Gabe Elmore and Nick Neddo duel as Hamlet and Laertes during rehearsals for the Celtic production of the William Shakespeare play. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Gabe Elmore and Nick Neddo duel as Hamlet and Laertes during rehearsals for the Celtic production of the William Shakespeare play. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

In his earliest run at scaling the mountain of text he had to memorize for his upcoming role as Hamlet, McNary High School senior Gabe Elmore made a common mistake.

He thought Hamlet was always supposed to be angry and brooding.

“And he’s not that way at all. There’s happy, desperate, hopeful and at one point he’s just crazy,” Elmore said. “There are only three places, short scenes, where I’m legitimately angry.”

It took him a while to adjust his own perceptions of the character, and he said he was still making new discoveries about the range of emotions he’ll be called upon to impart when the play opens at the high school Friday, Jan. 10. The run continues Jan. 11 and 16-18. Curtain time is 7 p.m. for all shows and tickets are $5.

Hamlet is William Shakespeare’s tragedy about the titular prince of Denmark and his schemes to avenge the death of his father (the one where there’s a guy on stage holding a skull and talking about some guy named Yorick.)

Hamlet is easily one of the Bard’s largest and most complex roles and Elmore began memorizing portions of the script last June before delving into the whole thing in November, but he’s also merely one of several players.

Shyleen Johnson plays a gender-swapped Horatio, Hamlet’s closest companion and sounding board. Typically played as a man, Johnson is hoping to hit new notes with her portrayal.

“I think we’re able to make it feel more like a sibling relationship,” Johnson said. “The danger is I think people might suspect she’s in love with Hamlet, but that is not the case.”

Julia Sjakovs plays Hamlet’s doomed love interest Ophelia. The role was Sjakovs’ most-coveted in what’s become a substantial resume as a Celtic actor.

“I think she’s deeper than some would give her credit for. She goes through so much, and I knew there were immediate ways I could connect with her. That doesn’t happen with every character,” Sjakovs said.

Courtney Gregoire, a newcomer to the Ken Collins theater after transferring from Amity High School plays Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude. She’s hoping that audiences experience the full gamut of what the play has to offer.

“I hope they get to see the whole story. I want them to be able to follow along with the characters’ lives so it’s not just sad,” said Gregoire.

In addition to the various challenges of the roles and the language, the players will have to rely on each other more than usual. Director Dallas Myers is going with a bare-bones stage and minimal props.

“It’s a scary idea. There are bare-stage shows, but I don’t think we’ve ever done one. The audience isn’t able to be distracted by other things like props or backdrops, which makes the work of the actors that much more important,” Elmore said.