Ketterer’s Men: ‘Hamlet’

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A production of 'Hamlet' in memory of a dear friend, Lizz KettererMourning the death of Ophelia, Laertes pleads with the churlish priest for more to be done before she is laid in the earth. Twice he asks, “What ceremony else?”, hoping to gain mere moments with her lifeless body.

In July of this year I was asked by my friend and colleague, Will Sharpe, to appear as Guildenstern in a production of Hamlet in remembrance of our dear friend, Dr Elizabeth Ann Ketterer, who passed away earlier this year due to complications after a diabetic seizure. The production opened this past weekend, and will close with two final performances during the upcoming evenings of Friday and Saturday, 14 and 15 October.

Lizz’s death not only dealt a blow to those who knew her as a PhD student at The Shakespeare Institute here in Stratford, but to the Shakespeare world at large, with whom she generously shared her passion for and knowledge of Shakespeare. Lizz was a serious scholar, whose work on music in the repertory of the Lord Admiral’s Men contributed a great deal to Shakespeare scholarship.

In order to remember Lizz, a group of friends established the Lizz Ketterer Trust, an organization with the ultimate aim of making it possible for a student from Winedale, Texas – where Lizz first experienced and learned to love Shakespeare – to attend the RSC summer school. Hamlet is the first production to be mounted in honour of Lizz, with the goal of raising money for the Trust. Lizz’s dear friend Will Sharpe had this to say about the choice of play: “Hamlet may seem a strange choice of play for our first outing, given the circumstances which gave rise to it, as it is the most death-obsessed play in the canon. But there is a simple autobiographical reason behind the choice in the initial instance. This production is the final realisation of an old idea. Back in 2008, I was to play the title role alongside Lizz’s Ophelia, though professional and personal complications ultimately made it impossible. However strange and sad it is that the time now feels right, it was nonetheless the perfect choice for our company’s first project, allowing us the chance to honour the promise at long last. I also thought about doing Pericles, as its charming and redemptive spirit seemed very much to me the right mood to reflect Lizz’s personality, but it just felt that we weren’t ready to reflect that sense of rebirth yet. We wanted to mourn for our friend’s loss before we celebrated her life, and Hamlet seemed the perfect vehicle for that. I think Pericles will be next though”.

The cast of Hamlet features a mixture of friends of Lizz, keen amateur actors, and professionals. We hope that many of you are able to attend this beautiful studio production in the hall of The Shakespeare Institute. Details can be found here: http://www.lizzketterertrust.com/HAMLET_2011.html. If you are unable to attend but would still like to make a donation in honour of her life, you can do so here: http://pledgie.com/campaigns/16076.

Just as it is for Laertes, we find it difficult to part with our friend, but there is some consolation in knowing that her memory will live on through the Lizz Ketterer Trust, and in knowing that with each passing year another student will have the opportunity to do what Lizz loved to do most. Moving forward, the aim of the Trust will be less about mourning the loss of our friend and more about celebrating her indomitable spirit and the time that we had together.

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Author:MattKubus

Matt Kubus is a doctoral researcher and tutor at The Shakespeare Institute, specialising in dramatic bibliography and the textual editing of Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline drama. He is an active member of the SBT's authorship campaign with a forthcoming chapter in the Cambridge University Press volume on Shakespeare Authorship co-edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.

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