Theater company brings ‘Bad Hamlet’ to senior center

Apocryphal Shakespeare troupe returns after COVID hiatus

Actors Tony Vitullo as the Danish prince Hamletand James Moore as Laertes prepare for the Apocryphal Shakespeare Company’s upcoming performance of “Bad Hamlet” during a September rehearsal. (Special to The Sun/The Sun)

Haddonfield’s Apocryphal Shakespeare Company will perform “Bad Hamlet” at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23, in partnership with the Haddonfield Public Library and the Mabel Kay Senior Center, where the performance will be held. 

“Bad Hamlet” marks the company’s first performance since the pandemic began in 2020. Artistic Director Douglas Overtoom explained that it will be a staged reading that is more than just uttering the lines on a music stand, but less than a full performance. 

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“The version that we’re doing is the fast-paced, fun version of Hamlet,” Overtoom said. “It’s different than what we’re used to, but for people who know “Hamlet” well, that’s something that’s interesting, because when they hear the changes to the lines, they can reconsider them.”

Despite line changes, the general story is the same.

While many people are familiar with “Hamlet,” there are actually three versions that Shakespeare wrote: the First Quarto (dubbed the “Bad Hamlet”) in 1603; the Second Quarto in 1604-5; and the First Folio, published in 1623, seven years after the authors’ death.

“The version of Hamlet we’re reading is the First Quarto, and scholars have nicknamed that first quarto the “bad” quarto, because although lots and lots of the lines are exactly what we’re used to, there are also lots and lots of lines that are not the same,” Overtoom noted.

For instance, in Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, the altered line is, “To be or not to be, aye, that’s the point,” rather than, “That is the question.” 

“It’s kind of the same general idea, but there are differences between those two ways of expressing it,” Overtoom said.

Unlike the play long learned in English class, the 1603 First Quarto – or “Bad Hamlet” – version can be performed in about two hours and is the earliest version of “Hamlet.” The literary version takes twice as long to perform, and is a compilation of the lines from both the Second Quarto and First Folio.

There are a number of theories about how “Bad Hamlet” came about: Some think believe it’s an earlier draft of Shakespeare’s, but Overtoom agrees with those who think it was a bootlegged copy made by an actor reciting lines from memory to a printer who bribed him.

Prior to its COVID hiatus, Apocryphal Shakespeare aimed to do three readings each year, with each focused on the works of “anonymous, unknown, forgotten, the Earl of Oxford, and other (versions), giving special attention to those plays that have been (at any time, wholly or partly) attributed to William Shakespeare.

“It is our hope that through these readings that the public will be introduced to the rich panoply of plays available for reading and production, which exists beyond the limits of Shakespeare’s First Folio,” Overtoom said.

For more information on The Apocryphal Shakespeare Company, or to read in one of its future productions, contact apocraphalshakespeare@gmail.com.

 

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