and features other modern-day references.

Julie Rohlfing, co-director of the play with her husband, John, said many of the 26 actors, ages 7 to 18, haven’t been exposed to Shakespeare, but most should know Seuss.

“Every one of these kids will know ‘Hamlet’ inside and out for all of their high school years, I’m sure,” she said.

Rohlfing said a Jackson County Community Theatre board member who is an English teacher in Columbus attended one of the rehearsals and read the script and was intrigued.

“The script is true to the story, so there’s really no veer-off. From that perspective, that was really great,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we were teaching them correct Shakespeare.”

William Rudzinski, 14, an eighth-grader at Immanuel Lutheran School in Seymour, plays the lead role of Hamlet.

He has performed in community theater in Columbus and at school, but this is his first Jackson County Young Artists’ Theatre show.

“This particular play is interesting because you have so many entrances that we can go through and just the way the stage is set up,” he said, noting there are several times he leaves the stage and is being handed props for the next scene. “It’s really fun interacting with lots of other characters.”

The way the story line is written makes it interesting, Rudzinski said.

“When you memorize the lines, it’s a lot easier because you know the next line is going to rhyme,” he said. “However, you can’t really add much. You have a set amount (of words) that you have to use.”

Since Shakespeare is new to a lot of the actors, Rudzinski said it’s a good learning experience. Before this play, the only Shakespeare he knew was “The Taming of the Shrew,” which he saw his cousin perform in college.

“I just think it’s really cool that it’s ranging from a very young age all the way up to high school,” he said of the play’s actors. “It’s just a wide range, but they all gather and mix well together, and it kind of shows variety.”

Katie Rohlfing, 15, a sophomore at Brownstown Central High School, portrays Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude.

She said the play is a good introduction to Shakespeare for the younger kids because they will read his works later on in school.

“We have a lot of new people to our theater now for this show, and it’s good because during these shows, when something Shakespeare is a part of it, (John Rohlfing) tries to explain it to us and what it is meaning so we’ll understand it,” she said.

Rohlfing has acted for eight years and is participating in her second Young Artists’ show, and she said this is her favorite.

“Unlike most high-schoolers, I like reading Shakespeare,” she said. “Just getting to perform it is amazing.”

Julie Rohlfing said she and her husband chose the play because they wanted to challenge the young actors.

“The plays and musicals that they are doing are ones that are written for college-age theater and young adult theater,” she said. “They wanted to do something more along a drama line because we’ve done quite a few comedies with them, and this one is really a challenge for them because from the actor perspective, it is played as a complete drama.”

It teaches them about the “invisible wall” between the audience and the stage, she said.

“We chose it from the audience perspective, it was going to be funny, and it was going to be a neat show to see,” she said. “But from (the actors’) perspective, it was going to challenge them in the area of having to act from a drama perspective.”

Julie Rohlfing said Jackson County Young Artists’ Theatre has grown since it started in June 2015. It now features 98 families.

More than 60 kids auditioned for “Seusspeare: Hamlet Hears a Who.”

A children’s theater workshop is set for June 5 through 9, and the next show will be “Dorothy in Wonderland” in July. The third and final show of the year will be in the fall.

“JCCT has committed to let the kids do three shows per year, which is a huge investment,” Julie Rohlfing said.

If you go

What: Jackson County Young Artists’ Theatre production of “Seusspeare: Hamlet Hears a Who”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 3 and 4

Where: Royal-Off-the-Square Theatre, 121 W. Walnut St., Brownstown.

Who: 26 actors ranging in age from 7 to 18; directed by John and Julie Rohlfing

Tickets: $8; may be purchased online at jcct.org, by calling 812-358-5228 or at the door

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.