Zainab is a spectacular human who has acted on TV and in movies, but currently she can be seen on stage at The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. She's performing in a groundbreaking production of Shakespeare's "Hamlet." *As* Hamlet.
It's also probably the first time a black woman has played Hamlet in anything, anywhere, but I could be wrong. (If I am, let me know, world!)
If her casting catches you a bit off guard, here are two things to realize:
1. Way back in Elizabethan times, when "Hamlet" first was performed at Globe Theater, male actors played the all the female roles.
"Lying for a living" was considered too scandalous for a woman to do.
Lines too unseemly to escape a woman's lips included:
- Katherine's "My tongue will tell the anger of my heart, or else my heart concealing it will break," from "Taming of the Shrew."
- Ophelia's "Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads," from "Hamlet."
- Juliet's "Wherefore art thou, Romeo?" from "Romeo and Juliet."
That makes no sense.
I. think we can all agree that was a silly law. The proof is in the receipts...
2. This minority, female-led production already has sold out almost every night of its run:
Wow. Better get a ticket now, if they aren't sold out already! The show ends May 2, 2015!
The play's success is in no small part thanks to Zainab and the rest of the women involved. This classic play is better for having them (and the rest of the cast) there.
And the crew is pretty great, too.
I'll say it again: This production looks so friggin' cool.
The sets incorporate graffiti by a street artist, CERA. Matt Saunders, the set designer, and Vasilija Zivanic, the costume designer, intended to create the feeling of a modern but also corrupt and Elizabethan society.
This helps illustrate the themes of vengeance, corruption, and decay that make "Hamlet" one of the most famous plays in existence.
Director Blanka Zizka cast Zainab for a great reason: "I knew I needed an actor who possessed great presence and could easily transform onstage," she said.
"I made a list of actors I would like to see working with me and it eventually became very clear to me that Zainab was going to be my Hamlet," Blanka explained.
So, just to be clear, it wasn't to be different.
The director also says that in her production, "Hamlet is not going to change gender because he's played by a woman," and she expects that Zainab is "going to transform into Hamlet."
I think she has. But, you can be the judge, too:
Like This Post On Facebook Simply put, everything I'm looking at is coolness defined. Zainab rules the stage. As any prince should. So, go see this badass version of Hamlet!
"Hamlet" runs until May 2, 2015, at The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.
About:An Upworthy original. Special thanks to Hamlet herself, Zainab Jah (who you could Like on Facebook), director Blanka Zizka, and everyone at this month's production of "Hamlet" at The Wilma Theater, who, with amazing photographer Alexander Iziliaev, provided the awesome photos of the show, used with permission. Image of David Garrick (aka old-school Hamlet) via Wikimedia Commons and used as public domain.