Our first major theatrical production was a thematic re-authoring of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I helped introduce the students to the story of Hamlet by breaking the plot up into thematic units, such as power, betrayal, and ghosts. We discussed the themes, and students took to writing how the theme was relevant in their own life. Other teachers introduced the themes to their students, and soon we had a collection of written pieces, which we organized to tell the thematized story. With so much writing, we decided to include an additional plot development, where Hamlet is reborn inside a jail in a struggle for power over his peers.
Next, I worked with the students to create visual symbols to represent each of the characters of the play, and then proceeded to sketch out both the original Hamlet plot and the Jail Hamlet plot onto (2) 3′ x 7.5′ canvas. As we painted the canvases together, we discussed the characters and plot in detail.
After completing the paintings, students worked with the music teacher (Andrew Brown) to record their written pieces and songs, the art teacher (Gary Johnson) to create plaster masks with the character symbols painted on them, the dance teacher (Crystal Stewart) to coordinate dances, and the director (Sean Turner) for stage direction.
I worked with the students on (4) more smaller canvas (3′ x 4′) depicting scenes with similar themes. For the final production, I also put together a slide show of images from the pantings synced with the recorded audio tracks. The piece below was exhibited at both the Queens Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum of Art.