A Daily Dose of Shakespeare: Hamlet in Pop Culture

Thursday, August 31, 2017

By Elspeth Sweatman

When you studied Hamlet in high school, you may have seen footage of accomplished stage and screen actors such as Kenneth Branagh, Mel Gibson, and Ethan Hawke playing the tragic title role. But, did you know that Shakespeare’s tale has become such a part of our popular culture that you almost get a daily dose of Hamlet? Here are a few of our favorite adaptations, references, and parodies of the Bard’s most famous play.

Mel Gibson teamed up with Elmo in 1994 for the Sesame Street segment “Monsterpiece Theater.”

The Simpsons devoted an entire episode to an adaptation of Hamlet in 2002. Hamlet is played by Bart, Claudius by Moe, and Laertes by Ralph Wiggum. According to The Simpsons’s supervising producer Don Payne, the Royal Shakespeare Company cast of Hamlet (2008)—starring David Tennant—watched this episode at its first rehearsal. 

There are several Star Trek episodes named after Hamlet: “The Conscience of the King,” “Remember Me,” and “Thine Own Self.” And Shakespeare’s play has even been translated into Klingon. 

"To be or not to be" in Klingon. Photo courtesy of Sean Hall.
If you’re more of a reader, here are a few books based on Hamlet to fill your bookshelves: Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike, Hamlet by John Marsden, Nutshell by Ian McEwan, and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut.

runs September 20–October 15 at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater. Click here to purchase tickets through our website.

Nancy Livingston Looks Ahead to A.C.T.'s Future

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

By A.C.T. Publications Staff

For former advertising copywriter Nancy Livingston, stepping down this year as chair of A.C.T.’s Board of Trustees represents the culmination of yet another successful campaign. The Cleveland-born Livingston has been involved with A.C.T. since 1976, when she came to The Geary to see Equus, starring Harry Hamlin. But her links with the theater really intensified when Fred Levin, a clothing manufacturer with whom she’d worked as a copywriter and account executive, asked her to join him one night at the theater. “I married the client,” says Livingston, laughing.

Nancy Livingston, Carey Perloff, and Fred Levin at
A.C.T.'s 50th Anniversary Gala. Photo by Drew Altizer.

Her partnership with Levin drew Livingston into Bay Area philanthropy, through their stewardship of the Shenson Foundation, a donor-advised fund established by two of Levin’s cousins. Today Levin and Livingston continue the founders’ legacy by giving to the visual and performing arts, Jewish social services, the St. Francis Hospital foundation, and other educational organizations.

After contributing to A.C.T. in the late 1990s, Livingston and her husband were invited to opening nights, where she met A.C.T.’s then Development Director Sharyn Bahn. On learning that Livingston was serving on the board of Cal Performances, Bahn invited her to join a marketing committee working with A.C.T.’s board members. “It was fun,” says Livingston. “I was able to be a consultant. I wrote copy for their annual gala, I got to know a lot of the board members and two years later, they asked me to join the board and the rest was history.”

Livingston’s energy, grit, creativity, and collaborative skills saw her rise rapidly through the board ranks, first vice chair, then associate chair, and finally chair of the Board of Trustees in 2010. Her legacy includes leadership of the Carey Perloff Creative Venture fund, a strategic plan for A.C.T., an endowment campaign that raised more than $30 million, and a city-wide campaign to renovate The Strand Theater. In all that time, she has worked hand in hand with Perloff. “Carey was a terrific partner,” says Livingston. “With her enthusiasm, she’s an outrageous fundraiser and the two of us were a great team.”

As A.C.T. looks to its next generation of trustees, Livingston is confident about her successors. “I’m very pleased with who’s coming up in the officers. Board Chair Kirke Hasson and President Kay Yun are fabulous and I think A.C.T. is poised to do great things.” The former advertising guru may be stepping down as chair, but she’ll continue to serve on the board while looking forward to 2017–18’s artistic line-up. “We’ve got a great season that really reflects what Carey stands for,” she says. “We’re taking a chance on new artists with A Walk on the Moon. We’re producing old favorites, like Pinter. We’re working with Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks. And we have America’s foremost Shakespearean actor in Hamlet. It’s a terrific season and a wonderful transition for what comes next.”

Summer Sampler Serves Up a Buffet of Studio A.C.T. Classes

Thursday, August 24, 2017

By Taylor Steinbeck

Whether you’re a seasoned classical actor or a software engineer with an affinity for the arts, there’s a class for everyone at Studio A.C.T. From playwriting to clowning to stand-up comedy, Studio A.C.T. offers rewarding classes for adults of all levels of theatrical experience where skills can be gained and sharpened. In anticipation of the Fall 2017 Session, 30 Grant’s 8th floor is opening its doors to the public on Sunday, August 27 for the annual Summer Sampler.

Studio A.C.T. students practice a theater exercise. Photo provided by Studio A.C.T.
Studio A.C.T.’s Summer Sampler gives participants the chance to learn more about a course or an instructor with bite-size versions of a selection of this fall’s classes. The afternoon event is split into four 50-minute sessions, and includes six of fall’s 20 classes: Intro to Acting, Alexander Technique, Improv I, Intro to Feldenkrais, Clowning I, and Intro to Stand-Up Comedy. “This is a great opportunity to dip your toe into the possibilities of what theater training can offer you,” says Emily Hanna, A.C.T.’s Young Conservatory and Studio A.C.T. coordinator. “For anyone who’s been flirting with the idea of taking an acting or improv class and would like to see what it looks like in action, the Summer Sampler is an invaluable experience.”

The Summer Sampler’s array of classes encourages past and current students, especially actors, to attain new performance skills that will develop existing theater strengths. “Actor training is unique to each student,” says Studio A.C.T. instructor Patrick Russell. “The Summer Sampler offers students the opportunity to get a feel for which courses will best suit their needs as an actor and artist.”

Beginning at 11 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m., the Summer Sampler will conclude with a short reception with dessert. The event is completely free and drop-in attendance is welcome. “Our hope is for Summer Sampler participants to walk away feeling refreshed and energized,” says Hanna, “ready to dig into the work with confidence.”

Studio A.C.T.’s Summer Sampler is Sunday, August 27 in Studio 8C on the 8th Floor of 30 Grant Avenue, San Francisco. Click here to see the schedule. To learn more about Studio A.C.T. and Fall Session 2017, click here.
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