More words have been written about William Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet than probably any piece of literature in history other than the Bible. It's been the subject of countless dramatic treatments, at least nine film versions and Lord knows how many pop-culture references.
But a Hamlet produced with all puppets? That might be a first. And it's happening at the Maverick Theater: Hamlet Has No Legs is a 75-minute production that was first staged last year at the Empire Theatre in Santa Ana by the All Puppet Players. We caught up with head puppetmaster Shaun McNamara to pick his brain about the project.
OC Weekly (Joel Beers): Shakespeare–love him or hate him?
I think there are people who say that puppets are overdone and that puppetry is an art that should have died a long time ago. The problem these people have is they take the stage too seriously. Puppets have been around and helping us tell stories for hundreds of years. It's a lasting artistic expression, one I don't think the Jim Henson Company (as much as I love it) should have the market cornered on. The people who hate puppets are in for a big buzzkill, too, because kids like me who grew up in the 1980s, when the Muppet Show, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal were released, are still interested in puppets. There's just no outlet to perform with them. That's why I created the All Puppet Players. I want to take serious theater and flip it on its axis. I want to make theater entertaining again while still keeping its dramatic core. I want people to not only be interested in the spectacle of the puppets performing serious works, but also get wrapped up in these stories that are still important and still have value but have been watered down by contemporary versions and star-power remakes that do little to improve the very story they claim to be honoring. Right now, I am getting people to see Hamlet. I'm getting kids to come see our show, and adults and everyone I have talked to after the show have said, “I think I want to read it again.” Puppets did that. . . . That's pretty good, don't you think?