Press Release: Hamlet 360: Thy Father’s Spirit

For Immediate release: January 25, 2019
Contact: Kati Mitchell 617-470-3378
kmitchell@commshakes.org

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company
partners with Google to release Hamlet adapted to Virtual Reality:
Hamlet 360: Thy Father’s Spirit

Wellesley, MA— Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC) Founding Artistic Director Steven Maler, announced today that in partnership with Google it is launching a Virtual Reality (VR) experience of William Shakespeare’s classic play Hamlet, entitled Hamlet 360: Thy Father’s Spirit.  The experience is being released in partnership with Boston public media producer WGBH and can be viewed exclusively on the WGBH YouTube channel. The 360 video is best viewed using a VR headset, such as the Google Pixel phone with Google Cardboard or Daydream View. For further information about the experience, how to view it, and behind the scenes content, visit WGBH’s website at www.wgbh.org/hamlet360.

“For nearly 25 years, CSC has been passionately dedicated to making Shakespeare’s plays accessible to all,” says Steven Maler. “We believe that Shakespeare wrote for everyone and that his plays should be seen by everyone. Through our free productions on Boston Common, seen each summer by 50,000 people from all walks of life, we seek to democratize theater by breaking down barriers—economic, cultural, and physical—that exclude many from cultural engagement. We see VR as an extension of our work on the Common and a means to scale our mission to the world.”

In collaboration with producers Graham Sack and Quentin Little, with technical direction and cinematography by Matthew Niederhauser andJohn Fitzgerald, and costume and production design by Clint Ramos, CSC Artistic Director Steven Maler has taken Shakespeare’s most iconic play to meet the cutting edge of immersive storytelling. Hamlet 360: Thy Father’s Spirit compresses Shakespeare’s narrative to a 60-minute experience, embracing the immersive power of VR to plunge the viewer into Hamlet’s harrowing journey. It is a cinematic 360 experience that explores new dimensions of the medium by casting the viewer as the Ghost of Hamlet’s dead father, giving the viewer a sense of agency and urgency as an omniscient observer, guide and participant.

“WGBH has been a longtime collaborator with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company because of their creativity and our shared mission of community engagement. This is the latest example of their extraordinarily innovative thinking and approach,” says WGBH President and CEO Jon Abbott. “We know the power of the VR experience from WGBH’s documentary work, and it’s exciting to see it applied to performance inHamlet 360. We’re thrilled to join them in making this remarkable production freely available for all audiences through our digital platforms.”

Hamlet 360: Thy Father’s Spirit brings Shakespeare’s most iconic play to vivid life, harnessing the power of the VR medium to bring viewers inside this masterpiece. The experience is set in a dilapidated, once-glorious hall—the room where the fateful duel took place leaving such waste and carnage. Paint peels off the walls, water drips from the ceiling, ruined furniture gathers dust. Shards of Hamlet’s memories—the faded detritus of his life—are spread throughout the room. On one end, a stage; in one area, a large clawfoot tub; and in another, a mound of earth with a few tombstones and a fresh rough-hewn grave. The design embraces the interiority of the play and immerses the characters (and the viewer) in Hamlet’s chaotic, turbulent mindscape. This dream world is both hyper-real and tangible as well as surreal and expressionistic. It’s a rich and detailed environment that invites continual exploration and discovery.

A brilliant cast of actors, as comfortable on stage as they are on screen, deliver powerful performances that bring the play forward to today, making it both current and timeless.

ABOUT THE CAST:
Brooke Adams (Queen Gertrude) was last seen at CSC in the staged reading of Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, and the production of Happy Days directed by Andrei Belgrader (also in New York and Los Angeles). Her stage credits include The Heidi Chronicles on Broadway, Key Exchange at the Orpheum, Split at The Second Stage, The Old Neighborhood at A.R.T., If Memory Serves at the Pasadena Playhouse, The Philanderer at Yale Rep, The Cherry Orchard at The Atlantic Theatre Co., and Lend Me a Tenor on Broadway directed by Stanley Tucci. Film credits include Days of Heaven; Gas, Food LodgingInvasion of the Body SnatchersThe Dead ZoneCuba; Tell Me a Riddle; Babysitters Club; Key Exchange; and Made-Up (co-produced and starred). On television Thirtysomething, MoonlightingFamilyThe Lion of Africa, Special People, the miniseries Lace and Lace II, Monk (4 episodes), and most recently the CBS series BrainDead. She co-created, produced, directed, and starred with her sister Lynne Adams in two seasons of the original web-series All Downhill From Here.

Scott Barrow (Player King/Fight Director) has worked with director Steven Maler previously on CSC’s productions of Julius Caesar and Taming of the Shrew.  With Tectonic Theater Project he performed on Broadway in 33 Variations, toured The Laramie Project  Cycle, and Off-Broadway in Uncommon Sense. Elsewhere Scott has performed at New York Theatre Workshop  (Valhalla), Urban Stages (Honky), The Acorn (Embraceable Me), and The Mint (Dr. Knock). Regional credits include The Arden, Hartford Stage, Wilma, Studio Theatre, Olney, Cincinnati Playhouse, The Amundsen, New Jersey Shakespeare, Arena Stage and Trinity Rep. Scott is an author on Tectonic’s ‘Moment Work’ book about the company’s devising methodology, which he teaches internationally. MFA Brandeis University.

 Jack Cutmore-Scott (Hamlet) appeared at CSC’s “Theater in the Rough” staged reading of K2  in 2016. He is an accomplished British actor who can most recently be seen starring in ABC’s hit show “Deception.” He can also be seen be seen in the Christopher Nolan feature, Dunkirkopposite Cillian Murphy, and the indie feature Bad Match opposite Lili Simmons for director David Chirchirillo. Jack was recently seen in the title role of  the Fox series “Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life,” and he was previously cast as the lead in the FOX comedy pilot “Cabot College” produced by Tina Fey. Jack made his motion picture debut in Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service for FOX, and also appeared in  Ridley Scott’s Showtime pilot “Vatican.” Jack has an impressive list of Broadway credits that include Cyrano de Bergerac under director Jamie Lloyd and Arcadia under director David Leveaux. He also starred as Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare in the Park for director Jack O’Brien. He is based in both the UK and Los Angeles.

Flora Diaz (Ophelia) was last seen locally at CSC in Death and the Maiden last season, and played the role of Gretchen in Donnie Darko at the A.R.T. and Flora/Eve in Boleros for the Disenchanted at the Huntington Theatre. Her off-Broadway credits include Abyss (The Play  Company),Enfrascada and Crumble (Clubbed Thumb), Flowers and Tooth And Claw (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Jailbait and Girl (Cherry Lane Theatre), War and Seven Spots on the Sun (Rattlestick Theatre), With Love, Gabe (INTAR), Women on Love (The Culture Project), SCAB (Women’s Expressive Theatre). Regional credits include So Go the Ghosts of Mexico, Part Two (Sundance Theatre Lab),  A Christmas Carol (Actors Theatre of Louisville), The Rest of your Life (Axial Theatre), Once Removed (Coconut Grove Playhouse), Crippled Sisters (Baltimore Center Stage), How to Act Around Cops (SOHO Theatre, London). Television and film includes “Gotham,” “Elementary,” ”Law & Order” (classic, “Criminal Intent” and “SVU”),Over/Under” (pilot), The Eyes of My Mother (2016 Sundance), CAMRodger Dodger, You Were Never Here, The Impossibilities (web series). She attended Northwestern University.

Jacob Fishel (Horatio) was seen at CSC in Our American Hamlet and in the “Theater in the Rough” staged reading of Fool for Love. His Broadway credits include Fiddler on the Roof, Off-Broadway The Common Pursuit (Roundabout Theatre Company), Titus Andronicus (The Public Theater), The Broken Heart, King Lear (TFANA), Women Beware Women (Red Bull Theater), Macbeth (NYSF). Regional: Sense and Sensibility (Folger Theater), Henry V, As You Like It (Two River Theater), The Real Thing (Intiman Theatre). Television: “Cold Case,” “Medium,” “Without a Trace,” “Numb3rs.” Film: A Night Without Armor, Across the Sea, How I Got Lost. Jacob is a graduate of The Juilliard School’s Drama Division where he received the John Houseman Prize for Excellence in Classical Theatre.

Anthony Rapp (Lucianus) played the title role of Henry V in CSC’s production of Free Shakespeare on the Common in 2002 and Without You in 2015, both directed by Steven Maler. Anthony is best known for originating the role of Mark Cohen in the Tony Award-winning rock opera, Rent, for which he shared an OBIE Award with the rest of the cast, later reprising his role in Chris Columbus’ film version. He made his Broadway debut in Precious Sons opposite Judith Ivey and Ed Harris, for which he received an Outer Critics Circle award and a Drama Desk nomination. Additional Broadway credits include: If/ThenYou’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Six Degrees of Separation. Other theater credits include Raised in Captivity (Vineyard Theatre), Trafficking in Broken Hearts (Atlantic), Some Americans Abroad (Second Stage), and the national tour of Little Shop of Horrors. Anthony can currently be seen as Lieutenant Stamets on the CBS All-Access show “Star Trek: Discovery.” Other TV credits include “The Good Fight,” “13 Reasons Why,” “The Knick,” “Psych,” “Law & Order: SVU,” and “The X-Files.” His films include: A Beautiful Mind, Six Degrees of Separation, The Other Woman, Dazed and Confused, Road Trip, Opening Night, Junction, Adventures in Babysitting, and School Ties.

Jay O. Sanders (Ghost) performed the title role of Macbeth for CSC’s production on the Boston Common in 2003. He recently returned from a critically acclaimed run as the title character in The Old Globe production of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. In 2017 he participated in a world tour of Richard Nelson’s trilogy The Gabriel Plays: Election Year in the Life of One Family out of The Public Theater, where he has been a regular presence for over 40 years with credits including Mr. Nelson’s The Apple Family Plays, David Hare’s Stuff Happens, the title role in Titus Andronicus, and a long list of appearances in Shakespeare in the Park. He has also performed across the country with Bryan Doerries’ The Theater of War. His films include JFK, The Day After Tomorrow, Tumbleweeds, Edge of Darkness, and Angels in the Outfield and on television he was seen in “Sneaky Pete,” “True Detective,” “Blindspot,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” and “Roseanne.” Mr. Sanders’ voice can regularly be heard narrating PBS documentaries for “Nova,” “Nature,” “Wide Angle,” and “Secrets of the Dead.” His own play, Unexplored Interior, which explores the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, was the inaugural production of Washington, DC’s new Mosaic Theater Company.

Alex Schneps (Gravedigger) is an actor, director, teacher and production manager.  His acting credits include Romeo & Juliet (dir. Darko Tresjnak, Hartford Stage), Good (dir. Jim Petosa, New Repertory Theatre), The Hen Night (world premiere by David Ireland, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh), The Winter’s Tale (Shakespeare’s Globe Education, London), Prelude to a Kiss (dir. Peter DuBois, Huntington Theatre Company). He directed Tragedy: a tragedy by Will Eno for Boston University; Said the Wind and The Welcome (writer & director) for CrisisArt Festival in Arezzo, Italy. Alex has created curriculums for and taught both Acting & Performance 1, and Speech Communications, introductory courses for non-major students at Boston University. He was Associate Production Manager for CSC’s Romeo & Juliet and Richard III. He was also the Project Manager for Hamlet VR 360: Thy Father’s Spirit. He holds an MA in Classical & Contemporary Text in Theatre Arts from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and a BS in Film & Television from Boston University.

Faran Tahir (Claudius) appeared at CSC as Richard, Duke of Gloucester in Richard III and as Oberon in CSC’s very first production of Free Shakespeare on the Common — A Midsummer Night’s Dream — at Copley Square.  He has recently played the title role of Othello at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC to rave reviews, and has performed in over 50 roles in major theaters across the US in classical and contemporary roles, including the A.R.T., the Goodman Theatre, Lincoln Center, and Manhattan Theatre Club.  He has also appeared in 20 films and over 75 television roles. Recent film credits include the President in Elysium (2013), with Matt Damon and Jodi Foster; Escape Plan (2013), starring alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone; Star Trek (2009); and as the vicious nemesis in Iron Man (2008), opposite Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow.  Tahir’s work on television spans across all genres, with recurring roles on Scandal, Prison Break, Once Upon a Time, 12 Monkeys, American Crime, Satisfaction, Dallas and Warehouse 13, and guest lead appearances on series such as Shameless, The Magicians, Supergirl, Blacklist, Criminal Minds, Elementary, Supernatural, Lost, NYPD Blue, Grey’s Anatomy, among many others. He is a graduate of the A.R.T Institute for Advance Theatre Training at Harvard University.

 Desean Kevin Terry (Laertes) is a graduate of The Juilliard School. He appeared in the West Coast Premiere of Les Blancs for which he received 2018 Stage Raw Award for Best Actor, in Suzan Lori Parks’ Father Comes Home from the Wars (replacing Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown), in The Royale (NAACP nomination) and Trip to Bountiful with Cecily Tyson at Center Theatre Group. Regional Theatre credits includeThe Antigone Project, Slippery When Wet, and A Street Car Named Desire. Television credits include “Southland,” “Shameless,” “ER,” “Monk,”  “Harry’s Law,” “The Night Shift,” “Sleeper Cell,” “House,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scorpion,” “NCIS Los Angeles.” Films: Post Grad, God’s Army, Somebody’s Mother, States of Grace, Bolden.

Mark Torres (Polonius) appeared in the CSC productions of Death and the Maiden and in Richard III. He has worked on Broadway, and at such regional theatres as Trinity Repertory Company, Dallas Theater Center, Dallas Shakespeare Festival, Arkansas Repertory Theater,  Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, Plaza Theatre in Dallas, Center Stage in Baltimore, Melody Top Theatre in Milwaukee, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Music Theatre of Connecticut, Ocean State Theatre, The Theatre at Monmouth and Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre.  He has also appeared on television and in several films, most recently the thriller Shorecliff. 

Lee Wilkof (Gravedigger) has been seen on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Regional and Resident Theater for five decades. He originated the role of Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, and Sam Byck in Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. He has appeared in over 100 feature films, movies of the week, television series and episodes. He has been nominated for a Tony Award, 3 Drama Desk Awards, and is the recipient of an Obie Award, and a SAG Award. He directed the film No Pay, Nudity.

ABOUT THE CREATIVE TEAM

Steven Maler (Director) is the Founding Artistic Director of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC). At CSC he has been directing Free Shakespeare on the Boston Common productions since 1996, including Richard III, Love’s Labour’s Lost, King Lear, Twelfth Night, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Coriolanus, All’s Well That Ends Well, Othello, The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, Henry V, The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Romeo & Juliet, and Richard III. In collaboration with Boston Landmarks Orchestra, he directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, featuring the Overture and Incidental Music of Felix Mendelssohn, as well as concert staging’s of The Boys from Syracuse and Kiss Me, Kate at Boston’s Hatch Shell. Other CSC works include his critically acclaimed production of Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden, the world premiere of Jake Broder’s Our American Hamlet, and the world premiere of Robert Brustein’s The Last Will. He directed Peter Eötvös’s operatic treatment of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (U.S. Premiere) and Thomas Adès’ Powder Her Face, The Turn of the Screw at New Repertory Theatre, Santaland Diaries and Chay Yew’s Porcelainat SpeakEasy Stage Company, Top Girls and Weldon Rising at Coyote Theatre, and The L.A. Plays by Han Ong at A.R.T. His New York City credits include the New York Musical Theatre Festival production of Without You, written by and starring Anthony Rapp. The production has been seen in Boston, Edinburgh, Toronto, London and Seoul. Steve received the Elliot Norton Award for Sustained Excellence as well as for Best Production, Twelfth Night; Outstanding Director, A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Best Production, Suburbia; Best Solo Performance, John Kuntz’sStarf***ers (which also won Best Solo Performance Award at New York International Fringe Festival). His feature film The Autumn Heart, starring Tyne Daly and Ally Sheedy, was in the Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival.

 Graham Sack (Producer) is an award-winning screenwriter, director, and actor working in film, new media, and theater. He wrote and directed a VR experience for The New York Times VR based on the novel Lincoln in the Bardo by acclaimed author George Saunders, which was shortlisted for an Interactive Emmy. His most recent screenplay, Septillion to One, made the prestigious Hollywood Blacklist and is scheduled to go into production with Mark Romanek attached to direct. He wrote and directed a new VR episodic series based on Freud’s case studies titledThe Interpretation of Dreams in partnership with Samsung and is currently developing another narrative fiction VR series for Felix and Paul Studios. Mr. Sack co-created “objects in mirror AR closer than they appear,” an augmented reality installation at Tribeca Film Festival’s Storyscapes 2018 which transferred to New York Theater Workshop. He began his career as a child actor on Broadway, starring in Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers and in films such as Dunston Checks In and TV shows such as “Law & Order” and “New York Undercover.” He holds degrees from Harvard, the London School of Economics, and Columbia University.

Quentin Little (Producer) is an independent media producer focused on physical production in service of emerging voices. He has managed production for independent features (No Pay Nudity starring Gabriel Byrne, #Horror, starring Chloe Sevigny), virtual reality (Lincoln in the Bardo), and commercials and branded content (e.g.: Audi, Marriott, Nike). Prior to his career in line production, he served as Head of Development for Mark Cuban’s HDNet Films and Producer/Programmer for the non-profit Independent Filmmaker Project.

Sensorium is an experiential studio cofounded by John Fitzgerald and Matthew Niederhauser. Working at the intersection of art, commerce, and new media, their interdisciplinary process is grounded in technological innovation and the ability to integrate concepts across a wide spectrum of mediums. Their original content and interactive design push the boundaries of virtual reality, augmented reality, and immersive installations. VR projects produced by Sensorium premiered in the past two Sundance Film Festivals in the New Frontier program including The Sky Is a Gap and Zikr: A Sufi Revival. Their most recent AR theater installation, “objects in mirror AR closer than they appear,” also premiered at Tribeca Storyscapes this year. Otherwise, cofounders John Fitzgerald and Matthew Niederhauser also collaborate on projects and exhibits with the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism, Cyborg Foundation, and Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

Clint Ramos (Production and Costume Designer) designed Death and the Maiden, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Macbeth, and The Taming of the Shrew for CSC. He is the recipient of a TONY Award, an Obie for Sustained Excellence, 3 Lucille Lortel Awards, 2 American Theater Wing Awards, Helen Hayes Award and many others. His most recent work on Broadway includes Once On This Island (costumes) and Off-Broadway with Mankind (scenery) at Playwrights Horizons. He has over 200 NY, national and international design credits. Other notable credits are Eclipsed, Here Lies Love, Sunday in the Park with George, andElephant Man. He is Head of Design and Production at Fordham University.

Bruce Odland (Music and Sound Designer) has been a pioneer in spatial sound and music from his start creating speaker systems and multichannel scores for the Denver Center Theater in the 1980’s, through his alchemical transformations of noise into music in public space with Sam Auinger, to his creation of alternative virtual acoustics in real theatrical spaces for the Wooster Group in the 2000’s and his co-production with Laurie Anderson of a 24 channel permanent sound art installation for the Novartis Campus in Basel Switzerland in the 2010’s. His approach is to compose with all aspects of sound and music, particularly the space between. He first worked with Steven Maler at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge many years ago, and is happy to return to a rich collaboration in a new medium, applying his knowledge of music, sound, space, resonance and perception in virtual reality. He is the founder of The TANK Center for Sonic Arts, in a vast abandoned water tank in the high desert of Rangely, Colorado, where he recorded the score for “Thy Father’s Spirit.”

Additional support for this project is provided by Christy Cashman, Morwin Schmookler, Kerry Healey, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, and Babson College.

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC), best known for its annual free performances on Boston Common, is a non-profit theater company founded in 1996, dedicated to artistic excellence, accessibility, and education. CSC’s Free Shakespeare on the Common has served over one million audience members over its 24-year history and has become a beloved summer tradition enjoyed by nearly 50,000 people annuallyIn 2013, CSC became the Theatre-in-Residence at Babson College in Wellesley, MA. In addition to the annual Boston Common production, CSC now presents fully staged productions at the Sorenson Center for the Arts at Babson, including the recent Old MoneyDeath and the Maiden, the world premiere of Our American Hamlet and the Elliot Norton Award-winning production of Becket in Brief; “Theatre in the Rough,” semi- staged readings including Fear and Misery in the Third Reich, featuring Tony Shalhoub, Brooke Adams and local actors; as well as “Shakespeare & the Law,” and “Shakespeare & Leadership.” CSC fulfills its educational mission with actor-training programs for pre-professional and professional actors through the summer Apprentice program and CSC2. To learn more about these programs, visit www.commshakes.org.

WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including MasterpieceAntiques Roadshow, Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Arthur and more than a dozen other primetime, lifestyle and children’s series. WGBH’s television channels include WGBH 2, WGBX 44, and the digital channels World and Create. WGBH TV productions focusing on the region’s diverse community include Greater BostonBasic Black and High School Quiz Show. WGBH Radio serves listeners across New England with 89.7 WGBH, Boston’s Local NPR®; 99.5 WCRB Classical Radio Boston; and WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR® Station. WGBH also is a major source of digital content and programs for public radio through PRI/PRX, including The World and Innovation Hub; a leader in educational multimedia with PBS LearningMedia™, providing the nation’s educators with free, curriculum-based digital content; and a pioneer in services that make media accessible to deaf, hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired audiences. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards and Oscars. Find more information at wgbh.org

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