The world is broken, I want to get off

Part 1 of thoughts on Hamlet: in motion, coming to Jerusalem August 8-28

It was 2010, we were still new olim. My eldest, Natan, who’d pushed me into theater work back in New York, was nudging me again. He and a friend of his were hankering for something new theatrically in Jerusalem. Fueled by summer memories of running after actors in Central Park at New York Classical Theater productions, I suggested bringing a similar model to Jerusalem. Summer Shakespeare, out of doors, free of charge, on-the-move in a Jerusalem park.

It’s been a busy 8 years, filled with millions of rehearsals, lots of costume changes, and many, many quotable Shakespearean phrases. And now, we’ve arrived at Hamlet. It’s been a pleasurable challenge to take on this most iconic of the Bard’s works. We’ve got a team of hard working actors, a dedicated crew, and are looking forward to sharing our vision of what’s really rotten in Denmark with all of you, August 8-28. For more details, look at our website or our Facebook page.

As opening night beckons, I’d like to share some thoughts on the show and the process from some of our actors, starting with Talya Bem. Talya joined the ensemble for 2016’s Macbeth: in motion, playing one of witches as well as a few other parts, necessitating 3 excellent stage deaths during the course of the show. Now 17, and a serious Hamlet enthusiast, she’s exploring the fascinating and enigmatic Ophelia.

“Now get you to my lady’s chamber and tell her, let her pain an inch thick, to this favor she must come.” Illustration by Talya Bem.

Ophelia, one of Shakespeare’s most beleaguered heroines, dies when she drowns in a brook.  Did she take her life? Did she allow herself to welcome death after a host of bitter experiences including Hamlet’s rejection, her father’s murder, and her brother’s inability to support her when he returns to Denmark? She staggers blindly through the latter part of the story, emotionally wounded and alone, until she meets her end…misunderstood and alone.

And how do her experiences match up with Hamlet’s emotions and thoughts.

The Emotional Soundscape of Hamlet
Talya Bem

“I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air—look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?” – Hamlet, act 2, scene 2

Illustration by Talya Bem.

When I first read Hamlet I was utterly mesmerized – each speech more moving and entrancing than the next. This happens to be my favorite play and I am so honored to be a part of this incredible process. Seeing it come to life before my eyes is truly an indescribable experience and words cannot possibly do it justice.

How to desperately grasp for a reason to be in a world that gives you every reason to not to be? How to find the little bit of hope left in a life that is twisted and rotten and so wrong? How does the human mind respond when it is driven to the absolute edge? Hamlet offers the answers to these questions. Innocence is broken. Justice has turned its head. Beauty is ugly. Truth is a lie. All that is good and pure is dead.

The passion, heartache and fury draws us in and beckons us to explore the depths of human emotion and the questions that dwell at its core, addressing matters with which we all grapple, making it a timeless document.

“I would give you some violets.. but they withered all when my father died.” Illustration by Talya Bem.

What I like most about the play is how genuine it is, beautifully portraying the complexity of life and the sense of responsibility it bestows upon us. At the time I read this play, I was going through hardships which allowed me to relate to the play in a very intimate manner. It was as though someone had taken all my thoughts and feelings and expressed them with complete accuracy, not to mention with hauntingly poetic words. I am sure that I am not the only one, as we all “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (Hamlet, act 3, scene 1).

True, Hamlet offers more questions than it does answers, but we may find comfort in knowing that we are not alone, that being lost is part of being human and that longing for death is part of being alive.

Join Talya and the rest of the cast on this very human journey of discovery. For Hamlet, for  Ophelia, and the rest of his friends and family. For, “all the rest is silence.” (Hamlet, act 5, scene 2)

Hamlet: in motion. August 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16, 26, 27, 28 at 5:30pm in the Bloomfield Gardens, Jerusalem.  Theater in the Rough website and Facebook page.

About the Author
Beth Steinberg is the Executive Director and co-founder of Shutaf, Inclusion Programs for Children with Special Needs in Jerusalem. A believer in Jewish camping, Beth is a graduate of Massad and Ramah camps, where she learned the importance of informal education programs as a platform for teaching Jewish and social values. As a parent of a child with special needs, she struggled to find workable, appropriate activities for her child. Beth believes that a well-run inclusion program can help educate and change values, creating meaningful and lasting social change. Beth is also the Artistic Director of Theater in the Rough, engaging audiences with free summer Shakespeare.
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