BROOKLYN BUZZ: New filmed take on Hamlet from local repertory

December 27, 2011 Heather Chin
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Thirteen years after Genesis Repertory Ensemble staged its firstproduction – Hamlet

Slings & Arrows follows Hamlet and Ophelia through theirstruggles with internal turmoil and notions of dominance andsubmission, in the context of the fetish community. Genesisveterans John Stillwaggon and Carolyn Dellinger portray the pair,joined by veteran actors Michael Whelan and Kristin O’Blessin, aswell as numerous others, many from New York City’s fetishcommunity.

Despite the fringe elements in this interpretation, director JayMichaels assures existing fans that the film stays true toGenesis’s mission of reimagining classic works set in a uniquetime and place, while still remaining true to the originaltext.

This is similar in that it’s modernized Shakespeare. In termsof how it is different, the film is very surreal, Michaelsexplained. It’s a feast for the mind, with shadowplay, specialeffects, and techniques akin to film noir such as dream sequences,nightmares and eerie shadows. It’s as gritty [as Genesis isnormally], but now in a much more cerebral way.

Delving deeper into Hamlet the man and Hamlet the playwas key for Stillwaggon to tell the story in a new way, aswell.

When [Michaels and artistic director Mary Elizabeth MiCari]first told me about it, I was curious as to what the connection[between fetish and Hamlet] was, said Stillwaggon. And theyexplained it was this story of a struggle for power and Hamlet’sdecision of ‘Am I going to submit to the forces around me or am Igoing to take control the way everyone’s telling me I’m supposed toalthough I’m not sure that’s in my nature?’

It was a very interesting process, he ruminated. Theconclusion I came to working with Jay was Hamlet knew he had to die[if he did what his father asked of him and] the way he builds upthe courage to face death is by taking on more and more pain.

Using film to tell that story was in a way a natural transition,said Stillwaggon, because Shakespeare’s plays have a universalelement that translates into the more intimate interactions youhave on film.

In the trailer, which can be viewed on YouTube at

Slings & Arrows has been submitted to two film festivalsthus far to positive reviews and will hopefully make the rounds tomore over the next month or so. local screenings will be scheduledsometime around January or February, 2012.

This film is the culmination of a decade-long dream of Michaelsand MiCari to commit Genesis works to film. They chose Hamlet asthe inaugural film because it has been their luck charm since1999. It was the first Shakespeare they did together, the firstproduction featuring a guest star – David Canary of recentlycancelled soap opera All My Children – in 2001,and the first Shakespeare in Marine Park they did.

The film was also made a reality with help from a supporter andparent who is a cinematographer going by the name WasaRoku.Screenplays are in the works for short films based on TheMerchant of VeniceHenry VJuliusCaesarRomeo & JulietAnthony& Cleopatra and As You Like It.

The repertory company puts on three to four productions a yearand is funded primarily through donations and ticket sales. GenesisPictures is part of its expanding mission of bridging creative artswith community interaction through partnerships and newinitiatives.

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