'Hamlet' explained and presented

Lecture and screening on Shakespeare's arguably most famous play comes to Taos

By Laura Bulkin
Posted 1/23/20

In August 2015, Benedict Cumberbatch stepped out onto the stage at London's Barbican Theatre to begin a three-month run in the title role of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet."

In the last month of the run, National Theatre Live telecast the production in real time to more than 1,400 theaters in 25 countries. The Taos Center for the Arts will present an encore screening of the production Sunday (Jan. 26), 6 p.m., at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.

As a prelude to the screening, the "Talks at SOMOS" series will feature actors Karla Eoff, Serena Jade Smith and Adam Overley-Black in a preview discussion of the play today (Jan. 23), 5 p.m., at the SOMOS Salon and Bookshop, 108 Civic Plaza Drive.

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'Hamlet' explained and presented

Lecture and screening on Shakespeare's arguably most famous play comes to Taos

Posted

In August 2015, Benedict Cumberbatch stepped out onto the stage at London's Barbican Theatre to begin a three-month run in the title role of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet." The show's entire run had long been sold out. Cumberbatch, in addition to having the most-fun-to-mispronounce celebrity name of all time, has won passionate fans around the globe for his portrayal of characters from the legendary Sherlock Holmes to the Marvel Universe's Dr. Stephen Strange.

In the last month of the run, National Theatre Live -- an initiative operated by the Royal National Theatre in London -- telecast the production in real time to more than 1,400 theaters in 25 countries. That first telecast reached 225,000 viewers, more people than had seen the entire run at the Barbican.

The Taos Center for the Arts will present an encore screening of the production Sunday (Jan. 26), 6 p.m., at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Cumberbatch's "Hamlet" was directed by Lyndsey Turner and had a cast including Leo Bill as Horatio, Siân Brooke as Ophelia, Anastasia Hille as Gertrude, Ciarán Hinds as Claudius and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Laertes.

As a prelude to the screening, the "Talks at SOMOS" series will feature actors Karla Eoff, Serena Jade Smith and Adam Overley-Black in a preview discussion of the play today (Jan. 23), 5 p.m., at the SOMOS Salon and Bookshop, 108 Civic Plaza Drive.

Eoff grew up in Texas. She has also lived in Brooklyn, New York, where she ran an arts and performance space out of her brownstone and worked as Susan Sontag's assistant. Since moving to Taos, she has directed and acted in numerous productions, including playing Hippolyta in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Maria in "Twelfth Night." Her most recent production, with Kristen Woolf, was "Two Old Ladies Acting Out," a performance of solo and two-person selections.

"I started doing community theater when I was 12 or 14 at the Lubbock Theatre Center," Eoff said. "Many of the actors, as well as the director, came from the Texas Tech theater department, which made for a very diverse experience. The director was G.W. Bailey, and among the actors were people like Jane Abbott, Jaston Williams and Barry Corbin. The first live Shakespeare I saw was a summer production in Lubbock, in the park. I don't even think they had permits. It was just a bunch of bored actors who decided to do 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' (of course). I'm not sure how good the production was, but I loved it.

"Though I've directed scenes from Shakespeare, I've never directed a full production. My most recent acting experience in Shakespeare is with Teatro Serpiente, here in Taos, which has been almost too much fun, if there is such a thing. However, I've seen all types of productions everywhere I've gone, professional, amateur, in various modern settings, and in venues from abandoned buildings and empty lots to Brooklyn Academy of Music to Central Park in NYC.

"'Hamlet,' as with all of Shakespeare's work, has remained relevant because Shakespeare's themes are human and real and 'topical' in a timeless way. Greed, power, narcissism, politics, love -- some things never go out of style. I think that after the apocalypse, the roaches will be doing Shakespeare.

"Serena Smith and Adam Overley-Black will be my guests, and they will talk about their recent experience doing 'Hamlet' (she directing, he playing Hamlet), as well as their impressions of the production being screened."

Smith has compiled an impressive résumé of theater, music and dance performances while still in her 20s. "I think that Hamlet is one of Shakespeare's most beautifully written plays, and it was such a pleasure for me be able to direct that show a year ago," Smith said. "It's a play deeply driven by human emotion, as Shakespeare's greatest works most often are. Hamlet struggles so much with his own identity and what it means to be a man, but also the complexities of how to be a human being. This struggle leads him to inaction - and ultimately it is his inaction that gets him killed, and everyone else along the way."

Said Overley-Black, "I was also thrilled to have the opportunity to play Hamlet. It's one of those all-time great roles that most actors hope to play at some point. Every version of the role is very different because the issues that he is dealing with are so complex and so human that every actor understands the role differently based on their own experiences. It deals with the relationship between a man and his family, his lover, his friends and his own mortality. These are some of the deepest connections humans experience throughout their lives, and so it is really a play for all of us."

Jan Smith is SOMOS' executive director. "This is the third year that SOMOS has collaborated with the TCA in offering National Theatre's Broadway HD Talks on their screenings," she said. "'Hamlet' is a universally known Shakespearean play that encompasses the all-too-human themes of grief, revenge, suicide, ambition, power and madness. Hamlet is an enigmatic character who is both philosophical and self-introspective as well as irrational and impulsive -- paradoxical traits found in many of us. As a director, actor, editor and theater buff, Karla Eoff's lecture promises to be thorough and informative, as well as entertaining."

Admission to the lecture at SOMOS is free. Tickets to the Taos Community Auditorium screening are $18; $15 for Taos Center for the Arts members; and free to youth 17 and under. For more information, call (575) 758-2052 for the TCA or (575) 758-0081 for SOMOS.

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