Night & Day — Nobody produces “Hamlet” unless they already have an actor in mind to star in the challenging Shakespearian production.
That’s according to Saul Elkin, founder of Buffalo’s Shakespeare in the Park, who, when he decided to produce “Hamlet” as his opening play this summer, knew just who he wanted in the title role — Niagara Falls native Shaun Sheley.
“The only reason to do ‘Hamlet’ is if you have an actor to play it,” said Elkin, an much lauded actor in his own right, who explained that Sheley has the acting skills and the physicality for the role.
“Shaun also happens to be very experienced in stage combat,” Elkin added. “There’s a fight scene at the end of the play that is really breathtaking to watch, even now in the early stages of rehearsal.”
For Sheley, a graduate from the theater department at Niagara University, who has been acting and teaching in St. Louis, Mo., coming home to take the role is an opportunity not only to see family and friends, but to play the part of a lifetime.
“Every actor wants to play Hamlet,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated with the role. When I was at Niagara, I used to bug everybody to do ‘Hamlet.’”
One of the reasons he loves the play, he said, is that the plot is as good as any Hollywood movie.
“For me, Hamlet is a detective in this play. He’s solving a murder mystery, trying to figure out who killed his father,” Sheley said. The plot involves a prince whose murdered father appears as a ghost and says he was killed by Hamlet’s traitorous uncle, Claudius, who becomes king and forces Hamlet’s mother into marriage.
The role shapes the actor more than the actor shapes the role, Sheley noted. “People say you can come in with all your plans about Hamlet, but eventually the character is going to take you,” he said. “He’s going to mold you to him, you’re going to go on this wonderful ride in this imaginary journey, its’ been fun so far.”