Skip to main content
2023-2024 SeasonHamlet

Quantum Theatre aims to make ‘Hamlet’ ‘relevant and resonant’ with outdoor Carrie Furnaces run

By July 31, 2023October 11th, 2023No Comments

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – William Shakespeare may not be the first historical figure anyone thinks of while staring up at the Carrie Blast Furnaces in Rankin. To be fair, that’s probably because most Pittsburghers haven’t heard Jeffrey Carpenter wax poetic about how thematically compelling it is that the version of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” he’s directing for Quantum Theatre will be staged outdoors on the grounds of those 92-foot-tall relics from Pittsburgh’s industrial past.

“What better place than the Carrie Furnaces to deal with the ghosts of our fathers?” Carpenter posited. “Do we want to accept the grievances and grudges of the past? All these roles that are prescribed to us in this environment resonate in a way that’s really powerful.”

Quantum’s “Hamlet” will run Friday through Aug. 27, with tickets available via It’s the second time Quantum has put on a Shakespeare play at Carrie Furnaces following a 2019 production of “King Lear” starring Carpenter as the titular monarch that also took place in the shadow of the massive structures memorializing Western Pennsylvania’s once-thriving steel industry.

“I feel that it is in relation with ‘King Lear,’ this production,” said Karla Boos, Quantum Theatre’s founder and artistic director. “It’s vastly different, but it’s contributing something that’s about this enduring monument to hubris, change and how an old order does yield eventually to a new order.”

“It’s definitely a time of transition” at Quantum, Boos said, though her theater company has been bolstered by deep coffers it has amassed through an endowment called the Artistic Legacy Fund. Boos knows Quantum’s regulars are a loyal but generally older bunch, so you can imagine how thrilled she was to see 200-plus newcomers show up Downtown for Quantum’s immersive production of “The Devil Is a Lie” earlier this year.

Having the Artistic Legacy Fund around as a nest egg is what allowed Quantum to feel comfortable moving “Hamlet” outside after initially making all the necessary preparations for an indoor run, according to Boos.

“It made all the difference in the world that we had that reserve,” she said. “We’re drawing upon that in this moment to achieve a new normal. Where other companies are cutting, we’re not cutting, and we’re finding new audiences.”

Boos and Carpenter’s relationship goes back to their time working together on a 1997 production of “Antony and Cleopatra.” They’ve done at least seven shows together since then, though “Hamlet” will be the first one Carpenter has directed for Boos and Quantum.

Carpenter, who is also the founder and co-artistic director of Pittsburgh-based Bricolage Production Company, was a tad reluctant to take on “Hamlet” due to how “it felt like schoolwork for me” stemming from his time workshopping scenes from it as a New York University conservatory student. Upon returning to it, though, “the relationship I had with it has transformed” and he found himself gaining enthusiasm at the prospect of putting his own stamp on such an oft-adapted story.

“I’m hoping people come and are like, ‘Oh my God, this is ‘Hamlet!?’ I didn’t realize how good a play it is!,’” he said. “That’s something we all as actors who have worked in various ways on this play over many years are shocked in how much we’re finding in it right now. It’s just relevant and resonant. That’s what’s so exciting about it.”

Treasure Treasure as the title character in Quantum Theatre’s upcoming production of “Hamlet” at Carrie Furnaces in Rankin.
(Heather Mull/Quantum Theatre)

This Hamlet will be played by Treasure Treasure, a New York native who made her Broadway debut at age 9 and first landed in Pittsburgh to attend Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama. She eventually moved back to New York and worked as Pittsburgh native Billy Porter’s assistant “for a moment.” Treasure met Boos last summer while auditioning for Quantum’s 2022 spin on Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” after once again relocating to the Steel City.

Like Carpenter, Treasure encountered “Hamlet” in college and initially connected “to the rage, the betrayal” experienced by the title character. For her, “Hamlet” as a play is “always changing and evolving” and she’s looking forward for Pittsburghers to be “riding the wave with me” as they grapple with her take on the prince of Denmark.

“I think there’s a lot represented in this play,” Treasure said. “There’s queerness represented, certainly on my part. … My only job is to act with intention, begin a scene in one place and end a scene in another so I can go into the next scene. I’m excited to keep discovering it every day, every night, every performance. It’s never just, this is my performance and we’re done.”

As far as Boos is concerned, Treasure’s Hamlet “is so crystal clear from Treasure,” which is part of what she believes makes this “Hamlet” special both for Quantum and local theater enthusiasts.

Carpenter is proud of how his whole cast and crew responded to being “thrown a curveball” when the production had to be moved outside. It wasn’t an easy pivot, and everyone will be intently watching weather forecasts every night. But that decision did help the whole production feel “much more environmental and embedded in the [Carrie Furnaces] site itself,” in Carpenter’s estimation.

Of course, this is “Hamlet” we’re talking about. As Carpenter put it: “We could do this at the mall, and it would still resonate.”

Read the full story here.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.