The Hamlet Project

written & directed by: William Electric Black
composer: Valerie Ghent
choreography: Trebien Pollard
costume design: Beth Leward
production manager: Randy F. Simon
Cast: Oberon Adjepong, Chris Brady, Eamonn Farrell, Michael Noon, Walter Pagan, Stephen Reyes, Sean Seibert, George Sosa, Brian Walker, Vanessa Burke, Liz Davito, Susanna Harris, Lauren Jacobs, Melissa Leiter, Erin Logemann, Mikey McCue, Walter Pagan, Lauren Porter, Emily Tuckman, Joni Weisfeld, and Katharyn Yew

production schedule:
February 28 - March 10, 2002
Thursday - Sunday 8:00pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
First Floor Theatre

With "The Hamlet Project," William Electric Black adapts Shakespeare's tragedy into an edgy, urban hip-hop/rock musical using the Bard's actual dialogue. Black previously rocked the classics at La MaMa with "Romeo & Juliet: Tribal" and "Frankenstein: The Rock Musical." The production features actor/hip hop artist Walter Pagan as Hamlet; music by Valerie Ghent, hip-hop arrangements by William Electric Black, Tony Mann and Giselle Hamburg, choreography by Trebien Pollard and costume design by Beth Leward (Comedy Central). Shakespeare's mystery play is re-set in a contemporary army base in this adaptation. The notion was inspired by Hamlet's line about Denmark being a prison. Black thought to himself, "It's not so much a prison as an armed camp." This led to the thought, "When you're a soldier, you can't exactly do what you want." Hamlet, then, became an unwilling soldier, who can't act upon his impulses. The wars inside--and among the characters--could be literally matched with the external war, mounted by Fortinbras' march, in such a concept. Five time Emmy award winner William Electric Black (aka Ian James) will use his experience as a writer for Sesame Street by turning the Players into a band of puppeteers. Rod puppets were crested and choreographed by Craig Schatten, who is part a musical puppet ensemble called Purple Felt. Schatten is also a writer of children's books and children's songs. William Electric Black is known for his mastery of edgy pop styles. In 1999, he and a company of 25 actors rocked The Club at La MaMa in his ingenious adaptation, "Romeo and Juliet: Tribal Rock Musical" that set Shakespeare's tragic love story to rock, pop, reggae and rap music. To share this high-energy, high-concept production with a wider audience, La MaMa moved it into its large Annex Theater for two additional weeks. His other La MaMa productions are "Doo Wop Dracula," a '50s-style tuner about teen-aged rebels who bite, and "Frankenstein: The Rock Musical," which captured the flavor, language and structure of Mary Shelley's 1816 romantic novel while rocking it out with an ensemble of 16 actors and 13 production numbers. Black performed frequently at La MaMa in the early '70s in plays directed by Andrei Serban and Ozzie Rodriguez. Other shows he has written include "Billy Stars and Kid Jupiter," a sci-fi jazzical at Theater for the New City, and "The Sun Gets Blue," another jazzical staged at the Open Eye. Composer Valerie Ghent is an engineer and background vocalist for the singing duo Ashford & Simpson and keyboardist/vocalist for Deborah Harry (world tour). For this production, Ghent has created twelve musical numbers that use rock, blues, R&B, and gospel. She is founder of the Cornelia Street Cafe Songwriter's Beat and head of West Street Records. Ms. Ghent and Mr. Black previously teamed up for the La MaMa production of Black's "Romeo & Juliet: Tribal" rock musical. Ghent will play keyboards for the production, accompanied by Tony Mann (drums) and Giselle Hamburg (bass guitar). Mann has performed with GG Allin and Electric Monster and has designed clothing for the likes of Alice Cooper and Joey Ramone. Hamburg has been touring in Europe and China and recently recorded her latest album with Loco Lizard, the French-American band of which she is lead singer and bass player. Mann and Hamburg recently performed in Mr. Black's rock musical, "The Damned," and can be seen in the rock band PUSH. Choreographer Triebien Pollard has worked with Mr. Black on two other rock musicals, "The Damned" (Kraine Theater, 2001) and "Frankenstein" (La MaMa, 2000). He will be assisted by Sarah Weber-Gallo. Mr. Pollard has performed with The Martha Graham Ensemble, Pilobilus and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and has worked as guest artist with Urban Bush Women. As a choreographer, he created "Til Death Do Us Part," "Cries of The Prophets" and other productions which have been performed throughout the US, England and Japan. Costume designer Beth Leward is Executive Producer of Comedy Central Digital Media. Ms. Leward recently assisted with costumes and set construction for Erin Keating's "Ravenous" at the NY Fringe Festival and Mr. Black's rock musical, "The Damned."Walter Pagan (Hamlet) has appeared musically as a rapper for "Sharing The Dream, Living The Reality," an M.L.K. Tribute. He has also appeared with the Outlaws Stage and as a guest rapper on the single, "Broadnax." Theatrically, he appeared most recently in "A Thread In The Dark" at the Bank Street Theater. He has acted at La Jolla Playhouse and in his original work, "I Ain't No White Boy," with the L.A.F. Traveling Rep. Production Manager Randy F. Simon (aka Wolf), in his fourth La MaMa production with Mr. Black. Simon shoots and directs music videos and has just finished a digital feature for Mr. Black entitled "All Fall Down.

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