(FLORHAM PARK, NJ) -- To paraphrase the Bard, “Once more open the scripts, dear friends, once more!”
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ)'s popular Shakespeare Book Club returns this fall with WHAT A PIECE OF WORK: HAMLET AND BEYOND. This engaging eight-week series runs Tuesday evenings from 7:00pm–9:30pm beginning October 5. The Shakespeare Book Club unites Bardo-philes and Shakespeare-novices via a lively, social, and informative exploration of his plays. Participants are encouraged to read the plays as both detectives and directors, deciphering Shakespeare's clues to more clearly envision the multiple ways the plays may be interpreted.
When COVID shut down in-person programming last year, The Book Club was able to expand participation through a new live digital format via Zoom. By eliminating the obstacles of travel, distance, and health concerns, a broader spectrum of theatre lovers are able to experience this compelling series while connecting with others with similar interests; all from the comfort of their own home.
HAMLET AND BEYOND: Shakespeare’s chronically contemplative prince takes center stage in an exciting exploration of the secrets, sins, and psychoses of the famed Danish court. The series begins with Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Prince of Denmark, where participants will unpack the thrills and challenges of this riveting masterpiece, and also examine numerous stage and film productions of the play. With Hamlet as the foundation, the series goes on to explore provocative derivations, including Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and John Updike’s Gertrude and Claudius, as well as other notable works.
“This is a series I’ve long wanted to explore with our audiences,” says Brian B. Crowe, Director of Education and lead presenter for the Book Club. “More than any of his other works, Shakespeare’s Hamlet has inspired a vast array of compelling derivative literature, operas, films, plays, and visual art that allow us to more deeply explore and examine the play, society, and ourselves.”
Past Book Club participants have raved about how the inviting and interactive approach that STNJ employs prevents it from feeling like other Zoom sessions we have all endured during the pandemic. “It enriched my life and was something I looked forward to each week,” said one participant. “It was exciting, challenging, fun, and informative,” said another. “What a delightful experience the Book Club was! This was one positive experience to come out of the COVID debacle.”
Guest speakers for this series will include actors Maurice Jones, Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte, and director Paul Mullins. Maurice Jones played the title role in Chicago Shakespeare’s 2020 production of Hamlet, which Chicago on Stage hailed as "Easily the finest Hamlet I've seen in many years. Brilliant, thoughtful, often surprisingly funny. One for the ages." Mr. Jones was last seen at STNJ as Clitandre in the 2014 Outdoor Stage production of The Learned Ladies. Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte played Claudius in Waterwell’s NYC 2017 production of Hamlet. This production, set in Persia ca. 1910, was presented in both English and Farci. Longtime company member Paul Mullins has performed in and directed over 50 productions at STNJ over the last three decades. His much-heralded directorial credits at STNJ include his acclaimed production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
Participants can seek more information and/or register for the Book Club at ShakespeareNJ.org. Included with the enrollment fee are all scripts and materials, as well as access to the Book Club website which includes a plethora of support materials, links to videos, and a weekly archive of sessions for those who are unable to attend any particular live session. Discounts are available for returning students and multiple participants from the same household.
NEW FOR 2021 – SHAKESPEARE ALOUD: Now that most in-person programming is possible again, we are supplementing this fall’s Book Club with an in-person, two-session reading of HAMLET on September 21 and 28 from 7:00pm–9:30pm at the Thomas H. Kean Theatre Factory in Florham Park, NJ. This relaxed gathering will provide an opportunity for participants to read HAMLET aloud and hear the text come to life before the Book Club begins. Light fare will be served for participants. Enrollment is limited. Registration is now open.