To Be or Not to Be?

hamlet-photo-by-EmilyDuck-1024x682

W
hat comes to mind when you think of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”? Is it a classic play or a dated, irrelevant story? David Stradley, producing artistic director of the Delaware Shakespeare Festival (DSF), organized the “I Am Hamlet” Project Town Hall held at the New Castle campus in May. His goal was to dispel notions of the play’s irrelevance, and to spotlight similarities between the original setting and modern times.

DSF members spent April and May inciting community engagement and conducted an in-depth exploration of the Bard’s most famous play to commemorate the 450th anniversary of his death. DSF officials posed questions in person and via social media. They asked audiences to draw parallels between societal forces present today and when Shakespeare authored “Hamlet,” which is believed to have been between 1599 and 1601.

The “I am Hamlet” project generated refreshing discussions about the play, which included topics such as over-analyzing, dealing with relationship troubles and searching for wisdom. “It introduced ‘Hamlet’ and the parallels between the play to a new generation of theatergoers,” says co-organizer Kate Cottle, assistant professor and chair of English and literature in the College of Arts and Sciences. “Even people who say they don’t like Shakespeare find that his ideas and characters are powerfully resonant today.”

The campaign included classroom workshops, retirement home visits, an essay contest, video interviews and social media discussions. At the town hall gathering at the Pratt Student Center afterward, Cottle and Stradley reported the findings of the two-month campaign and the responses it rendered from participants. When “Hamlet” was performed at the DSF in July at Rockwood Park in Wilmington, Stradley and actor Griffin Stanton-Ameisen offered a summary of the campaign, and gave audiences opportunities to share insights.

Ultimately, Shakespeare’s play that essentially advised humankind on the virtues of living proper lives is as relevant today as it was during the Bard’s time. Wu