2 days late, 1 actor short, Cloquet theater company opens 'Women Playing Hamlet'

The County Seat Theater show opens at 2 p.m. Sunday at Encore Performing Arts Center and Gallery.

A woman wearing a fake beard holds a coffee cup, while another women looks at her with a smile.
Kasie Sundeen performs as Humanities Professor and Angel Maloney stars as Jessica in County Seat Theater's production of "Women Playing Hamlet," which opens at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Encore Performing Arts Center in Cloquet.
Contributed / County Seat Theater

CLOQUET — Joel Soukkala found out Monday his theater company’s newest play would not be running as scheduled. After a cast member’s medical emergency, Friday’s opening performance of “Women Playing Hamlet” is now slated for 2 p.m. Sunday at the Encore Performing Arts Center and Gallery.

It could’ve been worse.

If it had been in the middle of the run, it might’ve been a different story, Soukkala said.

But, the two-day delay is manageable because County Seat Theater Co. happened to be prepared this time with understudies (people who learn another’s role in order to fill, if necessary).

County Seat Theater had tried to prepare this way in the past. “Nobody wants to be an understudy because this never happens — really," Soukkala said. “We’ve had to postpone or cancel, but the original actor is usually never out-out. So, it was a clear coincidence that this worked.”


A woman wearing a red flannel shirt and a cap looks at her phone with a projected image of a man behind her.
Eloise Modich stars in County Seat Theater's production of "Women Playing Hamlet."
Contributed / County Seat Theater

Phoebe Applegate, who plays the priest, ghost and gravedigger, will step in as the bike messenger for Kris Kincaid and Becca Vork (Minnesota mother and Gilda) will play the bartender. Both women added to their existing roles.

Soukkala and director Greg J. Anderson added a few rehearsal days. The box office contacted people with tickets on rescheduling postponed dates, and the cast got to work.

When the News Tribune spoke to Soukkala on Wednesday, he said the cast will have it by Sunday. They’ll make it work no matter what.

The company is fortunate to have a group of capable actors who can memorize lines overnight and can step in, if they’re available.

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“COVID has taught us to go with the flow,” Soukkala said, referring to the theater’s first show after the shutdown when they lost power mid-performance.

“Our audience in Cloquet will really understand," he said. "If somebody has to come out with their script, as long as the show goes on.”

In “Women Playing Hamlet,” Jessica is cast as the star in a New York production of the Shakespeare tragedy. She soon goes off the deep end, catching constant shade from baristas, her jerky acting coach and even Sir Patrick Stewart.

“Women Playing Hamlet” was written by William Missouri Downs, who penned “Mr. Rogers, American Terminator!” and “How to Steal a Picasso.” Downs also wrote for “My Two Dads” and “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” on NBC.


“Women Playing Hamlet” performances are 2 p.m. Sunday, 7 p.m. Wednesday and 2 p.m. May 27-28 at Encore Performing Arts Center, 2035 Highway 33 South (on Frontage Road) in Cloquet.

Tickets are $20, plus fees. Reserve seats at 218-878-0071 or .

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Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346,
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