Interview: 17-Year-Old Madeleine Russell Contemplates To Be or Not To Be

Westridge Hamlet

Madeleine Russell in Hamlet. Rehearsal photos by Cris Capp

Proving that Shakespeare is for all ages and all people, Westridge School in Pasadena is getting ready to open an all-female 1990’s grunge-inspired production of Hamlet, starring Madeleine Russell in the title role. Anyone who has ever worked on the play, and particularly on that role, will tell you that it is a huge undertaking and one that presents many opportunities for growth, both as an actor and as a person. Since I’m always interested in the process, I asked Russell, who is a 17-year old senior at Westridge, what it was like for her to step into the shoes of one of Shakespeare’s most tortured characters. I think you’ll be impressed at what she has to say about her experience.

How do you get inside a character like this as a young woman in the role, rather than a young man?

Because my school is single-sex, I have had the chance to play men before. I find that my approach is fairly similar for any character, male or female. I read for emotions, motivators, character shifts. I analyze their journey, always taking into consideration their present circumstances. With Hamlet, I have easier access to his feelings and thoughts. He never hides from the audience, which I find to be one of the reasons he is so compelling.  More

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