To Thine Own Self Be True: Women Playing Hamlet
The most frequent advice young actors get when preparing for a difficult role is, be yourself. You can’t be anything but who you are. But what happens if you don’t know yourself? And what if the character you are cast to portray doesn’t know himself? Even worse, what if your real life is actually a stage role you are playing to avoid discovering who you really are?
That is the foundation of Women Playing Hamlet, the November streaming production of the Majestic Readers’ Theatre Company. Written by William Missouri Downs and directed by Brandi Douglas the play’s title seems to suggest that women playing the melancholy Dane is unusual. It isn’t. Hundreds of women have played the role in the past. It seems only fair. In Shakespeare’s time men played all the female characters because women were not legally allowed on stage.
Jessica (Lauren Pickthorn) is an ingenious self-critical actress. Her character was killed off in a TV soap and while looking for work she was cast to play the Dark Prince in a small far-off-Broadway production. To prepare, she recruits the coaching of a domineering veteran actress Gwen (Diane Edwards Slamp) who oddly played the role for a single performance decades earlier. Diane and three other supporting actresses play a total of eighteen roles, both male and female; from the ghost of Hamlet’s father to a Home Shopping Model. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern become Rosy (Abrianna Feinauer) and Gilda (Aubrie Piper). The gravedigger (Angiliki de Morgan) is a Cockney pun-master and even the bartender (Arlee Olson) has good advice for Jessica.
You don’t need to be very familiar with the Bard’s version but it does help you find the humor in a scene when Jessica’s mother announces she has just married her husband’s brother. The play is certainly a comedy about a Shakespearian tragedy. Along the way it knocks modern pop culture, PowerPoint projections, Wikipedia, and concludes by finding the feminine side of Hamlet when Jessica finally brings herself to the role.
There are two performances, one on Saturday, November 28th at 7:30 PM and a Sunday performance November 29th at 2:30 PM. Purchase tickets on the web at tinyurl.com/MRTCWomenHamlet. You will receive a link to the streaming site via email. The link will be available for 24 hours after the listed curtain time. The price is on a sliding scale, you can pick what you pay for tickets. Suggested prices range from $10 to $20. A $2.00 processing fee will be added to all tickets purchased online. Closed Captioning is available.