Rozsa Center presents 2 nights of classic theater

It is arguably the greatest play ever written and next Wednesday residents of the Copper Country will get a chance to see “Hamlet” on stage as it was meant to be seen. But residents also have a special opportunity to see Tom Stoppard’s companion play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” the following night which takes 2 of “Hamlet’s” ancillary characters and centers a play around them.

John Skelley plays the titular role in “Hamlet.” Skelley is currently in the midst of his second season with The Acting Company.

This is Skelley’s first time portraying Hamlet and said it’s a dream come true for him.

“It’s a role that I’ve always wanted to play. It’s been a huge challenge for me as an actor, but also incredibly rewarding.”

Some of the challenges that Skelley has faced include the size and scope of the role.

“It’s such an iconic role and all these amazing actors have played it,” Skelley said. “Kevin Kline did it so famously, so to have that history behind it was kind of intimidating.”

But with the amount of people who have tackled the role before, Skelley said he isn’t doing anything different or to make himself stand out from other actors.

“Inevitably, my performance is going to be different from anyone else’s performance,” Skelley said. “I’m doing things that only I would be able to do anyway. I try to find a little humor in the role. For me that humor balances out the tragic side of this play.”

After that, Skelley said he had to treat it like any other role in any other play where you just have to do the work.

The more rewarding aspects of playing Hamlet for Skelley include the fact that the role includes everything an actor could want – drama, comedy, soliloquies, violence and tenderness.

“It kind of encapsulates a large part of the human condition,” Skelley said. “So not only is it fun to play every night for people, but as an actor and as a human being, to get to ask the questions that Hamlet asks every night is enlightening and makes you ask those really deep questions – who are we and what does it mean to know when you’re going to die. To be or not to be.”

Ian Gould plays Guildenstern in both “Hamlet” and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” and is in his first season with The Acting Company. Gould has never toured with a play before and said his first time has been a lot of fun.

Gould describes the two plays as being interrelated.

“You get to see what Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are up to during the time when they’re not on stage in ‘Hamlet.’ In ‘Hamlet,’ they are these two guys that Hamlet knew from school but you don’t get to spend a whole heck of a lot of time with them,” Gould said. “And you don’t get to learn too much about who they are. (Writer Tom Stoppard) took that and spun out this whole philosophical comedy. … It’s a triumph for anybody who feels like a minor character in somebody else’s story.”

Gould said he’s been a big fan of the play for a while and had always wanted to play the role of Guildenstern in both productions.

“I feel very lucky,” Gould said.

“Hamlet” opens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.