Mere Words

Moving Hamlet to Oakland doesn't show us anything new

Foul Play: Tommy Shepherd brandishes something rotten.
Jay Yamada
Foul Play: Tommy Shepherd brandishes something rotten.


Through Dec. 10 at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (between 15th and 16th sts.), S.F. Tickets are $9-20; call 626-3311 or visit

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I'm left questioning the mission of Cal Shakes' "New Works/New Communities" program, of which Hamlet: Blood in the Brain is the inaugural project. The program seeks to make "concrete connections between the work of classical writers and marginalized communities that for many reasons do not see themselves reflected in those plays." Yet what exactly does this endeavor reflect? It's a pale likeness of Shakespeare, to say the least. And as an image of Oakland, it's as murky as the bay at night. Neither satisfies. Engaging with the local environment is a laudable aim for any arts group. But is it better — both from an outreach and an artistic perspective — to force a community's experiences to fit the mold of a Shakespeare play, or to create a new work out of the experiences of that community?

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