Deconstructing William Shakespeare and tearing down the fourth wall between spectator and performer is what Breese native Kelly Hummert set out to do in her first Immersive Theatre Project in St. Louis.
“Hamlet: See What I See” will not just be a fresh interpretation of Shakespeare’s tragedy on the prince of Denmark, but also involve the audience in a unique way.
This is the first show of Hummert’s new company, Rebels and Misfits Productions. Besides being artistic director and producer, she will play Ophelia.
The seven performances, Saturday through Nov. 18 will begin with a cocktail hour at 7 p.m. You’re the guest at Elsinore Castle, to celebrate with the court about King Claudius’ coronation.
The 13 actors will mingle, including Hummert.
“It’s extremely organic. You might get asked a question, or someone will ask you if you overheard something,” she said. “There will be a lot of fun in it. We’re going to have a guitar and a piano.”
But, if you don’t want to be bothered, you won’t.
The interaction is not the only difference.
“I see ‘Hamlet’ as a memory play. Horatio is the only one alive to tell the story, seeing everything as we remember it, as opposed to it actually happened,” she said. “He has no ulterior motive, he tells the truth.”
She wants this “Hamlet” to be understandable to those who just never could get into it in English class.
“You will 100 percent get Hamlet,” she said. “We want to tell the story in the most accessible way possible.”
Hummert, who grew up in Breese, and graduated from Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts in 2003, developed a fondness for the Bard early.
“I’ve always loved Shakespeare, loved this language as a kid,” she said.
She performed in school musicals at Mater Dei High School and with metro-east community theaters Clinton County Showcase and Looking Glass Playhouse, but decided to concentrate strictly on acting, not singing, while in college. Performing in a straight play was her epiphany.
“I got really excited, and I didn’t want to throw up. I was nervous, but I was thrilled. I think I just didn’t want to sing,” she said.
After appearing in “Macbeth” at Shakespeare St. Louis’ festival in Forest Park, she headed to New York City. While living there for eight years, she appeared in five Broadway shows, a few movies, and other stage work.
She played Viola in “Twelfth Night” at Brooklyn Shakespeare Experience, Maggie in “After The Fall” with Stage 15 Productions, Medea in “Medea Redux” in The 24 Hour Plays at the Public, the New York premiere of Kato McNickle’s “Swimming In The Ocean,” and Helen in the workshop of “Warning: Adult Content at MCC.”
Film credits include “The Devil Wears Prada,” “The Marconi Brothers,” “The Good Shepard” and “Across the Universe.”
Moonlighting as an event producer, she met her future husband, Amit Dhawan of St. Louis, managing partner of Synergy Productions.
“We did not get along at all at first, but over time, we became really good friends, and were friends for a long time,” she said.
She moved back to St. Louis to get married in 2011. Their daughter Lila Evangeline was born July 22, 2014, and she put the arts on hold for a while.
“I wanted to take time out to be a mommy. It was really important to me to be with my baby,” she said.
Their life is very family-centered, she said. Her parents, Bill and Carol of Breese, retired and moved to Creve Coeur. Her sister, Leah, is married and lives in Wentzville.
The urge to establish a different type of theater company was strong, and the concept for immersive theater came up.
Hummert found her perfect location when she saw The Barnett in Grand Center.
“It’s this beautiful place two blocks south of the Fox on Washington. It is a perfect castle-like space, completely opulent. I thought, ‘Hamlet definitely lives here,’” she said.
She assembled her dream team, including director Melanie Armer, co-founder and artistic director of the Nerve Tank Theatre Company in New York City.
“We worked together a lot,” she said.
Auditions were held in July, but finding the right guy to play Hamlet, was elusive until she saw Brandon Alan Smith in a movie trailer. The actor, known for ‘Gotham,” also works as a stunt coordinator.
“He was so riveting,” she said. A few phone calls later, and he signed aboard.
“The cast is the coolest; they are so passionate about it. The experience has been amazing,” she said.
Reginald Pierre, of St. Louis, is Claudius, SIUE graduate Francesca Ferrari is Gertrude, Chris Tipp of St. Louis is Laertes, Lee Osorio is Horatio, and Sarajane Alverson, of St. Louis, is both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Chad Raines, of Philadelphia, is doing the sound. New York lighting designer John Eckert came on board as well. Mai Wing, of St. Louis, is handling costumes, and the fight choreographer has worked on 70 shows.
“We don’t want people to put away their cell phones. We want them to share, tweet and Instagram what they’re experiencing. We want them to use social media,” she said.
“Everybody’s heard of ‘Hamlet,’ but we want to tell this story so you won’t forget it.”
“Hamlet: See What I See”
What: The Immersive Theatre Project
From: Rebel and Misfits Productions
When: Saturday through Nov. 18. Show begins with cocktail hour at 7 p.m.
Where: The Barnett on Washington, 3207 Washington Ave., Grand Center, St. Louis
Tickets: $55/$34.50 with college ID at theimmersivetheatreproject.com or www.metrotix.com; Must be 18 or older to attend.