Author: David Itzkoff

THE NEW YORK TIMES: Summer Is the Time for Stretching

Relaxing on the beach? Dozing by the pool? Not these writers and performers, who are using the warmer months to take some risks, test themselves and expand their talents onstage.

Lenne Klingaman

A woman playing Hamlet isn’t that unusual. A woman playing Hamlet as a woman is much more rare. A woman playing Hamlet as if she were Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman”?

“I saw the film in the first week of rehearsal and thought: That. I’m gonna do that onstage,” read an email from the actress Lenne Klingaman, who now stars as Hamlet at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder. “No questioning of Wonder Woman’s ability or gender equivalency, just pure human potential.”

That’s not all: Ms. Klingaman isn’t just playing the tormented prince, er, princess in Shakespeare’s tragedy. As part of the festival’s repertory programming this summer, she’s also portraying a female Hamlet in a revival of Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” That’s two Hamlets for one woman, a heavy lift for any actor (of any gender).

To portray a Hamlet who’s “my lady,” not “my lord,” Ms. Klingaman wears gowns that fall on the cusp of the Edwardian-Victorian era. Adding a same-sex curveball, Ophelia remains female.

It’s still early for a consensus on how the idea will fly. (“Seriously, Should a Woman Play Hamlet?” was one local newspaper headline.) But for her, Ms. Klingaman, 34, said, the production has been eye-opening. “Me, a woman who looks pretty cisgendered heteronormative, can feel confined by a specific type of femininity,” she said by phone. “To have the floodgates open to Jungian masculine-feminine yin-yang has changed my understanding of gender and its fluidity.”

The role has also forced her to internalize the many contradictions of a powerful woman “behaving badly.”

“A woman is very rarely allowed to be hilarious, witty, intellectually crisp and incisive with words, and then in the next scene plotting someone’s murder,” she said. “Asking of a woman the kind of — I’m still finding words for it — vulnerability and interiority that’s demanded of those soliloquies, and asking the audience to come on this ride as a woman, is terrifying, but also freeing.”

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