Hamlet on Alcatraz
- Alcatraz Island
- Autumn 2010
- By William Shakespeare
- Directed by Ava Roy
In an historic partnership, the National Parks Service and We Players presented Shakespeare’s Hamlet as an island-wide interactive experience. Offering unprecedented opportunities to enter areas ordinarily closed to visitors, the performance uses both intimate spaces and cinematographic vistas with simultaneous action on multiple levels. We Players lead the designated audience along a carefully crafted route, while regular park visitors were provided with numerous opportunities to interact with the performance. Alcatraz’s compelling landscape provides a perfect natural setting for Hamletand the central themes of the text speak to the charged and varied history of The Rock.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Hamlet struggles with how to be – or even whether to be – and what to do. He grapples with his filial, social and stately obligations, as well as his own emotions and the essential human predicament of putting thought into action. Hamlet’s struggles with conscience, obligations and fear invite us to consider fundamental questions of how to live.
Exploring the Alcatraz themes is a process of developing deeper understanding, rather than judging or justifying the choices people make. Forgiveness and healing come from understanding. Art helps us hold “as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature” and therein see our hindering patterns, whereby we may unlock them.
The play, like Alcatraz itself, examines the spectrum of crime and consequences. The story eventually demonstrates the results of pursuing justice through vengeance, when the momentum of revenge results in the death of everyone on stage, save Horatio who is left to explain the carnage for all of history. Can we learn from this story and create new paths into the future?
“Oh how the wheel becomes it!”