Sunday, August 31, 2014

Examples gross as earth exhort me: witness this one-person Hamlet I'm doing for the Philly Fringe

In a little under a week, I'll officially be treading the boards again as a Shakespearean actor, but with a twist: I'll be performing in South African playwright Robin Malan's one-person adaptation of Hamlet, quirkily renamed iHamlet, in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

Hamlet has a habit of showing up in my life at strangely synchronicitous times. Just one example: the first time I played Ophelia professionally (Gamut Theater 2006), my dad passed away a week before opening, which made my mad scenes after the death of Polonius some of the most painful performances I've ever had to give. Earlier this year, when Carmen Khan of the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater approached me to be in iHamlet, I had coincidentally just purchased and hung on my wall a 7-foot-tall reproduction print of the 1899 Alphonse Mucha lithograph advertising Sarah Bernhardt's groundbreaking portrayal. That alone made me feel fated to accept the role, but when I read the play again, and then Robin Malan's distillation of the text, I was surprised by how many new parallels I could draw between the circumstances of Hamlet's distracted globe and my own. I may not be trying to avenge a murdered father, but I grew up in a chaotic household, and I realized with some shock that many of Hamlet's speeches echoed words I had hurled at my own family in its worst moments. I've faced (and continue to face) the paralysis of depression, with its accompanying overthinking, avoidance, and futile self-loathing that sabotages initiative and relationships. For the last five years, I've taken a break from the stage to concentrate on my academic studies at Wittenburg—or rather, the University of Pennsylvania—and now, as I continue to agonize over my doctoral dissertation (still not finished), there are no words in the world that ring truer than: 'I do not know why yet I live to say "This thing’s to do," sith I have cause and will and strength and means to do 't.'

So much for a certain public radio host's (quickly backpedaled) tweet a month ago about Shakespeare being "not relatable, unemotional." It's the extreme relatability of Hamlet that made putting together this work so easy, even though it's easily the most challenging role I've ever undertaken. Also sweeping my way: the clarity, creativity, and personability of director David O'Connor, who was so easy to work with, I hardly want to call it work.

To make it explicit when you can come and see this crazy thing, here are the dates/times:

Saturday September 6 @ 7PM (preview)
Sunday September 7 @ 7PM
Tuesday September 9 @ 7PM
Wednesday September 10 @ 7PM
Thursday September 11 @ 7PM
Friday September 12 @ 7PM
Saturday September 13 @ 7PM
Sunday September 14 @ 2PM

Purchase tickets at this link, and you'll be able to use discount code "HAMLET" for buy-one-get-one-free tickets (or "HAMLETJR" for student tickets).

All shows are at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater, 2111 Sansom Street, and you'll be out the door again in about 90 minutes, with enough time to spare to come say hello to me after the show.

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