In what just might be the theatrical event of the fall, Actors’ Shakespeare Project kicks off its new season with Hamlet, which will be staged at the Church of the Covenant by the tremendously talented Doug Lockwood.
ASP resident actor Omar Robinson will be starring as Hamlet, so we asked him to give us a taste of what to expect from this production, the challenges of playing Hamlet, and why he considers himself to be the “anti-Hamlet.”
What can we expect with this production? Are you guys doing anything different with time or place?
Setting-wise, traditional; we’re sticking to the end of 16th century. Our venue, the Church of the Covenant, definitely lends itself to that old school kind of appeal. It helps bring the grandiosity of the time and it kind of transports you.
Will you be performing in the actual main part of the church?
Oh, yeah! All of it, actually. We have free reign of the whole sanctuary, which has been great. There’s all the aisle space, like five different aisles; there’s a beautiful organ that we’ll be playing; there’s the altar; the pulpit; a choir loft in the back. We’re playing with everything. It’s all ours.
Churches are creepy! It really lends itself to this play being a ghost story.
It really does! That’s the vibe we’re going to have throughout this. I mean, it’s a ghost story, and the time of year will lend itself to that too.
Hamlet is the role for a lot of actors. Has taking him on been intimidating at all?
I’ll be real with you – it’s funny because, like, it’s the role for a lot of people. It wasn’t for me, for a while. To be perfectly honest, because of the lack of visibility – there aren’t a lot of people that look like me playing Hamlet. For years it never crossed my mind. It was never on my radar until [director] Doug [Lockwood] and [artistic director] Allyn Burrows were like “You wanna be Hamlet?” and I was like “uh, okay.” I remember taking a good three seconds to be like “Do I really want to do this?” (laughs.) But then it turned into a very firm “yes” because of all the richness there is to mine out of this guy. It’s so complicated and so dense and he’s all over the place and I love that. I know that someone looking like me will tell it a different way. I’m super excited to bring my flavor to this.
What kind of flavor?
There was a joke that I started at rehearsal two days ago, I called myself the anti-Hamlet. Traditionally, compared to what I’ve seen, he’s very kind of morose and downtrodden; very smart, very aware, but there tends to be this air of heft to the character and I’ve been finding, strangely, a lot of levity, which fits with my personae very well. It’s been easier to slip into than I thought. I thought “Oh God, I can’t get into this dull, morose guys’ head, this deep thinker!” But there are different ways to tap into that. I’ve been finding it and it’s been really exciting, and, to go to your question, intimidating, absolutely. Bring it on!
Other than the dialogue, what’s the biggest challenge of Hamlet?
Acting-wise, I have no problem getting dirty, in most regards. (Ahem ahem.) But getting to the nasty parts of people; he goes to some really dark places and I enjoy that kind of stuff. It’s part of us all and I don’t tend to shy away from that part of people’s story. It has been a challenge because I have to tap into some really painful stuff to get into his mindset. That’s been the challenge, balancing that and finding the darker spots and really leaning into those. The more I lean in, the more amazing stuff happens.
You are bubbling with enthusiasm when you talk about this! You must be excited.
I am. I really am, which surprises me. I really thought two weeks ago I’d be freaking out right now, but I feel good.
What else should we know about this Hamlet?
Come see it. It’s really going to be special because it’s not your grandmas’ Hamlet, in part, because it’s your Hamlet. (Laughs.) Every day in the room has been such a delight. It’s been so alive from day one and I can feel that it’s going to be alive and different every single night we do it. It’s going to be a special Hamlet.
HAMLET. 10.6 – 11.6 AT ACTORS’ SHAKESPEARE PROJECT AT THE CHURCH OF THE COVENANT, 67 NEWBURY ST., BOSTON. ACTORSSHAKESPEAREPROJECT.ORG