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‘Hamlet’ at San Quentin, oh my!

July 27, 2012

by Shai Alkebu-Lan

San Quentin – I was invited to attend one of the prison’s performances of “Hamlet” by Shakespeare. It was a great performance, and many people throughout the Bay Area and the state, family and friends of inmates, staff and the thespian community as well as the media attended the June 15, 2012, adaptation of the play.

In 2008, the San Quentin production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” was reviewed and praised by Denise Battista for PlayShakespeare.com. For more information on San Quentin’s drama and other arts programs, read her story, titled “Shakespeare Journeys Inside San Quentin Prison.” Because San Quentin is right in the middle of the Bay Area, where many skilled people are eager to share their knowledge with the men inside, it is alone among California prisons for providing a wide variety of programs for prisoners to develop their potential. – Photo: Denise Battista
Before the performance, for those who never knew anything about the play, Emily Sloan-Pace, a graduate student from U.C. Santa Cruz, gave us, the audience, an overview of the production. She said, “Hamlet speaks to the human condition – what it is like to be human.”

Julian-Glenn Padgett, a resident of San Quentin, played Hamlet. Ms. Pace said, “Hamlet is sidetracked from his education in Wittenberg, Denmark, and must resolve the issues of his father’s death. However, Hamlet is stuck in his father’s kingdom of Elsinor to address his father’s murder. “The murderer being his uncle, the present King Claudius,” Suraya Keating, the director of this adaptation of Hamlet, said, “Hamlet brings to life betrayal, courage, hate and love.”

Ms. Wanda Sabir, arts editor for the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, said of the actors, “They were great! And the characters, especially Horatio and Hamlet, brought such style in their delivery.” As the play of Hamlet unfolded, I was amazed to see how each character’s scene tied together such an intricate pattern to create as wonderful a performance and story line as I’ve never seen.

Emily Sloan-Pace, a graduate student from U.C. Santa Cruz, gave us, the audience, an overview of the production. She said, “Hamlet speaks to the human condition – what it is like to be human.”

After the production, the cast and crew were given a standing ovation – well deserved, too! Many guests from all over the state, like Collin and Ryan, who were guests of Ms. Zoe Mullery, the creative writing instructor at CSP-San Quentin, said, “We were invited by longtime friends Gail and Jennifer. We all feel the performance was great and outstanding.” These four visitors came from as far as Oakland, Sunnyvale and other surrounding counties.

Suraya Keating, the director of this adaptation of Hamlet, said, “Hamlet brings to life betrayal, courage, hate and love.”

But the most profound interview came from cast member and friend Mr. Kimani Randall, a resident at CSP-San Quentin. Kimani said: “It feels great to be a member of a major theatrical work such as ‘Hamlet’ and to work with so many diverse people. It feels good! The humility that comes from all the cast members is beyond anything I’ve ever felt. The love that’s been given to me through the kindness of the actors’ and actresses’ hearts is the sort of love I’ve never received from my own family.”

The audience, mixing San Quentin prisoners with people from the “free world,” is clearly enjoying the 2008 production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” – Photo: Denise Battista
Kimani felt the play was sort of a microcosm of life and shared his expectations from the participation: “This is a gift, but any gift is a part of my life. This is not my calling, but a part of my life. My calling is to help youth, and it is my future goal to be a youth advocate and mentor and open up two or three group homes.” Kimani continued, “Due to myself being a ward of the system and being alone in such a big world, I want to be a reliable advocate for young men, so they can grow up to be loving, productive and responsible men in society.”

Kimani was asked what people said or thought about his rehearsing on the yard in front of the geese. Kimani said, “First and foremost, I am a man. I can care less what people say or think about my rehearsing on the yard in front of the geese.

“The only people I am concerned about satisfying is the audience, the thespian community at San Quentin and in society.” The thespian community is a group of professional actors, who especially love to bring the works of William Shakespeare to life. “Also, my cast I’m concerned with satisfying, because all we members worked so hard to present a great performance to the audience.”

Mr. Kimani Randall, a resident at CSP-San Quentin, said: “It feels great to be a member of a major theatrical work such as ‘Hamlet’ and to work with so many diverse people. It feels good! The humility that comes from all the cast members is beyond anything I’ve ever felt. The love that’s been given to me through the kindness of the actors’ and actresses’ hearts is the sort of love I’ve never received from my own family.”

Kimani Randall ended our interview by saying: “Thank you for the interview and your comments on the production. And yes! If it is God’s will, you shall see me here or possibly in the community sometime in the future.”

Linda Ayres-Frederick, a theatre critic, director and actress said, “I was moved with the play. Producing plays in the past – I didn’t like Shakespeare. But this performance lifted my spirits. The grief and joy in ‘Hamlet’ astounds me and that’s why I come to San Quentin! I enjoy all the drama department’s programs and hope they continue.”

Send out brother some love and light: Shai Alkebu-Lan, P-02598, CSP-San Quentin, 4W65L, San Quentin, CA 94974. This story was transcribed by Kendra Castaneda.

 

4 thoughts on “‘Hamlet’ at San Quentin, oh my!

  1. Denise Battista

    Great article, and thank you for offering proper credit for my 2008 review of Much Ado in SQ. I strongly support this and other arts and educational programs in San Quentin and I'm an advocate of the need and desire for rehabilitation and redemption, not necessarily (or unnecessarily) in that order. The work of Suraya Keating, Marin Shakespeare Co., the men of SQ, and those who keep these programs going is to be commended. Whether you're a lifetime resident of SQ, or you're a man with a lease on life, your journey continues. You can find my 2008 article by following the link: http://www.playshakespeare.com/stories/250-featur…. Cheers, Denise Battista

    Reply

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