The Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts stages a ‘light version’ of ‘Hamlet’

Jenny McClintock first took the stage at the age of 3, performing a “When You Wish Upon A Star” number for Southland Ballet Academy.

Four decades later, McClintock said she had her dream job, as an acting instructor at Huntington Beach High and for the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts.

Her first major stage production as a director has arrived.

The academy’s acting department is hosting a performance of “Hamlet” this weekend in Huntington Beach High’s historic auditorium, with four performances Friday night through Sunday afternoon.

McClintock, his cast of nearly 80 overstudies and stunt doubles, and the students behind the scenes worked for about 10 weeks on William Shakespeare’s play. It’s another step towards normality for the performers, as this will be their first show where they are not required to wear masks.

After coping with both the retirement of longtime theater teacher Robert Rotenberry in 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic, the student actors are beyond excited to be back on the big stage, McClintock said.

The energetic McClintock, a Fountain Valley High graduate who lives in Seal Beach, was hired last July by HBAPA. On Wednesday night, she attended a dress rehearsal for the play wearing a shirt with a picture of Shakespeare and the words “Will Power.”

Jenny McClintock, HBAPA’s acting instructor, is the organization’s “Hamlet” production manager.

(Matt Szabo)

“I talk about ‘Hamlet,’ the way I made it, like a very stripped down version,” she said. “I feel like that’s how I approached this year too; I went to the essentials. Many of these kids haven’t had any real acting skills because they’re either freshmen or had COVID for the first two years of their high school experience.

The production was not only stripped down, but cut in half to two hours in length. McClintock and his student dramaturge, Katherine Meschuk, a senior at Huntington Beach High, undertook the considerable task.

Students are involved in all phases of production. HBHS senior Danielle Edwards, who plays Guildenstern, is one of two assistant directors.

“Every actor has empathy for their character. I think audiences will see that,” Edwards said.

HBHS senior Ella Acciacca has been cast in the lead role of Hamlet. McClintock said she didn’t consider gender much when casting, adding that she chose whoever was right for the roles.

HBAPA student actors during a rehearsal for "Hamlet" Wednesday night.

HBAPA student actors during a rehearsal for “Hamlet” Wednesday night.

(Matt Szabo)

“I know Golden West College also had a female Hamlet this year,” Acciacca said. “I think gender conversations are moving more into a fluid space. For me, for this role, I was really looking at people a lot to see different ways. I’ve used ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ as different buzzwords for me on how to act, but I think it’s mostly taking a powerful position. It has been a journey for me.

“Those boots, they were my key to keeping my stance and gait the same. I’m completely grounded and kind of working bottom-up with this character, with these boots.

Acciacca, one of the lead producers of HBAPA’s “She Kills Monsters” last fall, highlights Hamlet’s mood swings and madness.

McClintock hopes audience members will see current parallels in the adjusted script.

“We wanted to show these very dysfunctional relationships, these toxic relationships where people really think they’re right and don’t want to listen to the other side of the story that doesn’t serve their own narrative,” she said. . “It unfolds in this wake of destruction…and I feel like it resonates. I hope it’s not the tragedy, but we’re so caught up and focused on our side of the story and what we think is right that we don’t want to listen. We hope this is the lesson [audience members] hear, that only by empathizing, listening to others, and working together can you find some kind of solution, or peace or harmony.

Tickets for “Hamlet” range from $15 to $25. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

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