Playing Hamlet Roulette

Failure, Expectation, Possibility, Democracy

edited by Mark Jackson
$20 at Small Press Distribution and wholesale distribution through Small Press Distribution (Pubnet SAN#106-6617)

In the hit 2016 Shotgun Players production of Hamlet, seven actors learned
all the roles. Each night, in front of the audience, they drew from Yorick’s skull
the characters they would play, then had five minutes to get ready before
show time. Playing Hamlet Roulette explores what eventually emerged as the
production’s true subjects: failure, expectation, possibility, and democracy. In
these pages, the production’s director, actors, designers, and audience explore
the wide ranging implications of these subjects both in and out of theatre. How
might a critical consideration of creative experiences with failure expand our
expectations of what is possible in our democratic societies?

Praise for the 2016 Shotgun Players production of HAMLET

“A mind-bending new production… The actors’ ability to pull off this Hamlet is simply awe-inspiring. And the format makes you examine your preconceptions of both the play and the nature of theater: All lines of gender, age and race will be crossed at some point.” – SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

“Uplifting and weirdly affecting… You immediately notice that there isn’t a conventional Hamlet in the cast. They are a wonderfully eclectic bunch: men and women, a smattering of ages and races, even different acting styles… We are plunged into a democracy of infinite possibilities… A unique and rich response to the play… We should be thankful to witness such a circus of daring.” – KQED.ORG

“The work is raw, rough, and unsentimental. [The] audience is called upon both intellectually and imaginatively to extend the performance far beyond what is materially presented in front of them… This is not ‘gift shop Shakespeare.’ It is not pretty, celebrity studded, or made topical. Jackson and his cast are excavating the essential text from under a lot of accumulated baggage, and what emerges is often highly original and gut wrenching.” – – SHAKESPEARESTRIBE.COM

“Absolutely terrific… Director Mark Jackson took a huge risk here, and maybe the tightrope-like conceit added necessary excitement and unfamiliarity (not to mention a little panic, surely, in the actors). But the staging and clarity of this Hamlet transcend any theatrical stunt and polish Shakespeare’s old yet ever-relevant chestnut anew… I left eager to see the play again.” – 48HILLS.ORG

“It’s a daunting premise, but one that the cast of director Mark Jackson’s Hamlet pulled off with wild success… By opening up Hamlet to thousands of possible casting combinations, Jackson inevitably defies traditional assumptions about the gender, age and race of the play’s well-known characters… This spontaneous diversity seizes upon the universality of Shakespeare’s work in a way that many other productions fail to — fully revealing the kernels of common humanity within each character… An exhilarating journey, and one that manages to stoke the audience’s appreciation for the very mechanics of theater while its powerhouse cast brings new vitality — and vigor — to a well-known play.” – EAST BAY EXPRESS

 Mark Jackson is a theatre maker based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work in theatre, dance, and performance has been seen there as well as nationally, in the UK, Germany, and Japan.