(Above: Vivien Farrell dances the role of Ophelia in Eugene Ballet Company’s production of “Hamlet”)

By Randi Bjornstad

William Shakespeare wouldn’t recognize this version of Hamlet, one of his best-known and oft-quoted tragic plays.

But as pretty much a modern guy for his time, Shakespeare no doubt would be intrigued with what the Eugene Ballet Company has done with his script.

They’ve taken away the lovely and intricate turns of phrase that he wrote in about 1601, of course, the story of a Danish prince bent on avenging the death of his father, King Hamlet, murdered by his own brother, Claudius, who then ascended the throne and married the dead king’s widow.

Dancer Reed Souther portrays Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, in the Eugene Ballet Company’s Hamlet

Instead, the emotions and thoughts of the characters are portrayed via dance to the music of U.S. composer Philip Glass, in a modern-day production created by Stephen Mills, his first since recently becoming the artistic director at Ballet Austin in Texas.

Hamlet  opens the Eugene Ballet Company’s 40th season, staged with modern sets, choreography, and Giorgio Armani-inspired costumes.

Reed Souther, who has been with the ballet company since 2010, performs the title role, with Vivien Farrell, in her second season with Eugene Ballet, portraying the ill-fated Ophelia.

Mills has explained his reasons for staging Hamlet this way as “the fact that many of themes in the play—murder, betrayal, and more—are still very relevant themes in today’s society.”

He views the play as a cautionary tale, “Mills said. “a perfect warning for a contemporary audience about the dangers of unchecked power and the ways in which lives of innocents can be forever changed.”

The Eugene Ballet Company’s production is the West Coast premiere of Mills’ Hamlet.

In announcing the production, Eugene Ballet’s artistic director, Toni Pimble, called it proof “that classical dance is very much alive, healthy, thought provoking and visually stunning.”

Eugene Ballet Company’s Hamlet

When: 7:30 pm. on Saturday, Oct. 6 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 7

Where: Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, One Eugene Center (Seventh and Willamette streets in downtown Eugene)

Tickets: $15 to $66, available at the Hult Center box office, 541-682-5000, or online at eugeneballet.org/ or hultcenter.org/