Bel Geddes's adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play echoed his theories about art and the theater: “Simplicity is basic; it is unity ... The greatest idea is the simplest.” As Jennifer Davis Roberts noted in the catalog of her 1979 exhibition on the theatrical and industrial designs of Geddes, in Hamlet “this simplicity is expressed in the geometric blocks of the stage which became, successively, royal halls, bedrooms, and graveyards through only the adjustment of costumes, lighting, and hand-carried props.” Geddes’s use of the stark building-block stage and simple contrasts of black and white in costumes and lighting represents techniques adapted from Adolphe Appia, a Swiss architect and theorist of stage lighting and décor who argued for three elements as fundamental to creating an effective theatrical presentation: dynamic movements by actors, perpendicular scenery, and utilizing depth and the horizontal dynamics of the performance space.
With music by Ruth White Warfield (Wertheim), Hamlet was produced in 1929 at the Lakewood Theatre in Skowhegan, Maine. A production staged by the New York Producers Association, Inc. opened at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia on 20 October 1931, and later at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York on 5 November 1931. The cast included Raymond Massey and Celia Johnson.
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