For our production of Hamlet we asked Anthony Howard, author of Women as Hamlet, to select a “Top Ten” list of other women who have played the role since the 18th century.
In Women as Hamlet Howard writes:
“The first Hamlet on film was a woman, Sarah Bernhardt (1900). Probably the first Hamlet on radio was a woman, Eve Donne (1923). The ‘observed of all observers,’ the ‘glass of fashion and the mold of form,’ the ‘hoop through which every actor must jump’ according to Max Beerbohm, Hamlet is also the role that has since the late eighteenth century most inspired tragic actresses to challenge expectations and cross gender lines. Several of the most brilliant performances of the part in our time have been by women, and the issue of Hamlet’s ‘femininity’ has fascinated artists in all media. Crossing boundaries, contesting convention, disrupting or reflecting the dominant sexual politics, this regendering of Hamlet has involved repeated investigations into the nature of subjectivity, articulacy, and action - investigations with radically different consequences depending on the cultural situation. It has been an extraordinary history, but until recently, with the re-evaluation of such unconventional actresses as Charlotte Charke, Charlotte Cushman, Asta Nielsen and Eva Le Gallienne, it was largely ignored.”
“What most female Hamlets have in common is that they are catalysts - inassimilable figures alien to the norms around them. The paradoxes and dissident intensities of Hamlet’s beliefs and language become sharper through the figure of an actress/prince whose very presence exposes artifice - the theatrical conventions we might not otherwise question, the political banalities masking Elsinore’s lies, and the structures of power and gender that normally trap women in Hamlet in the roles of Mother, Virgin and Whore. The female Hamlet is a walking, talking alienation effect.”
To create a soundscape fitting for Shakespeare's greatest play, the Wilma has teamed up with the electronic duo Games Violet to compose orginal music and sound. Games Violet is comprised of Irish composers Alex Games and Emma Violet; two newcomers to the Wilma's design collaborators. Emma gave us a sneak-peek at some of the music you will hear during the show!
Throughout the 19th century, Hamlet rarely encountered Claudius at prayer: actors and audience in the age of melodrama couldn’t abide the idea that a hero, even one pledged to revenge, would consider stabbing someone, even the villain, in the back. Stabbing someone through a tapestry was fine, however.
by Walter Bilderback
Hamlet is almost always cut for performance. What people read in school runs about 4 1/2 hours uncut - and that “complete” Hamlet is actually something created by editors in the 18th century, who saw the First Folio (1623) and what we now call the Second Quarto (1604) as imperfect representations of what Shakespeare “really” meant to write, and tried to create their ideal. Each version has unique passages, and only around 200 lines out of nearly 4,000 are identical in the two versions. This has given editors 300 years to put their own interpretation on the play, hoping to channel Shakespeare’s intent.
Check out these behind-the-scenes images of the set for Hamlet!
Our crew and design team is hard at work to create Hamlet's Denmark on the Wilma's stage. As you'll see in the pics, our design, envisioned by Matt Saunders, incorporates various elements of Street Art, like wheatpasting and graffiti. We are proud to work with Philadelphia-based Street Artist CERA on the creation of our set. The lettering you see is done by Juan Deminda.
CERA is a street artist currently based out of Philadelphia. He received his BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in 2012 with an emphasis in printmaking. After graduating, CERA pursued opportunities for working out east. He has exhibited work on and off the street in Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Seoul. This is his first experience working as a part of a set design team.
Check out a few of the costume design sketches by Hamlet Costume Designer Vasilija Zivanic!
Vasilija Zivanic (Vasi) is a recipient of the Kahn Career Award for Exceptional Talent, Ms. Zivanic’s credentials include Leaving by Václav Havel (The Wilma Theater), The Daughters of the Mood (Edinburgh Festival), Cosi Fan Tutte (Huntington Theatre), Venus, Necessary Targets, Godspell, La Lorona (The Beckett Theatre, NYC), and The Magic Flute; fabric painter for leading New York studio Parson Meares on Broadway including The Lion King, Wicked, Spamalot, Dracula, and Disney’s Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., and Aladdin. Ms. Zivanic works as a fashion designer and illustrator for various clients in the US and Europe. She is Professor at Parsons and FIT in NYC. Some of her work is published in The Big Book of Contemporary Illustration by M. Dawber and Fashion Drawing by M. Bryan.