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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Bringing The Sounds And Drama Of 'Hamlet' To The Radio

Speaker 1: 00:00 This weekend Shakespeare's classic play Hamlet gets a pandemic era refresh of an old art form. The radio drama, the old globe worked with actors from their 2017 stage production and expert sound crews to transform the work into an audio production for KPBS audiences, the Globes artistic director, Barry Edelstein joined KPBS arts editor, Julia Dixon, Evans, to discuss how they pulled it off and why Hamlet is still relevant. Now, Speaker 2: 00:29 Barry, you're a Shakespeare scholar and Hamlet is arguably the most famous play of all time. Can you tell us something we might not know about this play or, or even something that we think we know, but keep getting wrong. Speaker 3: 00:46 Hamlet is a play that continues to reveal new things about itself each time you return to it. So I have found coming back to it now four years after we did it outside at the little Davies festival stage that I hear different resonances and that's because I've changed. So the thing I would say about it, and I think one could say this of any great masterpiece of literature, of, of another great Shakespeare play like King Lear or something like that is that they become partners in our journey through life because they have a seeming endlessness about them. And coming back to this play in the middle of the pandemic themes in the play about loneliness and isolation and loss and grief seem more prominent than they did four years ago. And I would imagine that 10 years from now when I pick up the play and read it again, I'll find all kinds of other resonances in it. And that's one of the things I think that has given it, its ability to endure over the centuries is that it always has more layers, more levels, more depths to reveal of itself. Speaker 2: 02:04 And what is something you were mindful of in producing this classical play right now in this mid pandemic, in this continuing racial and social justice crisis, this new and evolving society. I mean, beyond having to do it for the radio, but things like, like the style, the tone and the nuance. Speaker 3: 02:28 When we did the show in 2017, over half the company were actors of color. The entire Royal family is black. Hamlet is black, the King, the queen, the ghost of his father. Um, our MFA actor training program, which we run with the university of San Diego is in most years. And I think now over 50% actors of color. So at the time in 2017, the production was notable for the diversity of representation onstage. And it also happened to be the most successful Shakespeare at the box office in the history of the old globe and the first Shakespeare in the Globes, 85 year history to sell more than a million dollars worth of tickets. So it has an important place in the life of the old globe in that it demonstrates that diversity and public success go hand in hand. And we knew we wanted to capture that in the radio version in particular, in light of the upheavals of 2020 and the great reckoning that institutions like the globe are doing with questions of equity, diversity, inclusion, access, belonging. We felt that this Hamlet put the Globe's best foot forward and demonstrated to our audience both live and on the radio. That Shakespeare is for everyone that the experience gets more rich, the wider, the diversity that it can embrace Speaker 2: 03:57 The actor who will play Hamlet, grant them Coleman performed in this role with the old globe in 2017. And we have a clip from a recent interview where he talked about what changes he made between those massive outdoor sets with, uh, 40 performances to making this into a radio play. Speaker 3: 04:20 We played around very early on with this, this, the very intimate, very close to the microphone Hamlet inside his mind production, or do we hold true to what worked on stage, which was loud and aggressive and fast. And we realized that the best is always going to be a mix. It's always going to be a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Speaker 2: 04:44 So that's Grantham Coleman in a recent interview he did with the globe. Can you expand on that a little bit about making radio Speaker 3: 04:52 Grantham is one of the most exciting classical actors we have in the United States after doing Hamlet at the globe in 2017, he went on to star in much ado about nothing at Shakespeare in the park, in central park, in New York city. He's got just, uh, an exploding career. And, uh, it's been such an honor to do this work with him and to watch him adjust to this medium, the microphone is a strange thing. It, it will lure you into a sense of, um, intimacy and quiet and closeness. And that is extremely fun. And, and in its own way, expressive and as Grantham said, we did a lot of experimentation and thought, well, why don't we take advantage of the medium that we're in and try and exploit the fact that the microphone can draw the audience closer to us than they're able to get outdoors. Speaker 2: 05:47 And Barry, do you have a favorite line or a scene from Hamlet? Speaker 3: 05:55 I do. There's a line that's been ricocheting through my head in particular, in the last couple of weeks because governor Newsome has announced that on June 15th, all the pandemic restrictions are going to be lifted. And we're all going to be able to start to return to things. We remember full houses, full of audiences watching a live performance. And as we put those plans in motion, this one line of Hamlet where he says the readiness is all, there was a special Providence in the fall of a Sparrow. If it be now, it's not the com. If it be not the come, it will be now. It'd be not now. Yeah, it will come. The readiness is all very, thank you so much. Thank you. Speaker 1: 06:51 That's the old Globes Barry Edelstein speaking with KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dickson Evans Hamlet on the radio will air on KPBS in two parts this weekend to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday and death day tune in Friday at 7:00 PM for part one and Saturday at seven four parts. Speaker 3: 07:10 Thank you.

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The Old Globe brings the politics, family sagas, ghosts and that epic sword fight in Shakespeare's "Hamlet" to radio audiences.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments