1 - David Hudson as Hamlet in The HAMLET Project - Photo by Lloyd Mulvey
David Hudson as Hamlet in The HAMLET Project (Photo by Lloyd Mulvey).

The Hamlet Project, a “A Shakespeare Drinking Theatrical Event” has been such a blast in a glass, it’s been extended until August 26th. I met the creative team (David Hudson, who is playing Hamlet, director Beth Gardiner, and producer Lori Wolter Hudson), and got to know more about this less-than-sober production:

Whose idea was this? How did it come about?

Beth: The Hamlet Project was born in Los Angeles in 2011. It was the idea of an actor and a director that David and I went to graduate school with at UC Irvine. They wanted to do a fun, unpretentious production of Hamlet that they could repeat over and over again in different ways. They cut the script and started a production in downtown Los Angeles. Fast-forward a couple of years, and I’m out here, David’s out here, Lori’s out here, and we thought it would be really awesome to do that here. We got the rights to do the script and made a very “New York” take on what it means to do Hamlet in a bar in New York.

David: We did a production in March in a little bar in Williamsburg. We did two nights and it was awesome.

Beth: It was ridiculous. The response was amazing.

Lori: We sold out both nights, and everybody said they wanted to see more of it.

David: The three of us got together and decided to do this incarnation of it in rep with a drinking game version of Romeo and Juliet that we are premiering in September.

Have you workshopped the Romeo and Juliet script yet?

David: We’ve done some read-throughs, and we’re about to start rehearsals as soon as we open Hamlet. Lori’s directing it, and because it is a very new project, will be more developmental.

Lori: It’s going to be a little more interactive.

David: The great thing about The Hamlet Project is that it is different night-to-night and it’s totally different every time that it’s done, and that’s what we really like about it. It’s totally unpretentious. We can’t be precious with it. We just have to do it 110% and get the audience really excited and involved with it. And it changes each time that we do it.

Beth: And the bar spaces are so small that we’re very close to the audience, in their lap, acting around them at times, drinking with them…

Lori: Don’t be surprised if an actor steals your beer.

Beth: I think it’s a really exciting night of story-telling. It’s drinking, it’s fun, it’s lighthearted, and then it’s also this great story with this great language with good actors doing it. It can’t help but be amazing.

What captured me about The Hamlet Project was despite the high concept absurdity of it all, the idea of bringing this play to where people congregate in New York City as natural audiences connects directly to Shakespeare.

Beth: Its definitely the Groundling’s version of Hamlet.

David: When you think about it, it’s down on that base level. There’s some great stuff happening with it, but it’s happening in a place where everyone is congregating.

What can audiences expect beside direct addresses and some drink stealing?

Beth: They’ll get Hamlet–the story of Hamlet–and they’ll get some twists that we incorporating. Hamlet has a play-within-a-play, and we offer up that play to be performed in a number of genres that the audience can vote on.

Lori: Polonius will be played by an audience member. That is decided when you get to the bar that night. It’s just whoever shows up.

Beth: There are drinking games when characters die.

What would be Hamlet’s drink of choice?

David: So much pressure.

Don’t say draft beer.

Beth: Nooooo.

David: Hamlet’s a whiskey man. I think probably in this production he’s a Manhattan man. Because we are in…

Beth: New York City!

David: He’s a rye Manhattan man. He likes it a little hard.

For more information on “The Hamlet Project,” check out their website: http://www.hamletprojectnewyork.com/