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WEST ALLIS — Off-Book Players will present a stylized staged reading of "Dancing With Hamlet," a Deanna Strasse original play, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, March 2-4, at Inspiration Studios, 1500 S. 73rd St., West Allis.

Strasse, a local director, actor, and playwright has worked extensively in the Milwaukee area with most recent performances at Sunset Playhouse and Village Playhouse. Her original plays have been produced by theater companies at the local and national levels.

“Like many theater people,” said Strasse, “I love Shakespeare, and probably my favorite show of his is 'Hamlet,' she said.

Strasse sought to explore a lot of the questions that Hamlet asked, so she set out to create a kind of user-friendly retelling of the original play without being as long, that might include more humor, and featuring strong female characters.

When the matriarch of the Flack family, Rosie, decides to remarry, her three grown children are not happy with the idea. They are mortified, however, when their father dies tragically in a car accident just a week before the big day and Rosie plans to go ahead with the wedding. The Flacks' only daughter, Elvira, begins to see the whole thing as a tragedy — on a Shakespearean level. In the days leading up to the wedding, someone is out to sabotage the marriage, someone else just wants to survive it, and Elvira can't make up her mind. Hearts will break, but the show must go on.

Even in the theater world, many people don't understand what goes into taking a play from a script on the playwright's computer to a working and produced production. A staged reading allows a director to see if the show can stand by itself. After a few table readings with actors and having discussed the pros and cons of the show, it’s time to open it up to the public to get their take on it.

“We're presenting a staged reading of a work-in-progress, which is just one step,” said Strasse. “During discussions with the audience, we'll talk about not just the show, but what has happened before this point and what happens next. Before we would invest time and money into actually producing this new show, we want to see if the story itself can hold. In essence, we want to know that the play can walk before we try running.”

Featuring Melody Lopac, Donna Daniels, Josh Scheibe, Phil Stepanski, Lauren Heinen, Kevin Koehn, Renee Bartos and David Dawursk, Admission is free, but audience members will have the opportunity to contribute to a free-will offering.

Contributed by Erico Ortiz, founder, Inspiration Studios

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