Dark Hamlet

Last Spring, our production of The Government Inspector was sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I hated to let the seven weeks of rehearsal go to waste, and had considered restaging the play in the virtual world of Second Life for Spring 2021, but due to problems with rights and the demands of the software, I decided to shelve that idea.

Instead, my current production—with my actors still isolated due to the pandemic—is entitled Dark Hamlet, a collage production of William Shakespeare’s play, using a severe cutting of the text and the technology of video conferencing to create a morphine dream for the audience—and for the character of Hamlet himself.

This idea came from several sources. My first inspiration was a director names Charles Marowitz (author of a book entitled Recycling Shakespeare). Marowitz suggested that we not take the texts of the Elizabethan playwright as sacred, but rather use them as the starting point for new works that take apart, dismantle, and restructure the bard’s plays. After I read this book decades ago, I began working on such an adaptation, entitled Dark Hamlet, which begins with the “To be or not to be” soliloquy and continues on as Hamlet’s morphine dream unfolds.

This work sat gathering dust in my filing cabinet until a more recent inspiration struck. My play, Aliens! 3 Miles, Turn Left had been produced by the Alley Theatre in Dublin, OH, as part of their Virtual Theatre Project. This production had then been chosen as a finalist by The Red Curtain International Good The@tre Festival, a festival of online plays, headquartered in India. While participating in a welcome event, I watched a play written specifically for presentation on Zoom, and recalled Dark Hamlet, thinking it had been incubating for just this moment.

I have to warn potential audience members that this adaptation will not be for Shakespeare purists. Much of the text will be missing, only about one-sixth will remain, and that will not be in the usual order. But what the audience sees and hears will be, I think, illuminating for those curious about Hamlet the play and Hamlet the character.

The cast for the production features some current Pitt-Greensburg students, (Felicia Dusha, Joe Fitz, Clayton Gregg, Deanna Lesso, Callum Vargo), some recent graduates (Emily Buckel, Cletus McConville, John Paul Ritchey, Logan Tomko), and Jason Harris Vichinsky, a former student I directed in 1991 in my first teaching position and my first university directing assignment.

There will be two live performances of the play on Zoom, Saturday March 27 at 7:30pm EDST and Sunday March 28 at 2:00pm EDST. The performances will be archived and made available following the performances. Admission will be free; for more information, contact me by email at phoracropolis@gmail.com, and use the Zoom links below to attend!

Dark Hamlet First Performance: Mar 27, 2021 07:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting: https://pitt.zoom.us/j/96606148631
Meeting ID: 966 0614 8631; Passcode: 8e043y

Dark Hamlet Second Performance: Mar 28, 2021 02:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting: https://pitt.zoom.us/j/93393226061
Meeting ID: 933 9322 6061; Passcode: 5l438r

Published by stephenschrum

Associate Professor of Theatre Arts; interested in virtual worlds, playwrighting, and filmmaking. Now creating a podcast called "Audio Chimera."

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