The Theater Bug Runs In This Family: Hope Hamilton Makes Professional Debut In ‘Camelot’

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Hope Hamilton is at right in this photo of the ensemble from Bay Street Theater's production of "Camelot." Lenny Stucker Photo/Courtesy Bay Street Theater.

Talk about keeping it in the family. Audiences attending Bay Street Theater’s current outdoor production of “Camelot” in Bridgehampton might be surprised when they read their playbills carefully and discover that a young woman in the ensemble, Hope Hamilton, who is making her professional debut, is the granddaughter of Julie Andrews, who originated the role of Queen Guenevere when the beloved musical first appeared on Broadway in 1960.

Hope, who is 17 and will enter her senior year at the Ross School this fall, is also the daughter of two of Bay Street’s co-founders, Emma Walton and Steve Hamilton. With that kind of family tree, it’s not surprising  the young woman, who has been acting since she appeared in the Hampton Ballet Theater School’s production of “The Nutcracker” when she was 5 and performed in her first musical, “Alice in Wonderland,” when she was in kindergarten, plans to study theater in college and pursue a stage career.

Hope said she found out quickly that there’s a world of difference between performing in a school play, which might have three performances in total and daily rehearsals of two or three hours, and the life of a professional actor, who is required to put in long hours of rehearsal time compressed into a few short weeks before launching a run that can easily last a month or more.

“It was definitely a lot more work than I’m used to,” she said. “But I think the payoff is what really matters. It has turned into an incredible experience. Everyone is so talented and into the story. It’s so much fun.”

Hope Hamilton in a recent performance of “Camelot.” COURTESY BAY STREET THEATER

Due to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, “Camelot,” which is being directed by Bay Street’s artistic director, Scott Schwartz, is being staged in a Bridgehampton field that is a stone’s throw away from the Carvel ice cream shop on Montauk Highway, but secluded nonetheless.

“He’s a great director, and his vision for the whole show is beautiful,” Hope said. “Performing outdoors really sets it up for a beautiful, fairytale experience, with the breeze, the crickets, the lighting as the sun sets.”

Hope’s early success is no surprise to her parents. “She has always had this love of performance,” said Mr. Hamilton. “When she was a baby she went through a stage when she was literally in costume all the time,” added Ms. Walton.

The experience on “Camelot” has been a valuable one, according to her father. “Even though she has worked harder than ever in life, she has discovered how that hard work pays off,” he said. “She truly has had a terrific time with New York actors and musicians.”

The relatively long run — the show has been extended through September 5 — has provided her with the opportunity “to watch how the show grows and changes night to night, and how a company can adapt and change and make moments stronger.” He added,

Ms. Walton said the experience was a great learning opportunity for her daughter. “She was able to see the collaboration, the endurance, the team work, and all those things that it takes to pull a show together,” she said. “On that level, it is almost an amazing brain stretch-body stretch for a 17-year-old. We are so proud of her.”

So, apparently, is her famous grandmother.

“She came on opening night,” Hope said. “She loved it. She has always been super supportive of me, but this one is extra special because now we can share our experiences and compare them.”

The “Camelot” Dame Julie performed in was a much larger production with a cast of more than three dozen with elaborate costumes and sets, while the Bay Street production is sparse, Hope said.

Tony Walton To Be Honored

Bay Street will present a lifetime achievement award to Hope’s grandfather, Tony Walton, the highly regarded set designer at “The Devil Is In The Details: A Tribute to Tony Walton,” from 5 to 6 p.m. on August 26 at the theater.

Mr. Walton has been nominated for 16 Tony Awards for his set designs and designed Bay Street’s original home as well as many productions presented by the theater.

The evening will include performances by Melissa Errico with virtual visits from Alec Baldwin, Stephen Schwartz, Kate Burton, Jerry Zaks, David Rockwell, and others.

Seating is by general admission only. Reservations can be made through a suggested donation of $25.

Visit baystreet.org for more information or to purchase tickets for either “Camelot” or the Tony Walton tribute.

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