A Social Media Spin on Hamlet

In late October, The New York Times challenged both high school and college students to interpret William Shakespeare’s Hamlet through a decidedly 21st century lens: social media. The Times’ asked for 15-second submissions from Shakespeare’s play captured via Instagram video, with the hashtag #maximumshakespeare.

When two CalArts School of Theater actors heard about the art-making experiment, they decided to take things a step further.

Zachary Davidson, a BFA 3 actor, writes in an email: “This [challenge] came to my attention when Chi-Wang Yang brought it up in his Social Media Performance class. MFA3 actor Cristina Fernandez and I immediately started brainstorming ways to CalArts-ify this project, ways to make it more challenging and interesting. The answer was scope.”

On Nov. 23, the two—with help from a “revolving” cast and crew of whomever was available—performed Hamlet in its entirety, capturing the 17th century work through 15-second Instagram video clips. Nicknamed “Gramlet,” the project took them nearly 24 hours and 506 posts to complete.

They documented their version of Hamlet on—what else—another social media platform, Tumblr, explaining the production further:

You’ll notice that it starts with fairly standard production elements (costume, character, lights, sound, effort, etc.) and rapidly devolves into speed-reads and shenanigans. It was shot (mostly) inside a theatre lobby, during which, the set of Threepenny Opera was being struck inside the theatre. So this piece is, on many levels, about the deconstruction of traditional theatre.

Adds Davidson, “As far as we can tell, we’re the first company who has ever performed all of Hamlet on Instagram.”

But it probably won’t be the last.

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