BYU’s Young Company Takes Shakespeare to the Skatepark in ‘Hamlet’

The production will run in the Nelke Theatre before touring local elementary schools

Shakespeare heads to the skatepark when the BYU Young Company’s “Hamlet” opens Feb. 5.

“I saw an audition notice that said ‘to skate or not to skate,’ and I knew I wanted to be a part of this show,” said Clark Allen, who plays Hamlet. “Skateboards and Shakespeare are two awesome things that you don’t usually see together. It makes the production feel very fresh and genuine.”

While “Hamlet” is one of Shakespeare’s most beloved and often-performed plays, it isn’t a show that typically comes to mind when most people think of theatre for young audiences. For Emma Larsen — the production’s Horatio — figuring out how to present the classic characters and themes in a way that would be beneficial for children has been one of the most rewarding aspects of the rehearsal process.

“Young audiences don’t often get a chance to be exposed to Shakespeare — especially Shakespeare’s tragedies,” said Larsen. “We deal with some sad, hard things in this show, and we’ve had to find ways to bring these messages to kids in a way that is powerful, but isn’t too dark. It’s a balancing act, but it’s exciting.” 

Under the direction of theatre professor Teresa Dayley Love, the Young Company performers learned their lines while also learning how to skateboard — a new experience for most of the cast. Allen believes that this unique depiction of Hamlet’s world will draw in younger audiences and help them better connect with the text of the play.

“The lines of the play won’t necessarily be transparent to young audiences, but I hope that the messages will come through to them in a sort of raw way,” he said. “This play deals with death and fighting and bitterness, but I think it also allows kids to learn about these difficult topics and emotions in a safe and constructive way. All of us will inevitably experience loss — some of these kids already have — and there are important lessons here about how to deal with grief and how to treat those around you.”

Allen hopes that audiences of all ages are able to recognize the play’s famous themes of choice and consequence and how they might apply in their own lives. 

“Throughout the play, everyone makes choices — whether to forgive or to seek vengeance, to move on or live in the past,” said Allen. “There are so many moments where if someone had chosen differently, this whole tragedy could have been avoided. I hope audiences see and understand that they can choose to communicate with people. They can choose to reach out for help. They can choose to be kind and to deal with emotions healthfully.”

The show will have a campus run in the Nelke Theatre before touring local elementary schools. As a theatre education major, Larsen is grateful for the opportunity the Young Company has to help introduce young audiences to Shakespeare. 

“The fact that we get to go around to schools and interact with kids is going to be so helpful for me,” said Larsen. “I think it’s important to bring ‘Hamlet’ and Shakespeare to these young audiences because it exposes them to truly great storytelling. I think that’s the reason we have theatre in the first place and the reason Shakespeare is so memorable — he is such a powerful storyteller.”

Tickets and Show Details

Performance Dates and Times: Feb. 5-7, 12-14 | 7 p.m. and Feb. 8, 14 | 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Location: Nelke Theatre, Harris Fine Arts Center

Price: $5-8

Tickets: Available in person at the BYU Harris Fine Arts Center or Marriott Center Ticket Office, by phone at (801) 422-2981 or online at byuarts.com