The Wilma Theater- 265 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19107…The production runs until May 2, 2015
To the boy from my English class who said that Hamlet should only be played by Danish actors (an event that only happens in Denmark, I bet), I present to you: The Wilma Theater’s take on Hamlet, which stars a wonderful black actress named Zainab Jah. I admit- when I originally imagined what a black female Hamlet would be like, I was electrified by the possibilities and expected that the reinterpreted production could make the role of Hamlet even more iconic than it already is…however, so much of this production of Hamlet did not take advantage of the actress as a black woman or even the set (which was inexplicably covered with graffiti and filled with mulch). Even though, director Blanka Zizka chose Jah simply because she was the best actor for the part, I still think it would have been a more creative production if it didn’t ignore the actress as a black woman. I do understand that black performers wish to play characters without their color or sex being acknowledged ALL THE TIME. I just think it would have been a far more interesting production had the director made a comment about the sex and gender of Hamlet (and explained the set but that’s a whole other article!).
Can you imagine creating an interpretation of a black female Hamlet that is set in modern day? This would raise a lot of interesting questions. How would this production change the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia? How would this change of color and sex also change how we view her relationships and her personality? Just some interesting questions to think about…
Recommendation: I am a huge fan of the Wilma Theatre and would recommend going to see this play. It was definitely enjoyable even though I would have liked to see a more creative interpretation with the leading actress. What is theatre, after all, if it cannot be discussed?!