Between reading “Hamlet” in school, endless adaptations and its compulsively quotable lines, most people are familiar with William Shakespeare’s tortured prince haunted by his own mortality.
But knowing what to expect is exactly the problem with the play, says New York Shakespeare Exchange’s Ross Williams.
“There’s no reason Hamlet has to be any one thing,” says Williams, the director of Hamlet10, a new production opening tonight at the Flamboyan Theater that splits the title role between 10 actors. “It does tie into our political moment right now of, ‘Why would we ever need to say that Hamlet is a dashing, heroic, princely leading man type? Or white? Why can’t he be a wispy little Asian guy, or a fat guy?”
In fact, Williams’ casting for the role intentionally went as far outside of expectations as possible. He chose five men and five women of varying ethnicities and sexualities to portray a Hamlet who will range in age from a teenage girl to a 50-year-old man.
The physical attributes of each actor are meant to tell a slightly different story with each scene — as Williams points out, “There is a big difference between seeing a young woman saying, ‘Get thee to a nunnery,’ versus a young man saying, ‘Get thee to a nunnery.’” It's all to show how a bit of the character is recognizable in all of us.