Synetic’s ‘Hamlet’ pushes teen actors to emote without words

Synetic Theater’s teen acting programs culminate in “Teen Hamlet…the Rest is Silence”.

Teen Hamlet
Photo Courtesy of Johnny Shryock.

By Victoria Gaffney

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the tale of a young man struggling with expression and the moral ambiguity of revenge.

It is therefore a fitting challenge for the teenage actors of Synetic Theater’s new wordless production of “Teen Hamlet…The Rest is Silence.”

True to Synetic’s emphasis on movement and image-based narratives, the company members teach the students about the subtleties of physical expression and attempt to make the productions reach the same professional level as regular shows at the theater.

Company members Alex Mills and Kathy Gordon have directed and choreographed the company’s production of the classic play.

Gordon describes the experience as “a crash course in the Synetic style.” For the choreography, she has had to tweak Irina Tsikurishvili’s original work in order to ensure that the students are capable of the actual dancing and to accommodate the large group on the stage.

Synetic's Hamlet Teen
Photo Courtesy of Johnny Shryock.

“What we find here is that students really take things to the next level, and demonstrate a capacity for expressive nuanced performance that you really don’t see out of people in that age group,” Joseph Carlson, educational programs manager, says.

After eight weeks of strenuous rehearsals (sometimes practicing up to 15 hours) 18 students are showcasing the techniques they’ve learned.

“Hamlet” was Synetic’s first Shakespeare production, and Carlson describes it as a very minimalist piece. The simplicity of the production allows the teens to concentrate their energies on Synetic’s physical acting methods.

The advantage for the students is that this attention to physical storytelling can be extended to other types of performance. “The specificity that it forces the young actors to develop is really integral to the work that they’re going to do for the rest of their lives,” Carlson says.

By pushing themselves, Carlson suggests, they begin “to grow and to make discoveries about themselves and their capabilities that they may not have known.” The hope is that they will be able to incorporate collaborative and cooperative strategies into other environments as well, such as the classroom.

The teen program at Synetic is usually for students that have some theatrical background, but also includes some who are new to theater as well.  Classes include traditional acting, lessons in “character and process,” and courses in movement techniques—centering on what Carlson calls Synetic’s emphasis on “plasticity, coordination, flexibility.”

“We’re hoping that by developing that work ethic, by developing that sense of great physical presence and a sense of commitment to your fellow artists, that we’re preparing them to be really strong members of whatever community they go into,” says Carlson.

Synetic’s teens will be showcasing their refined movement techniques and physical storytelling in “Teen Hamlet…the Rest is Silence,” this Thursday through Sunday and next Thursday through Saturday.


Ticket Information:
April 9, 10, 11, 8 p.m., $5-$25
April 12, 2 p.m., $15-$25
April 16, 17, 18, p.m., $15-$25


Synetic Theater at Crystal City
1800 South Bell St.
Arlington, 22202


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