American Conservatory Theater is returning to Shakespeare this fall, with the first production of one of his plays in more than twenty years: Hamlet, starring John Douglas Thompson. It’s the first time the Tony-nominated actor has taken on the role, despite playing many other Shakespearean parts. A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff is stage directing. Thompson was last seen in Satchmo at the Waldorf, the one-man show about Louis Armstrong, two seasons ago.
You can find out more about the performances at the A.C.T. website.
Thompson says he’s trying to take an approach that relies on the language provided, and to not be intimidated. “You try not to think about the history of it, because it’s so daunting and overwhelming, so you just try to figure, how can I do justice to what Shakespeare has written and how can this material manifest in me to create the character of Hamlet for this production in San Francisco, at the A.C.T. with these actors?” But there’s enough in the role, he says, that it feels like ten plays. “You’re really dealing with Shakespeare at the height, in a sense, at the height of his powers. Everything that had come before, and everything that he knew that may possibly come after, he somehow put in this play Hamlet. Which is why it absorbs whatever you give it. Which is why it is appropriate any time you do it. Which is why it speaks to us politically, socially, economically, personally. That’s the beauty of this play, is that it fits wherever you put it.” And that makes the play malleable enough to be able to focus on whatever aspects you want to highlight. While there’s plenty of action, it’s also a role that involves a lot of thought. “Somehow, maybe subconsciously, he manifests his own destiny. And I think it’s interesting to watch somebody from start to finish manifest their destiny through thought, and also through action that comes from the thought…That’s the most exciting aspect of playing this part for me. Is allowing myself to use Shakespeare’s words to think… Outloud, in front of however many people show up for the performance.”