By now, anyone who is a fan of William Shakespeare knows that this year marks the 450th anniversary of the English playwright's birth in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, England. While not entirely clear on the date of Shakespeare's birth, many historians believe it fell on April 23, 1564.
In celebration of this anniversary, London's famous Globe theater company has launched an ambitious plan to perform Shakespeare's perhaps most famous play, Hamlet, in 205 countries over the next two years. The company began the series of performances in London on April 23 and will conclude the tour there on April 23, 2016. The eight-member troupe of actors, which is traveling on everything from planes and trains to boats and buses, is performing a condensed version of the play lasting about two hours and 40 minutes -- down from the normal four and a half to five hours.
On August 16, 2014, the Globe troupe will perform Hamlet in the town of Copán Ruinas, Honduras.
In a TV interview with journalist Jeffrey Brown of the PBS NewsHour, the Globe's artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole, was asked, "In announcing this [tour], you yourself said it was a quote, 'lunatic idea.' So the first question, of course, is... 'Why do it?'"
Mr. Dromgoole's reply:
"Why not. All of the best ideas are a little bit mad. Two years ago, we did a very very crazy idea -- a festival where we invited 37 countries from all across the world to come and do the complete works of Shakespeare... all in their own languages, as a six-week festival. That was crazy enough. But we wanted to cap that, and we wanted to go a little bit further and to celebrate the international reach of Shakespeare, but also to cement a lot of relationships that we formed when we did that festival and see if we could sow a whole lot of new relationships as well. And when you come up with an idea like that, you know it's a bold idea, it's a stupid idea, it's a happy idea... and they sort of have their own logic those ideas."
The idea of the Globe performing Hamlet in a small cobblestoned town adjoining the ancient Maya ruins of Copán is a fascinating one. The immediate visuals that come to mind are rich and striking, as are the vocal contrasts. Elizabethan English in the secluded mountains of northwestern Honduras?
What is interesting is that the idea is not nearly so out of place as one might presume, given the universal themes that run through Hamlet. Here's what Mr. Dromgoole has to say about this...
"Well, the great thing about Hamlet is that it's always challenging. Hamlet says the time is out of joint. And he's a man whose sensibility doesn't fit in his own age, he's troubled by a sense of modernity in an age that doesn't particularly understand him. And that makes sense everywhere. That makes sense in England at the moment, where a lot of people, whether they're young or old, or whoever they are, feel a sense of dissatisfaction, a sense of discontent, a sense that they don't understand the world around them. It's as true in America I'm sure, and it's true in a lot of different places that are in a very different historical moment and a very different political situation. So Hamlet is always challenging, it's always provoking, it's always troubling. But it can also inspire, and it can also console. It's sort of a gloriously variable, protean play that can cope with a whole collection of different situations. And it's beautiful, and it's a great story."
The Globe's two-year tour is a world-class event which will help introduce and endear millions of people to Shakespeare, to classical literature and the performing arts in general, and notably to Hamlet. That Copán Ruinas has opened itself to this visionary project is a cultural triumph for the town and its people, as well as for all of Honduras.
For information regarding Hamlet in Copán, e-mail Paola Carías at email@example.com.