Q&A with Hadley Kamminga-Peck
We asked Colorado Shakespeare Festival dramaturg and teaching artist Hadley Kamminga-Peck about Original Practices, dramaturgy, teaching Shakespeare to kids & teens, and seven years of projects at CSF.
If you’ve attended any of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Original Practices performances in the past several years, you’ve seen Hadley Kamminga-Peck off to the side of the stage, prompting actors when they forget their lines—a common occurrence, given the brevity of the OP rehearsal process. Less visibly, Hadley has worked with CSF since 2011 as a dramaturg, assistant director, Shakespeare teacher of kids as young as 6, and probably several other things. And she did a lot of this while completing her PhD at CU Boulder (focusing on Shakespeare, naturally).
Hadley regularly teaches after-school Shakespeare classes and weekend workshops for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Education programs. Next month, she will be translating her years of experience with CSF’s OP projects into a workshop for kids and teens, and we had some questions for her.
You’re probably most visible to CSF audiences as the prompter in our Original Practices productions (wearing that amazing ruff), but you do a lot more for the Festival than that. Can you remind the CSF fans at home some of the other projects you’ve worked on?
I’ve worked on at least one show a year since 2011 – “The Little Prince,” “Women of Will,” “Hamlet” this past season, and all the history plays (“Richard II” and all of the “Henrys”). I dramaturg, I assistant direct, I bake cookies and brownies to get us through tech weekends!
For any audience members who’ve missed our Original Practices performances, can you explain a little bit about what that is?
It’s Shakespeare the way Shakespeare did Shakespeare! We do our best to approximate Shakespearean rehearsal and performance practices in a modern theatre, and see what discoveries we make! We also made a video that explains a little more about how it works.
How did you get interested in Shakespeare’s Original Practices in the first place?
I’m a big old Shakespeare nerd – I wrote an entire dissertation on him and his contemporaries. Original Practices is one of the latest frontiers in Shakespeare studies, and when Amanda [Giguere, Director of Outreach] told me CSF would be attempting it, I was super excited for the chance to try something totally different.
What’s your favorite part of OP?
The interaction between actors and prompter. I have sat in so many rehearsal rooms where the final product is the only thing that matters, and everything we do is to create the product. OP is all about the process, and as such, we get to have so much fun when things go wrong – even in the performance!
Intellectually we understand that Shakespeare’s plays were performed at a rapid pace, but it’s totally different to experience that pacing. The actors only know their own lines, so they have to listen and be ready to respond—it creates a completely different experience.
How long have you been teaching/directing/dramaturging/performing Shakespeare?
Since forever. I’ve loved the plays since I first read them, and have jumped at every opportunity to work on them since then.
It’s one thing to do OP with professional actors. You’ll be doing it with kids aged 10-18 in December. Is that a challenge or an opportunity?
Oh, it’s totally an opportunity. OP requires a different approach to acting—you have to know your own stuff better than ever, trust everyone else to know theirs, come up with crazy ideas to try, but be ready to throw them out and go with whatever happens in the moment!
Are there any Shakespeare titles that you are particularly eager to attempt?
“Coriolanus.” And “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” And every other one I’ve never attempted. And the ones I already have. The great thing about Shakespeare’s plays is that there is always something new to be discovered!
Do you have a dream project you’d like to develop, direct, or write someday?
I’m working on a study exploring and analyzing Shakespeare and gender – working on “Hamlet” last summer and seeing the reactions we had to a female Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras brought up a lot of questions regarding our cultural perception of gender in Shakespeare, which are intersecting with the current conversations regarding gender expression in society.
Read Hadley’s 2017 interview with Westword on the history of female Hamlets.
What are you likely to be doing when you’re NOT teaching/directing/dramaturging / etc?
I don’t understand the question. It’s possible to NOT work on Shakespeare?