Theater & Arts

Shakespeare, zombies and ballet, and how they fit (or don't) into Woodward festival play

Samantha Hyde talks about role in Woodward Shakespeare production

Samantha Hyde, as 'Sam' playing Ophelia, in Woodward Shakespeare Festival's "Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)." By Donald Munro / dmunro@fresnobee.com.
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Samantha Hyde, as 'Sam' playing Ophelia, in Woodward Shakespeare Festival's "Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)." By Donald Munro / dmunro@fresnobee.com.

You can probably figure out from its title that “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” the last offering in this summer’s Woodward Shakespeare Festival season, is on the goofy side. So we decided to take the same approach with our advance story about the production. Instead of interviewing an actor, we’re talking today with an actual character.

What makes this a little complicated is the fact that Samantha Hyde is (sort of) playing herself in the three-person play directed by Aaron Spjute, which opens Thursday, Aug. 27, at Woodward Park. Hyde, a Fresno State theater graduate, is a thoughtful practitioner of her craft. But when we talked to Sam, as the character is referred to in the show, well, that’s a different story. She didn’t have any qualms about telling us everything she knows about the play. Which, turns out, isn’t much.

Q: I understand from reading about you that you’re a joiner. You’re willing to pretty much follow anyone, anywhere – which you certainly do in the opening minutes of the show. Is it true you’re willing to dive in, no matter the challenge?

A: Totally. Anything to make a new friend. An example: I saw a bunch of clowns walking down the street one day, and I thought, what on earth is that, it looks like so much fun. So I followed them. Apparently they were auditioning for Cirque du Soleil. And apparently I had to come up with a clowning act. That’s another story.

Again, I was walking down the street. A lot of things happen when you’re walking down the street.

Q: Or sitting in an audience, say, at a park.

A: Yes. Anyway, another time I saw all these zombies chasing all these normal people. I’m freaking out. So naturally I think Zombie Apocalypse is happening, and I just high-tailed it out of there. Turns out it was a charity zombie run.

Q: So, Sam, how’d you get roped into this production?

A: Kia Vassiliades called me up and told me, “Hey, we’re doing a show, and we could use you for comedic bits and some research that Renee Newlove and I can’t do.” They’re both great to work with. Kia is a go-getter. When she has a plan, she just launches into it. Renee is the brains of the group. She has a Preeminent Shakespearean Scholar Certificate of Completion from a website. I didn’t even know that was a real thing.

Q: So are you a Shakespearean scholar yourself?

A: (Laughs). Pfff. Uh, I took a Shakespeare class in college. I read the basics in high school – like “Hamlet” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

Q: Speaking of “Romeo and Juliet,” I understand you play an important role.

A: Oh, yeah. We do “Romeo and Juliet” as our show, and I get to play Juliet. I looked up “Romeo and Juliet,” and the first thing I came up with was the ballet. So I’m just practicing on pointe, and there are tutus everywhere, and Kia and I have to do a pas de deux combination. It’s wild. Anything to please the audience.

Q: You do know the ballet came after the play?

A: Sure. (Long pause.) Shamato, po-tah-to. Yeah, totally.

Q: So what about all the other characters you play in the show? I understand you play something like 17 characters?

A: (Longer pause.) What? Um … cool … uh, could I just put you on hold for a moment? I, uh, need to make a call.

Q: I’m curious. Do you get paid extra for that?

A: I certainly hope so. (Dials phone.) Hello? Aaron? So what is this about other characters? No, no, no, no. I thought we were only doing “Romeo and Juliet.” Well, what am I supposed to do? No, I was told I was only in for the research, and the comedic bits, and “Romeo and Juliet.” Make something up? OK, you’re going to regret saying that. Yeah, I’d better be getting paid more for … Hello? Aaron? Aaron?

Q: Well, I for one am really looking forward to you playing Henry VI.

A: Sure. Cool. He’s a character, that’s right. What does he do again?

‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)’

Theater preview

  • 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Sept. 19
  • Festival Stage, Woodward Park.
  • www.woodwardshakespeare.org, 559-927-3485.
  • Free, but $10 reserved seats available; park’s car entrance fee applies

Rotating casts

‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)’ features two different three-person casts. Samantha Hyde, Kia Vassiliades and Renee Newlove perform Aug. 27-29, Sept. 4, 11 and 18. Donna Halliburton, Katie Eugene and Broderic Beard perform Sept. 3, 5, 10, 12, 17 and 19.

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