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Theater Notebook: Globe’s Hamlet, Grantham Coleman, talks about reprising role for radio

Grantham Coleman in The Old Globe's 2017 production of "Hamlet."
Grantham Coleman in the Old Globe’s 2017 production of “Hamlet.” He reprises the role in an audio adaptation of the play that will debut on April 23 on KPBS Radio 89.5 FM.
(Jim Cox)

This week’s San Diego theater report, with news from The Old Globe, North Coast Rep and San Diego Rep

On April 23, the Old Globe will premiere a new audio adaptation of its top-selling 2017 production of “Hamlet” on KPBS Radio 89.5 FM.

Old Globe artistic director Barry Edelstein directed “Hamlet” four years ago, and he reunited almost every member of its cast for “Hamlet: On the Radio,” including star Grantham Coleman as the troubled Danish prince Hamlet. Yet despite the similarities to the high-tech 2017 staging, the radio adaptation will also be different. Coleman said he has changed a lot as an actor in the intervening years, and the style and shape of the actors’ performances were reimagined for the radio audience.

In a recent online video interview with Old Globe associate artistic director Justin Waldman, Coleman talked about his experiences with the Globe’s “Hamlet,” both onstage and for the radio. Speaking from his home in Houston, Coleman described Hamlet as his all-time favorite Shakespeare character. He said the opportunity to perform the play under the stars at the Globe was one of his favorite theatrical experiences.

“It was magical,” he said, in the interview. “The bombasticness of the set and costumes married everything in this world of sharp extremes, which helped us reach those emotional mountains and valleys and peaks. ... It was a feast for the eyes as well as the ears, I hope.”

The cast of The Old Globe's "Hamlet: On the Radio," which premieres on KPBS Radio 89.5 FM on April 23.
A collage of photos of the 21 actors who make up the cast of The Old Globe’s “Hamlet: On the Radio,” which premieres on KPBS Radio 89.5 FM on April 23.
(Courtesy photo)

In the years since, Coleman has gone on to major stage success, including playing Benedick in a Shakespeare in the Park production of “Much Ado About Nothing” in New York and Martin Luther King Jr. in “The Great Society” on Broadway. He has also been working on several films. Coleman said returning to the role of Hamlet was a great opportunity.

“I’ve got some more years under my belt. I can revisit it and things make sense in a different way,” he said. “It’s two different plays in my mind. I feel like now it’s all about hitting different notes of the show, versus then, (when) I was just trying to get through it; trying to not be found out as the fraudulent kid that’s playing Hamlet in a beautiful theater.”

The radio adaptation was recorded over Zoom, with most of the actors — including Coleman — sitting inside their closets to reduce ambient noise. Coleman said that Edelstein worked with the actors to re-craft the tone of play in a way that works best for audio listeners.

"(The choice was) do we hold true to what worked on stage — loud, aggressive and fast — or do we do it up close to the mike, like Hamlet in his head? We decided it would be a mix of both,” Coleman said.

The recorded play will be presented in two parts and audiences can choose whether to listen to them over two consecutive evenings or altogether in one afternoon. The two-evening runs are 7 p.m. April 23 and 24 and 7 p.m. June 18 and 19. The dates featuring both parts are 2 p.m. May 2 and 2 p.m. June 27. After that, the audio broadcasts will be available for at-will audio streaming on the Globe’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/theoldglobe and as downloadable podcasts via Apple and Spotify.

In support of “Hamlet: On the Radio,” the Globe has produced a variety of support programming, including the full-length interview with Coleman, on its YouTube channel.

Jake Broder stars in North Coast Rep's "Einstein Comes Through," streaming April 28-May 23.
Jake Broder stars in North Coast Repertory Theatre’s “Einstein Comes Through,” streaming April 28-May 23.
(Courtesy photo)

North Coast plans ‘Einstein’ show

Later this month, North Coast Repertory Theatre will open a streaming production of a play that had its world premiere at the Solana Beach theater in 2005.

“Einstein Comes Through” was co-written by North Coast artistic director David Ellenstein and Los Angeles playwright Marc Silver. It’s a one-man mystery play about an actor who makes his living playing Albert Einstein and how the famed physicist’s theories figure into the very real drama in the actor’s personal life. For this production, filmed onstage at North Coast, Ellenstein directed actor Jake Broder in the solo role.

“Einstein Comes Through” will stream April 28 through May 23. Tickets are $35 to $54 and can be purchased at northcoastrep.org.

 A scene from "Hype Man," which San Diego Rep is streaming in April and May.
Kadahj Bennett, left, Michael Knowlton and Rachel Cognata in “Hype Man,” which San Diego Rep is streaming in April and May.
(Courtesy of Paul Fox)

San Diego Rep streams ‘Hype Man’

San Diego Repertory Theatre is now streaming a filmed production of Idris Goodwin’s “Hype Man: A Break Beat Play” through May 8.

Produced by Boston’s Company One Theatre, “Hype Man” is about a hip-hop trio that is on the threshold of success when the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager shakes the three artists to their core. The play was written by break beat poet Goodwin, whose play “Pick Me Last” is being produced this year by La Jolla Playhouse for its 2021 Performance Outreach Program (POP) tour, and whose play with K. Quinn Marchman, “Beyond Crossroads,” was chosen by San Diego Rep in 2020 as part of its Hear U.S. Now new play series.

Streaming tickets start at $15. To order, visit sdrep.org.

Kragen writes about theater for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at pam.kragen@sduniontribune.com.


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