This play won nearly every major award in state contest

A hurricane named Ian could not stop Venice Theater.

While Hurricane Ian destroyed the theater’s stage house, main stage and auditorium, the number two community theater in the United States (of some 10,000) began performing again this past weekend, albeit in a new temporary theater within the Raymond Center.

That this first production in the temporary Raymond Center Theatre was “Hamlet P.O.V.” is another indication of what makes this community’s theater so special.

Hamlet P.O.V. – 2022

With Vera Samuels as Hamlet, this production nearly made a clean sweep of awards in August at the State Theatre Festival at Theatre Winter Haven, winning: Best scenic design for Tim Wisgerhof, Best Lighting Design for John Michael Andzulis, Best Sound Design for Nate Blaweiss, Best Director for the theaters’ producing executive director Murray Chase, Spirit of the Road Award for Best Crew, co-winner of the Best Production Award and Best Actress Award for Samuels.

This play could not win Best Actor because it had none in the production.

Shakespeare cast only men in his plays. That being the case, there was nothing wrong with Chase casting a female in the role of Hamlet in this day and age.

An interesting aside is that she had never read Hamlet nor seen a production and thus, could make her interpretation of this famous character her own. That she did, with sensitivity, flare, ingenuity and several other emotions, which manage to relate this classic story in fewer than 55 minutes (festival rules require performances to be completed in 60 minutes or less).

Her performance featured a range of emotions from this troubled character who smoked a bong, fenced, seemed to speak with various characters unseen by those of us in the audience and more, while unveiling the character of theater’s most famous character in less than an hour, rather than four hours.

This production travels next to the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Lexington, Kentucky, March 1-5, and then if, or when it wins there, to the national conference of community theaters in Louisville, Kentucky, June 12-17.

As the first production in the new temporary 124-seat theater in the Raymond Center, “Hamlet” is proof positive of what makes Venice Theatre such an asset to Venice. From its education programs to its entertainment value, the way it is handling, with help from the community in the form of loaned classrooms and performance venues, the devastating blow dealt by Hurricane Ian is inspiring.